Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Why? Well, here is the tragic truth. The bigwigs, the 'wakubwas', those who should be looking at this situation and doing something to ensure sanity prevails on the roads simply do not give a hoot about the situation. Because they use their flags, sirens and outriders to insulate them from the true magnitude of the insanity that our traffic has become.
So what we need is the president to get stuck in traffic; or the PM to get stuck in traffic, or a cabinet meeting to be called off because all the ministers were stuck in traffic. If this happens two or three times, we will quickly see a "presidential directive" or a "prime ministers directive" that sanity must prevail on our roads and police must take charge.
This is the sad truth. As long as a few outriders and a flag mean 'Mheshimiwa' can simply overlap and bypass the mayhem (in the process leaving the situation worse than s/he found it), Mheshimiwa will not give a damn about ensuring that we all get to our destination on time.
So we must all do our part. Every one of us must suspend logic, adopt insanity, overlap for all we are worth, block those junctions like doing so is a competitive sport, take our jalopies out and make sure they break down at key road points. Don't give way, don't be courteous. We need it to be a Mad Max movie out there people: Don your studded leather jackets, tie your ties round your heads, go forth and be cretins!
Sunday, January 22, 2012
I think the responsibility for this lies firmly with the Government of Kenya via the various government organs that are involved in design and implementation of this project (Ministry of Public Works, Kenya Highways Agency, Kenya Police etc).
It is the government's role to protect the interests of its citizens. As such I believe that as part of the Project Implementation contract:
- There should have been a very specific Project Implementation Plan that included a traffic management aspect complete with work dates, schedule of work, diversions needed to complete work, signage guidelines (number needed per occurrence, size, distance etc), police requirement (where traffic control is needed) etc
- There should be regular oversight to ensure that the contractor is complying with the guidelines spelled out in the plan.
Watching the progress of this project, it is evident that there is either no plan or there is no oversight (to ensure that the plan is being followed).
The planning and the oversight are both GoK responsibilities.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I will start with the positive. The smaller exhibitors by and large brought their A-game. They came to interact with visitors. They took this very seriously. Kudos to them. Chase Bank, Cheki, Unifilters, Stoic etc all seemed to have made a real effort.
Where the show was let down for me was by the main car dealers. I went there expecting to see everything the dealers had to offer, expecting to interact with knowledgeable, patient and enthusiastic staff. I wanted to see cars that would make me dream, speak to sales people whose passion and belief in their brands would make me a convert. I expected to experience grand stands & displays, each more awe inspiring than the last. Instead, for the most part, the message that the main dealers sent to me was a big "Meh".
Of course when the dealers look at me, they see a peasant who is probably unlikely to buy any of their cars any time soon. But for me, the motorshow is not about immediate sales. It is not necessarily about the chap who will see your car and walk into your showroom with a briefcase full of money the next Monday to buy his car. For me, the motorshow is about selling dreams. It is about converting a Premio driver into a Mercedes fanatic, making a Vitz driver ache for an Impreza, making an X-Trail driver crave a Prado. It is about making that peasant university student see, feel and experience the wondrous majesty of the Mercedes S600 V12 with it's heads up display, night vision camera, auto parking and whatever other bells and whistles the car may have. The student will not buy that car today, nor tomorrow. But the goal should be to plant that seed in him. "I must be a Mercedes man. I must have a showroom Mercedes". One day, he will get a job, buy a Vitz, get a promotion, buy a Premio, do well, buy a second hand C-Class. But if you are successful, he sees all those cars as mere stepping stones to his ultimate dream: getting his showroom Mercedes/BMW/Range Rover/whatever.
Instead, what message did our main dealers send with their limited, short staffed displays? "We don't care about you poor people. We have no need to wow you, woo you or impress you. You are mere spectators and we shall only put in the bare minimum to show you what we have because you are little more than pests to us. We wont hire extra temp staff, train them, infuse them with our passion so that they in turn infuse you with the same passion because put simply, you are not worth it."
On Saturday morning, BMW had one salesman. He was pretty much overwhelmed because BMW garnered loads of interest. Jaguar/Land Rover had one sales lady who was bored, disinterested and unenthusiastic as any sales person could possibly be. GM had a good display but something like two sales people (I stood at their stand for about five minutes and left without speaking to anyone). It seemed like the higher end the brand, the more snobbish the dealers were. So Toyota Kenya and Nissan were okay but Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW were horrible.
