Former youth fund boss Gor Semelang’o is one of the fastest growing players in an industry thought to be an exclusive club – the oil industry. He is the CEO of Petrokenya a leading exporter, importer and wholesalers of petroleum products
Many perceive him as a flamboyant young man leading an extravagant lifestyle. After all, he wears two expensive watches one on each hand and drives around in sleek cars. However, Evans Gor Semelang’o says he lives within his means and he has worked for everything he has.
“I live within my means and people should know that I am not trying to impress anyone. I have worked hard for all that I own and it is not above what many people own,” he says.
He started off as a youth leader over 10 years ago even owning a political outfit at some point, Federal Party, but he was later to find out, business made much more sense.
Consequently, he started a weekly tabloid, Truth Weekly in 2006, but it went under in 2011. “What makes the difference in life is daring to dream. I dare to dream and when I set my mind on something, I work to achieve it,” he says.
And his audacity to dream, says the former Youth Fund boss, has made him one of the fastest growing players in an industry thought to be only for big boys – the oil industry. Semelang’o is the CEO of Petrokenya, a leading exporter, importer and wholesalers of petroleum products and also liquids logistics providers in the East Africa.
The company is barely an year old, but it has managed to make a slight impact in the region’s manufacturing and domestic petroleum market. “Last year, I refused to be cowed by the inherent vagaries in the local business environment.
I had a vision to grow a fully integrated oil and gas company. Barely two years old and still green, but armed with encouragement from the family; grit and tenacity of purpose, I launched into the murky and uncertain terrain of the Kenyan oil and gas industry; then an enclave entity.
That vision led to the birth of Petrokenya Oil Company Limited,” says Semelango. By luck, a starting capital of Sh500,000 that blossomed into a multi-million-business empire that has continued to grow since the company was started in 2013.
It started operations initially in Nairobi and got its bulk purchase agreement as an independent petroleum products marketer. “In 2014, we moved our headquarters to Westlands which now serves as a regional office for our branches.
In the same year, the company completed the construction of a bulk storage terminal with a loading capacity of million litres per day,” he says. Serving as the chairman of the National Youth Fund gave him the impetus and the drive to start a company in a capital sensitive enterprise.
In his first meeting with business tycoons Chris Kirubi and Manu Chandaria at the Distinguished Mentorship Programme of Kenyatta University Business Incubation Centre, Semelang’o was wowed by the way they went about their businesses and the encouragements that they gave to him.
Currently taking an MBA, Semelang’o says his wake up call to invest in the oil sector came after a conversation with Kirubi. “He challenged me to be innovative, align my priorities and objectives and I did,” he says.
On the much-talked Nigerian connection in the business circles, he believes that he was lucky and at the right place when he was ticked by Africa’s richest man and one of the world top businessmen Aliko Dangote from Nigeria.
“As a businessman, I feel obliged to look for people to help invest in the opportunities that our country provides,” he says. On how to create effective networks, Semelang’o says that being close to some of the leading businessmen in the country calls for a sharp mind.
“Straddling the corridors of power makes one’s presence felt far and wide, including foreign countries. It is through honesty that one can land some business engagements.
I am open in the way I conduct my business and that has worked for me. When there is a tender, I follow the due process. I believe in honesty, fairness and competition,” he says.