Top M-Pesa agent helps clients move millions
Posted Monday, July 23 2012 at 17:30
Julius Wababu Kiragu had a dream of becoming Kenya’s president. As a young man, he once accompanied his father to the Nakuru State House.
“At the time, (founding President) Jomo Kenyatta loved to host folk dancers at his backyard. He invited people during the performances, which is what got me to admire him. Thus my desire to become a president.”
When he joined Kenyatta University, Mr Kiragu realised that politics was not so rosy after all.
“Some student leaders were expelled and I came to understand politics was not as good as it looked,” he says.
His dream of becoming president died and he chose business. Now, he is a leading M-Pesa agent, only second to Uchumi Supermarkets chain.
After graduating in 1987, Mr Kiragu went to teach. Meanwhile, he was running two side businesses: a butchery and a bureau for printing and photocopying services on Government Road in Nakuru. He closed down the butchery as the bureau performed well with a few challenges.
“I had an issue with one of the copiers. A friend suggested getting me a new one from Dubai at a reasonable cost. The idea baffled me and that is how I got to travel to Dubai and started supplying other businesses with toners, photocopying machines and scanners.”
But that was not all. The bureau opened another door of opportunity. “I was at the bureau and a young man wearing a Safaricom T-shirt visited. He informed us about M-Pesa, a new product in the market and asked us to register considering our prime location.”
Mr Kiragu bought the idea and started off with Sh30,000 as a sub-agent.
“The demand for M-Pesa services grew and I stopped my travel to focus on M-Pesa,” he recalls.
Several years into mobile money business, Mr Kiragu quit his job to concentrate on the M-Pesa business. In 2008, he opened three more outlets.
“The growth was phenomenal, it was hardly what we had anticipated,” he told the Business Daily.
Today, Mr Kiragu runs 163 M-Pesa outlets countrywide with the biggest chunk of it located inside Tuskys Supermarkets branches.
“I owe part of my success to Steve Mukuha, the managing director of the Tuskys chain of supermarkets. I approached him and sold the idea to him since they did not have a dealer in their premises and he agreed. Ever since we have been part of their growth with presence in all their shops,” said Mr Kiragu.
The motivation behind his growth is demand for the service and the fact that in the initial stages of the business, Safaricom — the company that operates the service — offered him Sh100 for every new registered customer.