In hindsight, I realize I probably had unrealistically high expectations. I went to the motorshow to be wowed. Instead the most apt description of my experience is merely "Meh"
Monday, June 13, 2011
"What is the point of a valuation if it does not reflect the actual market value of the asset? I work with land and property; when we pay a valuer, we expect to get a fair reflection of the true market value of the property if it were to be sold on the open market. What do you mean this valuation is not the market value of my car? That is ridiculous! It is a scam! What is this value then? *pointing at valuation certificate* Who regulates this industry? What good is this piece of paper? It is worthless! It is toilet paper!"This, almost verbatim, is what a client said to me when I told him that his AA Car Valuation was not really an accurate reflection of the market value of his car. I totally understood how he felt as it is exactly what I feel on the subject and I would struggle to state it better than he did.
Essentially, in Kenya, when you pay to have your car 'valued' (by the AA; Automobile Association of Kenya, Regent Valuers etc) what you get is a report that gives you a figure that is not in any way an indicator of the amount of money you would receive for your asset if it were to be disposed of on the open market.
Like my client, I find this ridiculous and scandalous. In my opinion, and I gather in many other people's opinions, a valuation is meaningless if it produces a value that is purely theoretical.
But this is not the only problem I have with our car valuations.
During a recent valuation, I asked whether factors like colour, OEM rims vs Aftermarket rims etc were factored in the valuation. I was told not really. I asked whether the full mechanical report included an assessment of whether the mileage indicated on the car's odometer seemed genuine.. "not really" the man responded "we take your word for it". As I have written in the past, faked mileage cars are the rule rather than the exception in Kenya.
I know that banks and insurance companies rely on valuations to decide on premiums payable and loan values. So I guess the whole industry is geared towards serving that function rather than to producing accurate reflections of market value of vehicles.
My advice to people who want to deduce the value of their car is: Do not bother with a valuation. It is a waste of time and money. You are better off doing a bit of amateur market research to see what the value of your car is.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Now I do not know whether the two entitites (United Biscuits and Dawda) are affiliated but either way I think that it is sad that Dawda have basically copied McVitie's brand identity. Is it really more beneficial for Dawda to market themselves as a McVitie's rip-off as opposed to create their own unique, tailor-made brand identity?
Sunday, March 27, 2011
So, my transfer was lodged on Friday 4th February 2011 at 4pm. Based on the guidelines spelt out in the charter, my registration document should have been dispatched by the 11th February.
The new registration document (in the name of the new owner..me) was printed on the 23rd February
Immediately after printing, the registration document was sent to the "mkubwa's" office for signing. (Every registration document must be signed by a senior officer in the Road Transport Department). Once the document is signed it is sent straight to dispatch - a step in the process that is not captured by the KRA system (thus it is not possible to establish the exact date that signing takes place).
28 days later, on the 22nd March 2011 the registration document was dispatched (i.e. posted) and spent a further two days in the Posta system before being received on the 25th March.
It took 42 days for transfer to be processed by KRA (if we start counting from 7th February, which was the working day after the application was lodged, and excluding the day of dispatch from KRA). 14 times longer than spelled out in the charter.
Alarmingly, 66.6% (28/42 days) of the time KRA took to process the logbook is spent between signing and dispatch. I assume (generously) that dispatch takes 2 days maximum. So I estimate that about 62% of the time KRA took to process the transfer was spent waiting for a signature.
Sadly, I know from experience that this sort of waiting period is not the exception but is the norm with vehicle transfers. There is always a long delay waiting for mkubwa to sign the logbook.
Some background: In 2008, KRA changed the registration documents that it issues for cars. The old registration document was a hand written piece of card with 3 columns (lots of writing on it including vehicle make, model, engine numbers, names and addresses of all previous owners, name and address of current owner etc...all hand written). The new registration document is a much simpler single sheet of computer printed paper. It captures all vehicle details and only lists current owners details but not those of previous owners. I assume, part of the reason for this change was to increase security (the new document has some security features) as well as to increase speed and efficiency.
I am sure logbook production (printing) is now a lot faster but the increase in efficiency achieved by having computer printed logbooks is undone by retaining the "must be signed by mkubwa" bottleneck. Surely the new logbook system should have been designed to incorporate an oversight system that does not require the big man to physically sign every single logbook?
Monday, March 14, 2011
One of her first questions to the commandant was something along the lines of "Mr Commandant, what can we do to improve the situation on our roads?...should all drivers just get retested since many got their licenses in somewhat dubious circumstances?"
