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3rd Annual SME Conference: Sustainability of SMEs through partnerships

‘Entrepreneurship will always be the best thing in life, because you learn to exist in a common market place where competition is rife’, said Mr. Vimal Shah as he shared his personal journey during the 3rd SME Conference organised by Strathmore Enterprise Development Centre (SEDC). With a theme, ‘Building Strategic Partnerships’ this year’s Annual SME Conference took place on 9th & 10th September, 2015. Strathmore University auditorium was filled by both experts and entrepreneurs, all with the aim of taking SMEs to the next level.


The Dean, School of Management and Commerce & Director of SEDC Dr. David Wang’ombe gave a welcome note explaining SEDC’s activities and notable achievements in building small and medium entrepreneurs since its inception. The two-day event involved round-table panel discussions tackling topics such as taxation and government policies on SMEs,  legal issues for SMEs, financial issues for SMEs, intellectual property rights and branding & e-marketing. The conference was a great avenue for entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services at the exhibition while building linkages and networks.  SEDC Alumni were also present and expressed gratitude for the knowledge they had attained through various SEDC training programmes.


On Taxation and Government Policies, a panelist from KRA discussed the importance of taxation as the avenue for developing the country as taxes are used to finance government expenditure. He further added that KRA services had now been extended to the Huduma Centers for ease of accessibility to tax payers and entrepreneurs with enquiries on taxation. He further emphasized that women entrepreneurs are now a priority for government with upto 30% procurement opportunities extended to them, and thus urged women entrepreneurs to take advantage of these opportunities and engage with government.


The Guest Speakers for the conference were Mr. Vimal Shah, CEO BIDCO Africa Limited, and Dr. Julius Kipng’etich, CEO Uchumi Supermarkets and a list of panelists for the round-table discussions. 

Giving his keynote address, Mr. Shah broadly talked about the journey to successful entrepreneurship. He stated that every entrepreneur should be prepared for the journey, highlighting that the trick was to keep growing every day, and not to give up. He broadly expounded on the day’s theme, highlighting some key considerations. ‘Anyone in business should first identify their customers, know the customers’ needs since these are a measure of your success. Today’s business plan is one; know your customer,’ he said.


He added that a sustainable enterprise is one that is responsive and has effective communication, to listen and respond to customers’ needs.  Mr. Shah was emphatic that knowing one’s competitors, maintaining a durable customer base and changing business operations to serve evolving needs of customers would be key in any business. ‘In business you have to start small, get your concept right and aim big.’’  He challenged the audience to take up one idea, and make it their life.

Dr. Julius Kipng’etich vastly talked on strategies put in place for growth of a business. He advised that leadership and governance aspects should be adhered to while structures put in place for business execution, building of employees, fixing the economic engine and branding an image should all work together. He advised that entrepreneurs should build a business for long-term as a preparation for the next generation. He challenged his audience, ‘You cannot lead an organization with an empty head, always read.’


Speaking on financial issues affecting SMEs and intellectual property rights, panelists highlighted the importance of involving legal advisers in their businesses. Entrepreneurs were advised to seek legal services from the onset, ensuring a good rapport with one’s legal adviser as a preparation for any eventuality.   

Discussing on branding and e-marketing, the panelists stated that brand for the company is like a reputation for a person. Organisations gain reputation for doing difficult things with excellence. In branding, entrepreneurs would need to understand their target audience, know the brands to work with, let people understand and identify one’s unique selling preposition. Emphasis was laid that a brand is the outward projection of a company.


Research findings for the research ‘Gender and Enterprise’ were presented by Prof. Kiraka, Dr. Wang’ombe and Dr. Otieno. These were findings of a study conducted in Kenya through focus groups, to assess challenges facing startup businesses, motivation for entrepreneurs to start the businesses and perceived challenges attributed to gender and performance on SMEs.


The successful and informative conference was sponsored by; Anchor Property Consultants, JoyBells Cake Centre, Postbank and ATS Travel.  It was a great pleasure for all that attended, gaining a lot of useful knowledge in entrepreneurship.