Many successful entrepreneurs among members of the Asian community in Kisumu trace their fortunes to inheritance, but not Satwinder Singh and Kuljeet Singh Rupra who have built one of the biggest IT firms in western Kenya.
Unlike his peers who went knocking on office doors for a job opportunity upon graduation and others who took positions in family businesses, Satwinder armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in IT and the love for computers set out to leave a mark in a field he had interest in since childhood.
While in college, he had exhibited great passion for IT with his colleagues often seeking his help in computer maintenance and repairs. His undying quest to build a name for himself in IT drove him into setting up a repair shop while still in university.
With savings from the repair shop, he opened a cyber café with six computers at the cost of about Sh50,000 in 2009. The cyber doubled up as a workshop where he would offer freelance services.
His competence in IT, he says, attracted many clients seeking computer-based services, a factor he cites as motivation to building the firm. This was to mark the birth of Sumo Computers Limited, now renowned in western Kenya and beyond as one the elite IT solutions provider and for computer hardware sales.
He was later joined his younger brother, Kuljeet, who handles the administration and marketing at the premise. The accounting student says his skills have helped the firm. Together they ventured into selling computer hardware and accessories and rented additional space.
With a focus on customer satisfaction and professional approach to management of the business as the key contributors to their success, the two, Satwinder, 28, and Kuljeet, 26, say they now own a company worth Sh25 million out of sheer determination and good strategy.
Satwinder says ploughing back proceeds into Sumo Computers has kept it growing.
The firm is now an authorised dealer and certified by various global tech companies such as Microsoft, Dell, HP, Kaspersky, Giganet, Dlink, Seimon and Lenovo.
The two entrepreneurs pride themselves in offering IT-related services to various government institutions, education institutions, industries, NGOs and SMEs. They have various partnership certificates and awards to show off.
“We offer a variety of services to suit our clients’ needs. We offer repairs, unified communication systems, structured cabling and building pre-cabling, network consultancy services, wireless connections, network security and firewalls, web design and CCTV installations,” says Kuljeet.
The company also offers wholesale products for resale. From a one-man-shop, the company has now hired degree and diploma holders dealing in the technical aspects of the business and semi-skilled employees who help in selling computer hardware and accessories and running of the retail shop.
Satwinder oozes confidence in staying ahead of competitors, citing unmatched products and services.
“The customer is our most valuable asset and so we go out of our way, investing in keeping track of developments in technology to offer our customers services they would not find anywhere else,” he says.
“We also move to the customers’ physical addresses. This way, we manage to annihilate competition by increasing access and efficiency.”
Kuljeet says that Sumo Computers has one of the largest and sophisticated service crew in the industry.
“Our technical staff have all obtained the appropriate qualifications and have adequate experience which makes them masters in their respective fields, helping maintain high level services.”
However, they still do not consider themselves as having achieved their desired goal.
“We have climbed the ladder, but are yet to get to a point we would consider ourselves as having made it”, Kuljeet says.
Their expertise and experience, he adds, has made them know the needs of their growing number of clients in various sectors of the economy including government offices and other institutions.
Kuljeet adds that their strong foundation is founded in God and their father’s advice.
“We are God-fearing and this faith, we believe, keeps us going and achieving more. Our father, who is not directly a part of our business, has also given us good advice,” he says.
The brothers say they plan to introduce new product lines and to expand their enterprise in other major towns.
“We are planning to diversify the product lines and venture into other potential commercial centres like Nairobi and Eldoret,” says Kuljeet.
Like many businesses, the brothers have decried excessive presence of refurbished and counterfeit products flooding the markets at the expense of genuine products. Competition brought about by increased entrants, they say, is also a challenge.
“Our biggest challenge in unhealthy competition that results from the unscrupulous trade in refurbished and counterfeit products,” he said, adding that unsuspecting customers who do not know the difference tend to think that fake products are cheaper.
Despite the challenges, the firm is growing.
Satwinder is pursuing a Master’s degree in IT with a major in Security and Audit at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology in Siaya County, where his firm recently installed wireless Internet connection. He plans to thereafter pursue a PhD.
His brother is almost completing his course. They pay their fees from the business earnings.