The commandant's answer went something like "Julie let me tell you...I appeal to all Kenyans who did not get their licenses in the correct manner to voluntarily step forward and take the test again"
It is a shame Julie did not push that point further because that statement right there really outraged me. Here's why: According to the Kenya Police website, the Traffic Police Department (of which the commandant is the head) is charged with the responsibility (among many others) of: "Testing of Drivers and Issuances of certificates of competence".
What that means is once a person has done driving school, they go to the police for their driving test. Specifically they go to the traffic police. The traffic police headed by none other than...
Now let me recount what my testing experience was (albeit many many long years ago).
A huge group arrived at the police station at 8am. At about 8.30am the tests started. The test consists of two parts; theory and practical. Theory is where you enter a room (individually) and get asked about road signs before being told to move a toy car on a model street. Practical is where you would go out with a policeman and drive the car under his watch so he could judge your competence.
My theory was fairly straightforward. The policeman with a pointer would point to a sign on a board and I had to explain what the sign he had pointed to meant. Then he'd point to another sign etc etc..about five times. I think I got them all but he was moving so fast, I don't think he even listened for any answers. Then he asked me to move the toy car from point A to point B before turning away to talk to his colleague for most of the exercise. He only really saw the parking at the end bit of the exercise. Obviously as the only real witness of the event, I will say I was spot on with that part as well.
For the practical bit, a policeman would head out with groups of about 6-7 people, in a Datsun pickup, and test them individually. The test consisted of mainly starting the vehicle, moving forward a couple of metres, stopping the vehicle and pulling up the handbrake. In my group, one person was asked to do a hill start and a couple were asked to reverse the vehicle. All tests were done with all the other students sat in the back of the pickup as the driver was tested. No individual was in the driver's seat for longer than five minutes.
Now in my group, two people failed to even move the vehicle. They stalled again and again before being told to get out of the driver's seat by the policeman (a lot of dramatic shouting involved here.."Toka gari..toka kabisa..kumbafu!!" sort of thing). A couple managed to move the vehicle with lots of jerking after initially stalling. Only two of us were able to move the vehicle without any huge drama.
We then headed back to the police station and were told to come back for results in the afternoon.
Every single person who did the test in my group passed and therefore got a license.
So back to the traffic commandant...what annoyed me about his response is that he did not in any way take any sort of responsibility for the fact that a large proportion of drivers who "pass" driving tests and who have "passed" tests in the past can barely drive at all, nor did he indicate what has changed in the testing regime to ensure that nobody who is not fully competent to drive is ever given a license. Yes, fingers can be pointed at driving schools that do not seem to teach any driving whatsoever, but ultimately the fact is that if every single student who was not fit to drive failed his/her test, the driving schools would be forced to raise their standards. Thus in my view, the commandant needs to first and foremost restore the reputation of his testing service then he can ask us tosubmit ourselves for retesting.
A lax teaching and testing system is a big contributing factor to the problems we have on our roads and this aspect of road safety while not as glamorous for the media as alco-blows and grisly accidents needs to be highlighted much more.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
It is a 2003 Toyota Harrier MCU35. The vehicle was very clean. The mileage on the odometer was just under 40,000 km.
I then did what I think any person about to invest in a car should do: I noted the chassis number and JEVIC sticker number and went to check on the details of the car. Imagine my surprise to find that the car, as clean as it looked, was not a 40,000 km car at all but was actually a 176,000km car (as at the time it was shipped from Japan). The car had arrived here and it's odometer had been tampered with. (The check can be done on the JEVIC website if you have the vehicle VIN/chassis number and inspection sticker number, both of which should be displayed on the JEVIC sticker which is normally on the left hand side of the windscreen for all ex-UK and ex-Japan cars - see example of sticker from a different vehicle below; you can put in the details and see a copy of the JEVIC certificate for the vehicle).
Now I say "imagine my surprise" but the truth is, I was not surprised at all. I expected the car mileage to be doctored. This is because the vast majority of newly imported cars sold in this market are doctored. If I were to guess I would say something like 80-90%.
As a vehicle importer (who for the record has never and will never change a mileage on any car I import), this phenomenon greatly disturbs and angers me. It distorts the market and it gives all vehicle importers a bad name (including the few who do not engage in this practice). However today, I am focused more on the car buyer point of view.
As a car buyer (or a buyer of any item at all), it would offend me to feel that somebody was trying to cheat me. However most car buyers in Kenya are very blase about this form of getting conned that occurs everyday. We have now reached a situation where many car buyers automatically go looking for cars expecting that the mileage has been "adjusted" (Yes! That is the euphemism I have heard used most...so innocent and nice sounding) - yet confusingly insist on buying cars that are "low mileage".
