There is no such thing as a dead computer. That is what two repairmen in Kisumu will tell you if you ever suggest that you are about to dump your non-functional device. Any computer, they say, can be a source of spare components when another one develops a fault; something of death begetting life.
They call themselves the Tecno Brothers and though they have no blood ties, John Otieno, 37, and Shadrack Maucha, 29, have bonded in business since 2006.
Eight years later, the Tecno Brothers have grown from typical fundis to a company that sells computers and has the capacity to clinch contracts to install machines in any medium-sized institution. They say they currently make a net profit of at least Sh30,000 a month, which sometimes shoots up to Sh250,000. They also boast at least 10 clients each day.
They do not have any relation with the mobile phone maker with a similar name. Their name is an adaptation of “Techtronics”, what they had initially called their company.
You will find them in either of their two shops on Kisumu’s Oginga Odinga Street, grappling with all sorts of computer problems.
From 8am to 6.30pm each day, the two are repairing faulty computers, installing software on their clients’ machines, persuading customers to buy from them one component or the other, selling laptops and generally being e-doctors.
Rigorous as the business may seem, Mr Maucha quit his job as a tutor to embrace it.
“I studied electrical and electronics engineering at the Kisumu Polytechnic. Then I graduated in 2005 and got a job at Tigo Top Technical Institute in Kisumu in 2006. I was doing repairs as a side job but later I went into it fulltime because I felt I had to pursue my passion for electronics,” he says.
And Mr Otieno did not pursue a job related to minding companies’ cash flows, a profession he studied at the Kenya College of Accountancy.
“I graduated from the Kenya College of Accountancy as an accountant in 2003. My entry into the world of electronics was by chance because I used to live with the founder of Techtronics. Honestly, I did not know anything about computers and what happens inside them,” Mr Otieno notes.
Their meeting was also by chance. While Otieno lived with the Techtronics founder, Ibrahim Karani, he would interact with Mr Maucha for consultancy.
“While Maucha was still a tutor, we would approach him for solutions to problems that needed an expert’s intervention. That is how we built our friendship,” Mr Otieno said. He says in 2011 Techtronics gave way to Techo Brothers after the departure of Mr Karani to Nairobi.
“He realised that business was better in Nairobi, so he moved there. Luckily, he left us with the tools of trade and from there we were able to pick up. He left us with a lot of disused machines from which we would harvest components to repair other computers,” recalled Mr Otieno.
The two told Business Daily that what has kept them afloat is quality service to their clients. “Our workmanship ensures that clients keep referring others to us, which has seen us get a steady flow of customers,” Mr Maucha said.
Mutual trust is another value which they attribute to their success. They say despite having no written agreement on the business, they have never disagreed on how to share the profits.
“We also insist on obtaining genuine and reliable components so that whatever repairs we make last,” said Mr Otieno.
They have registered their company and file returns with the Kenya Revenue Authority in what they say is a bid to make them attractive to prospective tender issuers. Early this year, the brothers incurred what they consider the biggest loss they have ever made, amounting to Sh2.1 million.
“A businessman cheated us that he had got a local purchase order to supply computers to a girls’ secondary school in Siaya County. He called himself the project manager. We went out of our way and convinced suppliers to give us computers worth Sh2.1 million. He was to pay us after 21 days but we are just being taken round in circles ever since,” Mr Otieno said.
They say the incident made them “painfully” part ways with two workers they had employed to help them sell computers at their shop at Kisumu’s Mega Plaza. “We are now wiser. We can’t make a deal without background checks,” noted Mr Maucha.
Their growth plan is to import stock directly from China. “Buying through middlemen lowers the profit margin. We are looking forward to shipping in orders in bulk,” Mr Otieno said.