Africa is in the midst of a social, political and economic transformation that has brought economic growth and some newfound political stability. A burgeoning movement of African-led youth entrepreneurs is also emerging in diverse sectors, including finance, transportation, telecommunications, and agriculture. In a continent where 70% of the population are under the age of 30, young Africans today are taking actions that not only have an immediate impact, but will also determine the future of the continent for decades to come.
In Kenya, youthful innovations have seen the country take a lead in business and technology start-ups. Victor Ontita is one of the youthful entrepreneurs making a difference. The 29-year-old mechanical engineering graduate of the Technical University of Kenya is now the CEO of one of the country’s top moving companies, Ahadi Movers.
After completing his college studies in 2009, Ontita just like most fresh graduates immersed himself into Nairobi’s dejected labour force. He founded Ahadi Movers in 2013 following frustrations, including inadequate resting time and poor pay, working as a technician at a leading cement maker.
Today, his venture headquartered in Kenya’s capital Nairobi does between 70 and 100 jobs a month; 80 per cent of which are household and the rest office relocations. The company has helped move staff of leading corporations such as Multichoice Kenya, Kenya Airways, cement firm Lafarge and micro-lender Real People.
He had invested USD 30 advanced by a friend to develop a business website, but this had done little to advertise his startup to potential clients.
“The website did not attract the desired traffic so when a friend advised me to post my services on Kilimani Mums Market Place on Facebook, I simply obliged,” said the 29 year old.
His interest in the moving industry was ignited during a trip to the Philippines where he realised the potential impact such a company would have in Kenya, as Kenya’s Businness Daily reports.
“At the time, I did not know that moving companies existed here so I watched YouTube clips and Googled to learn the ropes of the moving industry,” he said, adding that the company operates a branch in Rwanda with plans of opening another in Dar es Salaam.
The whole gamut
He mostly watched clips of Canadian-based firm Mayflower Movers, which he deemed successful in the industry because of its professionalism. What the online clips did not, however, educate him about was the art of negotiating for better deals.
“We made a USD 70 loss in our first moving attempt due to underquoting. Further, out of the initial 30 we did, we made losses in half the lot due to naivety and poor packaging mechanisms,” said Mr Ontita who hopes to retire at 45 to enjoy his hobbies such as travelling.
Packaging is key in the moving industry as it determines how intact the property will get to its destination. Determined to make it big in the business, he resolved to talk to customers from rival moving companies in order to get insight on what areas to improve.
At the time, the company could only manage two clients a month due to mistrust from clients who preferred more established moving companies.
“Getting customers to trust that we could safely handle and deliver their property to its destination without a scratch was a big challenge,” he said.
Moving involves various steps including making a call, booking, arranging for the move, doing the move, unpacking and rearranging the stuff in the new location. Ahadi movers team of 55 use white paper to pack furniture, bubble wraps for electronics and crating for long distance moves.
Customers have a tendency of referring their friends and family to a company that offered them the best service, and over time the firm might have the fairest rates in the market.
Patience, courage and partnering
It took patience, courage and commitment to get the trust his firm enjoys today which explains its growing portfolio of repeat clients spread across the East African region.
He says a reflection on the trust accorded to his team is in the fact that an estimated 15 per cent of moves are done in the absence of the customers.
Last year, Mr Ontita partnered with Nairobi lawyer Dennis Mosota who injected additional capital into the business. Mr Mosota’s entry saw a rebrand of the company, including a change of logo, renovation of office space and hiring of more employees. To boost customer trust, all potential employees are subjected to a house keeping course before hiring, which he says, equips them with the right etiquette when handling clients.
The cost of what is being moved is based on volumes and distance. For instance, household stuff for a three-bedroom apartment is more than that of a two-bedroom house and would, therefore, cost more.
On how much the business generates in a month, Mr Ontita says it is breaking even and has remained profitable from the start of this year. He says the company, which has two trucks is targeting to move between 100 and 200 customers in a month.Follow @muisyo_