It is usually very simple to do due diligence on any car from UK or Japan. You can simply ask to see a copy of the JEVIC certificate. As most cars are tampered with locally, the JEVIC certificate should have the actual mileage at the time of export. You can also take the chassis/VIN number and the JEVIC sticker number and check online. Usually when mileage is tampered, the mileage section on the sticker is rubbed out and sometimes it fades with time. But the sticker number (typed) never fades. Thus even if the mileage part has faded/been rubbed off, it is fairly simple to check sticker number, check VIN number and do the online check.
Taking, the example of the Harrier above, I estimate the car came in for about 1.7 - 1.9 million. It is being sold for 2.4 million. A genuine 40,000 km Harrier in the same colour, at the same time would probably be here for 2 - 2.1 million. You do the math.
Now as a customer, having the information about the genuine mileage of the car could be useful in one of two ways:
- I could be totally outraged, pass on buying the car and tell all my friends that the seller is not honest OR
- I may be a pragmatic deal-maker (which I believe most of us fancy ourselves as) and use that information as a bargaining chip to get a better deal.
Either way, I see no downside to having the true car information.
Friday, January 28, 2011
I decided to get some shirts altered to fit my slim frame (there is a terrible shortage of slim fit shirts available in Kenya). I had gotten a recommendation for a tailor who does this well. I took my shirts to the guy..he is in a small room, shared with about 4-5 other tailors in an old building along Moi Avenue. The guy did a splendid job and offered to pick/drop my shirts in future if I was anywhere in town. I like this sort of service!
It occurs to me that many of our very small operators offer very good customer service (if you find the right people obviously). But, I think that it is easy for the one-man show to offer good service. The challenge arises when word gets out about your good service, your clientele increases and your business starts to grow. Then you start employing people; people who in many cases may not share your philosophy or vision. I find it a true mark of successful management when I do not need to know the owner/manager/supervisor to get great service. When I do not have to name drop in order to be taken seriously. When I do not have to be pushed to the head of a queue because I 'know someone' (and because efficiency is built in to the organization).
I had a conversation once with a very successful mogul. He was persuading me to try a service that one of his companies was offering at the time. I told him I would call him on Monday to arrange a test. He told me "Please call sales through the main switchboard then report to me what the experience is like". No wonder this fellow was a multi-millionaire! If the service experience is the excellent irrespective of whether 'mkubwa' asked the customer to call or whether the customer called through the trunk line, then isn't that one definition of successful management. In my opinion, managing is not about being able to offer every aspect of the perfect service yourself, managing is more about being able to design a system that functions perfectly and allows you to focus on growing/strategy etc.Which leads me to..
The Top Cop
I was arranging the sale of a car to somebody. One of the conditions for this deal to go ahead was that I had to have the car checked by CID to ensure it wasn't stolen. I was thus sent to an OC (Officer commanding..) of a certain division.
When I finally got to see the person in question, he was very friendly and very helpful and the inspection was done within 20 or so minutes (not by him personally obviously..he got a subordinate to do it). Add about 45 minutes waiting time and by police/GoK standards, it was fairly straightforward. However the whole while I was there, I could not help but wonder.. "Why do I need to see such a high ranking official for something so trivial?".
Simple answer as far as I can tell..the system is broken. Too often in Kenya..both in public and private sector, we have to talk to managers, supervisors etc for the most trivial matters. I think that if you are a manager/supervisor and you feel you are too often disturbed by people coming to you for trivial matters (which is the impression many give when you take your triviality to them), then you need to look in the mirror because you are the cause of the problem. Your job is to design a system that ensures your customer is served without ever feeling the need to refer to you.
(It turns out this (CID inspection) is not a service open to the general public but it was the only experience I had over the week that was convenient to make a point I feel is often missed in our go-to-the-big-man society)
The Coffee Houses
I am a fairly frequent patron of our various coffee houses. One thing that always occurs to me (oft-commented upon in quite a few blogs) is the tendency for service standards to slowly decrease the longer the coffee house is open.
This (in my opinion) is a clear management failing. I have heard the case some make about the standard of potential employees but I think that is a cop-out. If serious about service, coffee houses need to be very stringent on training and monitoring of staff. I wonder how many of them have training centres (or have entered into partnerships with catering schools) to train staff before they begin work. I know restaurant serving is looked at as very menial (and hence not much investment needs to go into it) but I think it is necessary to have at least 2-3 days of training/appraisal (off site) before a server ever even faces a customer.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
This is the list that KRA use to calculate duty payable on vehicle imports so if you have any intention of importing a vehicle, be sure you check your duty payable BEFORE you start the process so as to avoid nasty surprises. There is a valuation template to use in conjunction with this list here. I always still advise that duty be confirmed with your clearing agent especially in cases where there are many entries for seemingly the same car.
