Enterprise

How I built Kenya’s top motorcycle assembly

KIBo

Kibo CEO Huib Van de Grijspaarde. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Huib van de Grijspaarde visited three West African countries such as Ghana, Togo and Benin before setting up Kibo Africa Limited, a company that assembles motorbikes in Kenya.
  • He chose the country because its motorbike industry was well developed unlike in the West of Africa.

Huib van de Grijspaarde visited three West African countries such as Ghana, Togo and Benin before setting up Kibo Africa Limited, a company that assembles motorbikes in Kenya.

He chose the country because its motorbike industry was well developed unlike in the West of Africa.

“We launched Kibo in 2017, and before settling down on Kenya, I visited three other countries in West Africa namely Ghana, Togo and Benin then I later came to East Africa,

“When I compared Kenya to the other three countries in 2011, boda boda was not as big as it was in West Africa so I saw an opportunity that we were ready to fill,” says the Dutch entrepreneur.

Since motorbike parts would be imported from Europe and China as well, Kenya’s strategic location was favourable in terms of shipping and logistics.

For six years, before he set up the company in 2017, the Dutch focused on research and development on what the market needed, what the terrain was like and what motorcycle would work best.

After settling on the best option, he invested Sh2 billion in the business.

“Initially the boda boda market is what we had set our minds on but after research, we found out that it was not viable due to cost of production

“If we were to go into the boda boda business it meant that we would have to lower the quality of our motorcycle to compete with other players in the market and that was not possible for us.”

Their market includes corporates, governments, and NGOs.

The company assembles three motorcycle models — the Kibo K-150, Kibo K-160, an upgrade of the K-150, and the Kibo-K250.

“We source our components from Europe and Asia but the whole assembly process is done in Kenya,” he says.

Prices of the motorcycles range between Sh190,000 and Sh390,000 exclusive of value-added tax.

The entrepreneur says he did not have any background in the motorcycle realm while starting up.

“I went through a typical Dutch education system and I was also a typical teenager whose school was not a top priority. When I got to college to study economics, I dropped out after the first year. I went to the US and UK for 10 years and thereafter went back to school. I eventually went ahead to study development economics for my master’s, which I enjoyed,” says van de Grijspaarde.

Besides motorbike assembly, they are the official distributor of Kenda tyres for boda bodas in the country.

“We currently just have the Kenda tyres. However, we are constantly working on research and product development so maybe one day we might have something for the boda boda market,” he reckons.

He began as the firm’s only employee, but currently, the company has 60 workers.

Like thousands of businesses, the company Covid-19 restrictions have hurt its sales.

“However, towards the end of the year, things picked up and the fourth quarter of 2020 was one of the best quarters we have had.

“The dollar to Kenya shillings exchange rate is the greatest challenge that we face.

“We buy all our parts in dollars and sell in Kenya shillings so when the shilling drops in value against the dollar we experience a reduction in profit margin,” he adds.