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INTERVIEW: Functional hire services gains traction in Uganda

Tom Kiggundu

Tom Kiggundu is the Managing Director of Fotogenix Limited. He spoke to the Independent’s Agnes E Nantaba about changing trends in functional hire services industry.

What are the key elements in your management style as a manager?

Through personal observation over the years, I have come to the conclusion that lack of knowledge is the principle reason why people fail to succeed. Knowledge is power, once people are informed, performance is guaranteed. With that in mind, I ensure that those who intend to work with us first know what the business is all about and once they know, the next thing is to ensure that they enjoy what they do. Passion is a necessity in business.

As a manager who has worked with different people, over time I am able to tell good people who are passionate about the job and those who work just to get money. I give people opportunity to prove themselves before I make a judgment. That way I am able to achieve the vision of the company

In terms of my work, I delegate where necessary, however I still remain responsible. I need people to work with otherwise if it was possible, I would do everything by myself. However that doesn’t take away my managerial responsibilities which mean I should follow up on what people are doing or even challenge them to do it better. To be able to do that, I should always be in the know.

You have been in the industry for over 20 years, what is your assessment of the performance of functional hire services industry in Uganda today?

The function hire business has transformed from the traditional way of doing things such as the make-shift tents made using local materials to steel structures and now more recently aluminum. Steel structures are heavier and more difficult to put up yet aluminum proves to be lighter, although this comes at a cost. The same goes for the decoration which is defined by fashion trends that change over time as newer materials and methods are introduced to the market.

How has the industry evolved over the years?

Function hire has evolved and moved with the trends like technology and fashion. With technology, we can easily make displays and designs at just the click of a button and we are able to borrow a leaf from different people across the globe. Recent use of aluminium as opposed to steel presents more beautiful and attractive designs.

The culture of function hire services is more of a luxury in developing countries like Uganda. How are you working to change the perception and remain relevant in the market?

This is not true, function hire services is a necessity. One can’t afford to invite people for a function without putting up shelter and other necessary services to go alongside it. The industry is not only about tents and equipment but creates a chain from which many other players can benefit. As we grow, we can’t rule out diversification because we respond to the demands of the market. We have expanded in the different areas depending on market needs which means market research never ends.

Some players highlight inadequate capital and low consumer knowledge as some of the challenges undermining a fledgling but vibrant industry. What is your take on this?

It is true, the industry needs a lot of investment in terms of finances. I believe that once you are committed, start small and you will get there. Capital will always be a challenge. The problem is the ‘get rich quick’ mentality in which one wants to get results in a short period of time Money is a means to an end but not an end in itself and that’s why many successful people borrow to grow rather than start a business. It is best practice to borrow when you have an activity running to be able to service the borrowing.

What then are the biggest challenges in the industry?

The industry is run by many unskilled providers looking for quick money without the necessary product knowledge to produce quality results. Also, no function hire company has the capacity to sit even 50,000 people in one area which makes the industry still infant. Lastly, the market is not in a position to afford certain services to make economic sense for the service providers.

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