You also need to be aware that the duty you pay does not depend solely upon the year of manufacture/registration of your vehicle but the month as well. This is very important and you can read a comprehensive write-up on this on the Motogari website.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
This week, I contacted Safaricom via twitter (@safaricomltd). I had a fairly simple, straightforward query. A couple of hours later, they phoned me with a response to my query. This has become the norm rather than the exception and after many months of complaints about Safaricom's use of twitter (they used to be aloof, impersonal and erratic with responses), they have really stepped their game up and are doing a great job of using twitter to engage with customers. I guess this stems from their CEO (@bobcollymore) leading from the front and also being quite active and responsive on twitter as well.
The Financial Services Provider (FSP)
This week, I have been in continued contact with a small FSP (who shall remain unnamed) with regards to a service that I was seeking. Now I officially engaged with this FSP on 21st December 2010. Formalities took long to complete due to the fact they closed from 24th December - 3rd January but we were done with all formalities by 4th January. Throughout the process, all communication from the FSP was that they were able to deliver within 48 hours (1-2 days) of completion of formalities. Sure enough on 4th January at 2pm, I was told that "this could be done as soon as this afternoon but will definitely be done by tomorrow". On the morning of 5th January, I call for progress and I get the told, "call us back in the afternoon" I call back in the afternoon and get told "please check with us tomorrow morning". 6th January, 7th January..same thing. Please note: all this time I was asking for honest estimates of when they would deliver but kept being told "by tomorrow". On 10th January, when I called, I was suddenly (and out of the blue) referred to a whole new party who would be handling my matter. 11th January, I was finally given a straight answer and told the process would take a further week. I decided to withdraw and seek alternative solutions.
I have to admit, this is one phenomenon that perplexes me. If it takes two weeks to deliver, why in heaven's name would you promise 2 days? What does this do for a company's chances of retaining the customer? I find that this is not really the exception but that this manner of conducting business seems fairly common place. Some seem to have this don't care attitude to deadlines/promised delivery dates; almost as if to say "it doesn't matter when we deliver as long as we do deliver eventually". As paying customers, why do we stand for this sort of nonsense?
Monday, January 10, 2011
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Friday, September 17, 2010
It can be found here.
This list is the starting point for calculating duty payable for vehicle imports into Kenya. Use it in association with this Duty Valuation Template to calculate the approximate duty payable on vehicle imports. It is always advisable to still confirm duty payable on your proposed import from KRA either directly or through your clearing agent before you proceed to buy your vehicle.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
I am writing to you regarding the process in place for motor vehicle transfers. I undertook to process a transfer and the process was as follows:
1. Queue at counter 21 (or 22) to have application approved (This involves an officer leafing through documents provided to ensure they are in order then writing amount to be paid if they are so)
2. Queue at counter 23 to get an e-slip
3. Go to petrol station outside Times Towers to make 3 photocopies of the e-Slip
4. Go to NBK on 5th Floor of Times Towers to pay the transfer fee
5. Return to Petrol station to make a photocopy of the payment slip
6. Take documents back to counter 23 (no need to queue this time) and leave them with officer.
On Tuesday 19th January, the above process took me about one and a half hours to complete. I noted the following:
This is a 6- step process involving 3 different queues that could (and should!) be completed in one step, at one service window in 5 minutes. Due to the convoluted process in place, what should take 10, maybe 20 minutes (including queuing time) is stretched to take over an hour.
I would suggest any or all of the following measures be implemented to speed up the process to make it more efficient:
1. The approval and e-slip printing combined to one single step.
2. The e-slip is currently printed in landscape orientation in the middle of an A4 sheet. It probably takes up about half the paper in total. I suggest printing the same in portrait orientation and to reduce the size of the slip so that the same thing can be printed 3 (or 4) different times on the same page. This will allow customers to simply tear the different copies rather than have to leave the building altogether to get photocopies.
3. Payments can be done at the same time and place the documents are approved and e-slip printed. The current process turns the taxpayer into a defacto cash handler for KRA which is not efficient from a customer stand point.
If these steps were implemented, the process of lodging transfer documents would be much faster and easier for the taxpayer.
By creating efficient processes, KRA allows taxpayers to spend less time in queues and on fools errands and more time being productive. More productivity translates to higher earnings which in turn translates to more taxes being paid.
I thank you for your time.