INTERVIEW: Mark Karamira is the CEO of Spe Taxi Cab service. He spoke to Agnes E. Nantaba about his management philosophy and Uganda’s transport industry challenges.
What are the key elements in your management philosophy as a manager?
Leadership, people, responsibility, resources and their appropriation are key elements and backed by God’s management style, are key principles for effective management. I like to empower others being the vision bearer. There is so much that I can do with people other than myself alone and the only way to achieve it is to empower the people. My style focuses on strategic thinking, which is long term, while the team members focus on the tactical work, which is short term. As a manager, it is therefore my role to empower people so they can execute the work. The best way to make your team buy into the vision is through telling the story from my own perspective. The challenge however with such an approach is that people are not quick to take on responsibility. I believe that it should only be after several failed attempts for an employee to seek help from the manager. I am engaged at all levels to ensure that the product is the desired one, relying on the team’s ingenuity and innovativeness.
What is your reading of the transportation landscape in Uganda today?
It is only fair to say that we are in a mess. The industry is stuck although the future looks bright. There are also many unregulated driving schools and instructors who produce unprofessional drivers. People who drive on the roads may know how to drive the vehicles but they have no idea how to use the roads. They can’t drive through junctions and observe road signs professionally. Having more cars on the road comes with challenges of traffic jam, too many cars in Dangerous Mechanical Condition driving on narrow and pot-holed roads.
How are you working to change this narrative?
Spe was born out of my own frustration in transport around town. If I had to move out for a meeting or something else in the middle of the day, I would either be blocked or the traffic right outside the office was unbearable. If I managed to get to my destination, parking would be a nightmare. Every step of the way would be a challenge. Yet still, there are many special hire drivers who are just reluctant with no business during the day. The solution is to create a link to connect the passenger and the special hire driver. That is purely how Spe works.
What makes your model applicable in Kampala and Uganda at large?
The idea behind Spe is that we have all these special hire drivers who have been around for a long time. Such people should only be a phone call away to drive one to one’s destination. Our model is that we run a very lean asset model. We believe there are more than enough cars on the road many of which are redundant and parked. Spe exists to provide a network of special hire drivers in different parts of the city.
KCCA has in the recent past passed the introduction of passenger buses and revamped railway transport as cheaper means of transport. Does that scare you?
What we need is an integrated transport system where a special hire plays a role in the bigger picture. With the growing population, no single transport mode can work in isolation and satisfy the interests of all travelers.
What other challenges does Uganda’s transportation industry face?
The key one is the poor state of the roads. Most of the roads were made many years ago when the number of cars and other road users were very small. As more cars come in, having roads to match this growth becomes a challenge. Infrastructure is a big challenge and the poor enforcement of traffic rules.
What is your strategy to solving some of these challenges?
Leading by example should be the first thing on the side of all stakeholders. Engagement of all stake holders is another solution to set the standards by which we operate. Practical things as simple as road signs should be observed. It is our responsibility to ensure that the road is working well and used in the right way.
What is your projection of the transport landscape in Uganda in the next few years?
Uganda has big ideas that are never implemented. The challenge lies in implementation but with more players, we shall see a better industry. The future looks bright.
Where do you see Spe Taxi Cab in the next five years?
We are looking at going regional; whereby we drop you off at Entebbe Airport to board Kenya Airways, and wait to pick you up in Nairobi.