From humble beginnings to a $50m petroleum company

Hashi Energy Ltd is one of the oldest indigenous oil marketing companies in East Africa, with operations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is the market leader in the export of petroleum products from Kenya with a supply of approximately 250 million litres annually. Ahmed Hashi, the company’s  founder and chief executive, told How we made it in Africa’s Regina Ekiru how he built a US$50 million petroleum business. Below are excerpts.

Ahmed Hashi

Ahmed Hashi

How did you get into business?

When I was young I was employed in a textile shop and would transport the commodity from Mombasa to countries in East Africa such as Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.

In the mid-70s I became self-employed. I began trading various commodities. I sold second-hand textile products, transporting them from Mombasa to Uganda for several years. I also sold branded plastic bags to six supermarkets in the region.

Around the same time I began trading in petroleum products, transporting to eastern Congo and Rwanda in a single truck load for six years. I realised that my passion lay in petroleum products. In 1991, with the support of my wife Fatuma, I registered Hashi Energy Ltd, then as Hashi Empex, as a business.

Our core business was distributing kerosene for Chevron Kenya, then known as Caltex Oil Kenya. At the time kerosene was imported and many homes relied on it more than on any other petroleum products. We entered into a contract with Caltex to distribute in areas they lacked presence. We filled kerosene jerrycans in Mombasa and distributed to Rwanda and the Congo. In 1995 the market was liberalised. This allowed us to grow and compete against multinational companies. It also meant that we were allowed to operate on our own instead of being a distributor for multinational companies.

Hashi Hauliers, a sister company of Hashi Energy, operates 40 trucks that handle the transportation of products.

Hashi Hauliers, a sister company of Hashi Energy, operates 40 trucks that handle the transportation of petroleum products.

Explain some of your achievements over the last 20 years

Today we market and distribute bulk unleaded premium mogas, automotive gas oil, illuminating kerosene, Jet A1, fuel oil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Hashi Hauliers, a sister company of Hashi Energy operates 40 trucks, which handle the transportation of products. We have just unveiled our brand of LPG trading under the name Hashi Gas in 6 kg, 13 kg and 35 kg cylinder sizes. We have a 420,000 metric tonnes holding capacity for LPG in Mombasa, which is the second biggest in Kenya. We also have a storage facility in Nairobi.

It has been impressive watching the company grow from nothing to becoming one of the leaders in the provision of energy solutions in Africa. We started with three employees and now we have 300 employees with offices across the region. The company today is worth $50 million.

Do you have any plans to enter the renewable energy space?

We will soon begin to explore renewable energy and power generation. There is a growing population that wants to convert from conventional to cleaner energy. We are carrying out research on windmills and solar energy, talking to various solar panel providers and trying to determine what it requires in terms of capital investment.

The petroleum industry is very competitive. How are you holding up?

This is a virgin market and there are still many opportunities. We have not exhausted even 15% of the potential. Even in our neighbouring countries opportunities still abound. We need to look outside the box and think bigger. I want Hashi Energy to become a multinational petroleum company, you know . . . like Chevron and Shell.

What’s next on the horizon?

We are looking to develop new products not only in cylinders but also piped gas, which is new in Kenya. The piped gas project will begin in Nairobi with a number of new estates and later we will go into the rest of Kenya. We will put large pipe tanks underground and connect them to houses. Consumers will save on the cost of cylinders as well as eliminate the troubles of transporting gas. Moving forward we would like to grow our market share in the East African region to between 10% and 15% in the next five years.