Kenya’s architecture industry offers unique opportunities of investment to the entrepreneurs. Arch. James Kimathi, the Managing Director of K&M Archplans, is one of the few money-makers who sniffed the untapped opportunity in the industry.
It has been a remarkable contribution and venture that Arch. James has made into not only in Kenya’s architecture industry but also in Tanzania for more than 36 years. It is well known that one thing many successful architects like building up apart from skyscrapers is their own profile. This has been the case to K&M Archplans MD who managed to expand the existing Parliamentary chambers for the Kenya National Assembly, and competition for the design of a new parliament for the Tanzania National Assembly.
Business Mirror recently sat down with Arch. James, who holds Masters Degree in Architecture from the University of Nairobi, to unfold his successful business story.
Business Mirror: What is your successful business story into architecture industry?
Arch. James: I ventured into architecture industry back in 1976, and by then the firm was managed by two partners under the name of K&K Archplans, offering Architectural services in the related fields of Architecture and Town planning.
However, in 1996 the firm was registered as a limited company under K&M Archplans Ltd. I had a passion in architecture field and that’s why my company has been able to offer various services like: interior designing, town planning, technical advisor and construction management. So far, the firm is operating in Kenya as well in Tanzania.
Business Mirror: Can you share some of the major achievements K&M Archplans Ltd has recorded?
Arch. James: K&M Archplans is proud to be behind the design of a new parliament for the Tanzania National Assembly. The building design is abstracted from an African Traditional Hut and has vibrant forms that are culturally responsive to the people of Tanzania. This building is a major national monument for the people of Tanzania and a landmark for the city of Dodoma.
We are also happy to have won the tender of designing the existing Parliamentary chambers for the Kenya National Assembly. The modernization of the parliament started in 2006-2011.The scheme entailed implementing a new seating arrangement as well as modernizing its facilities to provide multimedia electronic voting for MPs, enhanced lighting and broadcasting facilities, and sophisticated electronic and mechanical systems.
The design also included an individualized seating arrangement for the MPs, which provides each occupant of the chamber with a comfortable workstation from where he or she can conduct business.
Currently, the firm has finished the design for a 35- floor commercial tower of Tanzania Ports Authority. The project which will be one stop centre along sokoine drive in Dar es salaam is currently under construction and accommodates commercial spaces on ground floor two level basement parking, 3 levels of podium parking and a 1200 pax conference hall on the fourth floor.
We are also in charge of the construction of Ultra-modern Mwanza Shopping mall in Tanzania that covers about 50,000 M2 of shopping space. The project which belongs to The Mwanza Municipal Council and will be completed early next year is expected to have mall houses state of the art cinema hall, Anchor shops, food courts as well as surface and basement parking.
Business Mirror: Can you tell the readers the major projects K&M Archplans Ltd has in counties?
Arch. James: We are really focused on implementing our architectural services to counties. Currently our main projects include designing county assemblies’ offices, governors’ mansions, Counties’ stadiums, schools, hospitals just to mention a few.
So far we have finished the design of some counties’ projects like Laikipa County Assembly and offices, Samburu County Chamber and Offices, Meru Governors’ mansion, Kakamega County Assembly, Meru County headquarters, and Meru County Assembly &offices.
Business Mirror: Can you highlight major challenges facing your business?
Arch. James: As it’s well known that every business has its ups and down, and in our business the major challenge is time. Dealing with mega projects like parliament consumes a lot of time and also is demanding. However, we have been able to overcome many challenges in the industry for being principled.
Business Mirror: Can you share how you are planning to expand your company in the next ten year?
Arch. James: K&M Archplans Ltd has been offing new technology in the building of projects and most offering green projects which are environmental friendly. I would like to expand the services to other countries apart from Kenya and Tanzania. I want to venture into nations like Sudan and Burundi where I can do mega projects.
I am looking forward at empowering the young architecture graduates who are willing to be entrepreneurs in the industry.
Business Mirror: Can you share the major awards to have scoped in the architecture industry?
Arch. James: The major awards I have bagged in my line of business include:
1st Prize in Tanzania Bunge Design Competition
1st Prize Kenya Debating Chamber
1st prize in Kilimanjaro Towers a twin tower complex to be erected at upperhill
1st prize for the Ultra modern shopping mall in Mwanza (Tanzania)
1st prize for a 35 storey office complex under construction in Dar es salaam.
Design Competition, 1st Premium Award for Bomas of Kenya
Design Award for East African Community Headquarters in Arusha and 2nd
Prize for Pan African Postal Union House Competition in Arusha.
Business Mirror: What makes you work hard toward improving your business?
Arch. James: I have passion in doing the architecture design and my aim is seeing my company becoming a leading arcthecture firm in East Africa.
Business Mirror: What is your advice to young entrepreneurs who want to venture into architecture business?
Arch. James: You must do research on the field you want to venture, and also it is important to have principals in your business which will help you to achieve your goals.