When Elijah Kupata enrolled at Mount Kenya University for an engineering programme, his sole aim was to fulfil his childhood dream of making security gadgets to curb crime, in his home village, which had given his parents sleepless nights for years.
After graduating from the university in 2006, Kupata promised himself that the next move would be to explore the world of innovations and come up with a device that would fulfil his childhood dream.
He registered Kupata Technologies last year. Today the firm has grown to become a household name on security solutions, thanks to Kupata’s resilience.
‘‘I came up with this innovation in 2008 where I use a 3G remote camera to notify someone of a break-in through their cellphone,’’ explains Kupata at his Utalii House offices in Nairobi.
He says that his invention uses video-call features where an Internet enabled camera is mounted somewhere in the house or in a car.
The gadget effectively sends images directly to the phone and the owner can see the happenings in real time.
No easy ride
But it has not been an easy ride to stardom for Kupata; his is a story of a young man who defiantly fought his way to success.
‘‘My dream of realising this innovation almost came to a standstill were it not for the help I got from the National Council of Science and Technology,’’ says the 28-year-old innovator.
“I had no capital to commercialise my invention, but I applied for a grant and luckily the National Council of Science and Technology came to my help.”
The grant enabled Kupata to commercialised his gadgets, eventually earning him a meaningful income.
“Prof Shaukat Abdulrazak gave me a new lease of life. I knew that I had a viable idea and that financial constraints were inevitable. The Sh800,000 that I received from the council, which Prof Abdulrazak heads, in addition to the Sh100,000 that I received from Mr Simon Gicharu, the chairman of Mount Kenya University, enabled me to piece together my first gadget and hit the market running,’’ Kupata recounts.
He says that he has sold more than 100 gadgets as well as providing SMS and GSM alarms, intruder auto dial alarm systems, MMS intruder alarms, and a 3G mobile CCTV surveillance system. “Apart from selling the products to our customers, we also provide after- sale support. The response has been great. People have different aspirations when setting up businesses.
‘‘Some are driven by the passion to fulfil their dreams and ambitions and make a return from the same, while others want instant success through huge sales regardless of quality,’’ Kupata says.
‘‘At Kupata Technologies we offer service beyond the obvious; we strongly believe that public trust holds the secret to any successful venture.’’
He says that his gadgets can be used in supermarkets, homes, cars, and even to monitor elderly people left at home alone. Moreover, the gadgets can also notify someone in case of a power failure.
Kupata says that technology has played a fundamental role in the implementation of innovative ideas in the country.
He says that the National Council of Science and Technology has lived up to its mandate of seeing young people pursue their inventions to fruition.
‘’The council has come to the help of many innovators. You may have an innovative concept, but the power to ignite it to reality is the biggest headache that innovators face,’’ he adds.
Prof Abdulrazak, the CEO of the council, says that the organisation has made a lot of gains in ensuring that young individuals interested in innovations enjoy the fruits of their hard work.
He says that innovators shouldn’t hesitate to apply for grants from the council and excel in the field of their choice.
‘‘We strongly believe in an open-door policy where we are committed to mechanisms that uphold linkages to the commercialisation of innovations.
The realisation of Vision 2030 primarily depends on research and innovation, and as a government institution we believe that we have a duty to nurture these innovators,’’ he says.
Kupata plans to come up with more innovative gadgets which will make life more comfortable for people. His security systems retail at between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000.
Kupata says that there are many people like him out there who require mentorship. He has initiated a project that seeks to tap talent in local universities.