Mark Murungaru, a finance and management double major wanted nothing to do with healthcare but life short changed him
By Catherine Kuria
An unknown scholar once said: “We don’t always get what we wish for. But sometimes, what we get is better than what we wished for.” This is a quote that accurately describes the life of one Mr. Mark Murungaru. He is the CEO of Nairobi Veterinary Centre. Mr. Murungaru attended Mang’u High School where he completed his studies in 1998. In 2000, he proceeded to DePaul University in Chicago, United States of America and double majored in finance and management. He did not want to venture in any healthcare related field because he comes from a “clinical” family.
“My father is a pharmacist, my mother is a veterinary doctor while my sister is a dermatologist,” he says adding that he therefore wanted to venture into a different field and break the norm in the family. He completed his studies in 2004 and worked in a health consultancy company. He later went back to DePaul University for his Master of Business Administration (MBA). He worked for Huron Consulting Group from 2005 and left in the year 2011 in order to come back to Kenya. Additionally, he also worked with several airlines and in the banking sector which gave him a lot of exposure.
Nairobi Veterinary Centre is a family business founded in 1988 by his parents, Dr. Chris and Dr. Josephine Murungaru. It serves predominantly small scale farmers, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and institutions of higher learning. Across all its branches, the company serves at least 500 farmers a day. It is not an agro vet because it exclusively deals with animal products. In 2011, he joined the family business where he worked in a laboratory equipment facility. Initially, his plan was to work for the family business at a higher capacity and not get involved in any healthcare related field. But because of some reorganization that needed to be done in the company in 2014, it was deemed necessary for him to come in as the CEO.
The company had a single branch along Tom Mboya Street by then. The team comprised six people and the company served customers in Nairobi and several NGOs. The business environment was favourable and it began to grow. In 2015, it was able to obtain its first warehouse. The goal was to start importation of equipment from abroad and use the warehouse as the distribution centre. Later, an opportunity arose in Nakuru where the company was able to acquire a piece of land in a prime area. It decided to divert the funds that were to be used for importation in opening a new branch in Nakuru. In 2017, it opened a third branch in Machakos and this year; it finally opened its newest branch in Thika. The company staff has grown from a team of 6 to 30 and the number is expected to keep growing if business allows.
Role as CEO
He is in charge of overseeing all the operations of the entire company. If a certain operation didn’t go as planned, the buck stops at his desk. He has managers who work below him and keep him up to date with the day to day operations of the business. Mr. Murungaru is also in charge of the overall strategy of the business. He notes: “As a company, we usually come up with 3 strategies; a 1 year, a 3 year and a 5-year strategy. As the head, I’m expected to pull these strategies together and see to it that they succeed.”
In addition to that, he is also the forward-facing person when it comes to the company’s relationship with suppliers. The business deals with multinational suppliers who at times provide goods on credit as long as they have his word. One of his targets is to professionalize the business so that even in his absence, the company is able to run smoothly. He has put certain systems in place that ensure the employees do whatever is required of them with or without supervision.
Moreover, he keeps the team motivated even when things are not going smoothly. He credits his employees for the hours they put in to ensure the growth of the business. He is also in charge of coordinating marketing activities of the organization and interfacing with external partners. Ultimately in terms of government and the law, he is answerable since he also serves as the director. He takes his mandate with utmost seriousness in order to ensure not only the growth of the business but also that of the employees.
Working in a foreign country and getting exposed to diverse cultures gave him the best experience. He expounds: “This is something I carry along with me to date. When I came back home, I didn’t expect to rise to the ranks of a CEO until after another 10 years. But the experience I got while working abroad enabled me to quickly adapt and rise to the task.” The most fulfilling project he is spearheading currently is the expansion of the company.
In the past, the company had embarked on expanding through piggy-backing off supermarkets. The strategy worked for sometime but after encountering several hurdles, the strategy eventually failed. Since he took over, Mr. Murungaru has spearheaded the opening of a new branch every year. “It hasn’t been easy because this project takes a lot of money. The market was also hard to penetrate, but we have been able to establish long lasting relationships with clients in these new areas of operation,” he notes.
Mr. Murungaru takes pride in what he terms as professional development. At the end of every year, he takes stock of the growth of his colleagues . He finds fulfillment in seeing others upgrade both profession wise and in their personal lives. He hilariously remarks that when employees grow, his work becomes easier. He adds that: “The day you feel that your presence is not needed in an outlet and that the company can still perform without you, you as a leader have done your part.”
However, he discourages “heroic” leadership because it discourages employees from being self driven. He feels proud and happy when he sees a very satisfied customer leave an outlet of Nairobi Veterinary Centre. He ensures that each member of his team has a professional background in veterinary medicine and at least a few years experience in the field to enhance competency and maintain high standards.
Currently, the youth are really embracing agribusiness, something that they frowned upon in the past. The bulk of funds that the government has set aside for the youth are being invested in an agribusiness related field. This has marked a steady growth in this area of the economy. Health concerns have also arisen with regards to drug administration in animals. This is termed as the residual effect of drugs on animals.
“Customers are failing to follow instructions while administering the prescribed dosage which is causing some serious repercussions. For example, we tell a farmer to administer a certain dosage to a cow for about 7 days. And the milk of that cow should not be consumed for a month because the drugs administered are still in the system. You find that farmers fail to do so because they fear losses,” he says. This has promoted the popularity of organic foods.
Nairobi Veterinary Centre aspires to be a one stop shop for livestock farmers in the country. It is also aiming to become the first veterinary company to operate a chain of stores spread across the country. He ends by saying: “Look out for us; we are truthfully a service provider. We want to be as close as possible to every farmer in the country. We are working very hard to meet the needs of every animal farmer. Walk into any of our outlets and we’ll be sure to meet your needs.”