Rapid Kate Services (U) Ltd was among the 21 companies that recently attained the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) status from Uganda Revenue Authority. Bharat Goricha, the company’s country director for Uganda, spoke to Julius Businge about their operations.
How has the Ugandan economy supported the growth of your business over the years?
Uganda’s economy is growing. The market is small but there is potential. It is a matter of adjusting to new challenges.
What is your assessment of the industry generally?
This market is growing very fast and that means customer expectations are changing. The population is increasing and the market is open, more players are coming in. Many years ago, only a few people were involved in the importation business largely because we are land-locked.
Now, many players have joined and competition has grown, which is good for the consumer. With many players in the market, backed by proper regulation, you would expect all these challenges to be managed. The cost of business in this industry has also reduced because of the various initiatives URA has put in place. This is good for us in terms of expansion and creation of more jobs and paying more taxes to the government.
You recently attained the AEO certificate from URA. How did you achieve that milestone and what exactly does it mean to your company?
It is a great achievement for us, the team, the customers and the business. We got the certificate because we are professional in whatever we do. We are compliant to URA requirements. We believe in quality and not quantity. Our office in Nairobi is ISO and AEO certified. When they publicized this scheme, we applied and a team from URA came here and looked at our business critically.
What benefits are you expecting to accrue from this certification?
We are not looking at the certificate as a means to gain from the market. What we are looking at is the goodwill for our business not just the monetary benefits. The monetary benefit we see is in the long term. Of course I am not denying the fact that there is always some cost cutting on this arrangement but what I am looking at is quality service to the customer.
What should your customers expect now that you are part of an exclusive club of 21 companies with the AEO status?
Our customers have always appreciated our services. Now this AEO is a further justification that our service is up to the required standard and we are happy about that. The other thing is that our customers should expect quick services from our side, more quality and of course satisfaction.
To what extent, in your opinion, will this certification help Kate Services (U) Ltd overcome challenges related to customs and international trade in general?
Yes this business of clearance and forwarding is ever-changing and that comes with challenges. We have the responsibility to adjust to those changes so we can benefit our customers. The market is developing, demands more service, more innovations. But we hope that with the support of URA we will be able to manage these challenges.
As a key player in clearing and forwarding and customs clearance, what would you say are the most pertinent challenges facing the industry?
There is cat and mouse game being played by a few people who are spoiling the name of the industry for personal gain. These people don’t want to follow the rules and regulations. Thankfully, the Customs Department at URA is transparent and if yours is a genuine company, definitely URA will listen to you and give you the service you need to grow your business and serve your customers better. For the past years, there was a tedious process in customs when it came to clearing goods but now URA’s e-tax initiative is helping us a lot.
Is it true that you are opening an office in Rwanda?
Rwanda and South Sudan are young economies and they don’t have what we have here in terms of manpower, skills, technology etc. We will obviously take Ugandans to work in Rwanda because we have trained many here. Since 2007, we have been operating there through another company. But recently we applied for a license to open our office there and anytime we will start. We might go to Burundi and Tanzania at an appropriate time. We want to be part of this one big EAC market.
How do you compare Uganda’s market to that of Kenya?
Uganda’s market is small compared to Kenya but Uganda is a hub for the neighboring countries. There is a lot of exports from here to South Sudan and to Rwanda, which is good for business.
Where do you want to see Kate Services Uganda Ltd in years to come?
With this AEO certificate, we will ensure that we are among the top 10 professional companies in this business in Uganda.
Source : The Independent