Powering the M-Gas growth force in Kenya with management skills

Customer care at M-Gas

Nine years ago, in the tropical leafy neighbourhoods of Dar es Salaam, Andron Mendes needed to refill his cooking gas for his new family. The cost was expensive. Able to afford the refill, he wondered how families without the resources could afford the cost when faced with a similar decision. With that thought, Tanzania’s KopaGas was born as an idea. It became a reality when he started working with mechanical engineer Sebastian Rodriguez-Sanchez to make a pay-as-you-go cooking gas service.

By 2018, KopaGas was making sales and history in Tanzania, selling the company to United Kingdom-based Circle Gas. At the time the acquisition was heralded as “the largest ever pure private equity investment in the clean cooking technology sector.” Circle Gas, which now operates M-Gas Solutions (formerly KopaGas) in Tanzania and M-Gas in Kenya, is known for the innovations Mendes and Rodriquez-Sanches led to develop smarter meters for liquid propane gas (LPG) cylinders linked to payments made through East Africa’s robust mobile payment services. In Kenya, M-Gas has a strategic operating agreement with Safaricom.

The expansion that happened since 2018, across Tanzania and into Kenya, also came with rapid growth in management teams more specifically for the Kenyan team. The company has gone from 50 employees in 2020 to 1200 by July 2022 in just the last year and a half. This expansion to Kenya in January 2020, came with its own challenges, happening just as the unexpected global pandemic reached East Africa. And yet, despite Covid, demand for M-Gas’ products remained high and the company adapted and continued operations.

“The team kept growing by the day,” said Faith Maranga, the Learning and Development Manager at M-Gas. “The majority of employees were young with little or no experience in employment. Most managers were either new or first-time managers who were tasked to lead groups of around ten to fifteen people. There was a huge gap in terms of people management, supervisory and leadership skills. We needed to upskill the team.”


M-Gas employees loading up cylinders to a truck

That’s when M-Gas turned to AMI to support and power up their growing workforce.

AMI collaborated with M-Gas to deliver management training to 60 managers, with more signing up for the MDP. The programme focused on equipping their new and middle managers with the tools they needed to communicate effectively, problem solve, take ownership and accountability for their work, give and receive feedback and build strong teams.

In addition to a customised core curriculum of in-person workshops and online courses through AMI’s online learning platform, the programme also featured an on-the-job project, also known as a change challenge, which is a practical project that allowed the participants to put into practice what they were learning while using practical resources provided to them to demonstrate their understanding. Through the programme the participants also received mentorship through an accountability partner model integrated as part of the programme.

“To us as M-gas, learning takes the center stage of the whole strategy and that is why we partnered with AMI in 2021. To achieve our purpose of transforming people’s lives which includes our own employees, we must upskill, reskill, and help our employees grow so that they can grow the organization and transform the lives of our customers,” said Martin Kimani, the Managing Director at M-GAS Kenya.

The impact on the M-Gas team was significant. 100% participants graduated from the programme where they reported improvement in their own performance as team members.

M-Gas employees catching up at the terrace

“I was able to encourage task ownership and increase trust and collaboration within the team using the “Who’s got the monkey” and coaching tools. The growth mindset learning lab also helped me rethink my HSSE M-Gas presentation making the weekly TOOL BOX TALKS (TBT) meetings more exciting. Over a short time, the attendance increased from 100 attendees to 695 attendees,” said Anne Njoroge, the then Learning & Development Assistant at M-Gas who has since been promoted to HSSE officer after graduating from the AMI program.

In addition, the team projects helped address real challenges in the organisation and even saw 42% participants report personal progress at work either through a salary increase, promotion or new job.

“The overall team performance has improved which has led to improved customer experience and growth. The self-paced learning was amazing and I would absolutely recommend AMI,” concluded Maranga.

For M-Gas in Kenya, the proof is in the results; to power the growth of your company you need to refill your tanks with the most important fuel, the skills to power your people.

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