"Just over thirty years ago, small birds were used in coal mines to detect toxic gases before resulting in human injury, but with the introduction of automated detection, this came to a sudden close. The miners’ feelings were mixed as the birds had become ingrained in their culture, instilling a sense of hope and camaraderie as their whistling companions. Similarly, Kanu Equipment, with its hummingbird logo, aims to inspire hope by offering crucial support as an ally to miners and operations across Africa."
Kanu Equipment has grown rapidly since its inception in 2012. Was this vast geographical expansion part of the original plan?
Kanu Equipment’s first dealership was in the Congo, quickly succeeded by Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Ivory Coast, Ghana and Zimbabwe soon followed, with our OEM’s gaining increasing confidence in our ability to deliver on our promises and our determination to achieve our set mission. Taking over the Botswana dealership offered testament to this and it was only a matter of time before the reigns of the Tanzania, Kenya, and Namibia dealerships were handed over too. Most recently, Kanu opened up in the DRC as the Bell Equipment Dealer and this has given us a major competitive advantage as we are now in a position to seamlessly support our multinational customers across most African Countries.
We are fortunate and proud to represent some significant heavy equipment brands, namely; Liebherr, Bell, Wirtgen and most recently Normet. We also proudly distribute replacement part brands such as Costex Tractor Parts (CTP).
2019 was a year of consolidation for us as we spent considerable time streamlining our processes and further advancing our skills training and systems technologies. In the future we will look to expand our presence further as our leading brands dictate the need. Our Mission is to become the most Supportive Dealership on the African continent, and all our strategies revolve around exceeding customer expectations to achieve this.
Has there been any specific contributing factor for Kanu’s fast expansion?
One of the main reasons for the company’s growth has really been our focus on offering optimal service and support. In the beginning it was very challenging and costly to put all our necessary systems and channels in place but we are now starting to see the fruits of our efforts as our staff and customer retention is very high. As a result of our unwavering focus, we have had the opportunity to grow our OEM brands across more countries. We expanded our business into Tanzania in 2017, and it is now paying dividends by entering a growth phase. We were also delighted to become the dealer for Bell in the DRC last year and look forward to seeing some growth there in the upcoming future. We are starting to see some impressive organic growth in most of our territories and we are slowly but surely taking market share from our competitors.
Can you give a brief understanding of what separates Kanu from its competitors?
Kanu has a vested interest in the lives of the African people and the development of its communities. Our aim is to reduce the cost of operations in Africa by providing access to world-class machinery, skilled [local] maintenance teams, and high, on-the-ground availability of aftermarket spares. Kanu invests heavily in IT systems and getting the processing, operations and logistics channels to peak performance, enabling us to respond accurately and quickly to customer needs. This affords the company a competitive edge.
We are well established within the mining industry which contributes to approximately 55% of our business revenue. We have experienced good growth in our Southern and East African mining territories, and are looking forward to some long-awaited growth in Ghana, with two new gold mines currently being developed there.
What are some of the trends in demands from customers?
Technological innovation is currently a dominant trend in many industries. Customers are demanding real-time quoting, uninterrupted stock availability, and 24/7 service from qualified technicians. Customer demand is driven by productivity and efficiency; what differentiates Kanu Equipment is our ability to support the customer in always maintaining this. We pride ourselves on our ability to meet [and exceed] customer demands effectively and timeously.
How is Kanu Equipment promoting local development in the countries that it has a vested interest in?
We want to support local procurement and development in the countries where we have a presence. Every country is unique however, and changing laws present ongoing challenges. We are always conscious of how we are adding value to local communities through skills training and a strong focus for us in 2020 will be local talent development. Liebherr and Bell have also agreed to send technical trainers to sites every quarter to develop the skills of our local employees. At Kanu, we aim to offer training, development and growth opportunity for our staff to meet their personal objectives.
‘We believe that hope is the biggest motivator’, says Stephen Smithyman. If we encourage hope by caring for our staff, they will in turn look after the company’s most valued assets – not only our equipment and parts, but most importantly, our customers and their needs.
In a previous interview you have mentioned the possibility of going public. Is this still on the agenda?
Kanu Equipment has two very supportive private equity shareholders who need to exit after a certain period (7-10 years). At that time, the company will consider various options in line with our investors and management teams requirements.
Do you have a final message for our international readership?
Kanu Equipment’s motto remains, ‘Experience the Support’. All our energy, focus and drive are on how we can assist our customers in the most cost-effective and productive manner possible. We strive to be exceptional at supporting our customers to achieve growth within their operations and, in so doing, inspire hope for African mining and related development for the future.