What do you do when your smartphone’s USB charging cable breaks down? Probably head to the nearest shop and buy a replacement.
Not Anthony Muthungu. When all his six USB cable chargers broke down despite being brand new, he saw a business opportunity and ran away with it. Today his name is in history books as the founder of Kenya’s first USB cable manufacturing company.
Curiosity, they say is the mother of all inventions and in Mr Muthungu’s case he wanted to know why they failed despite being in good conditions.
“I started asking my friends on Facebook to sell me their USB cables that were not working. Within a short time, I had more than 5,000 USB cables.
“I documented each cable, identified mistakes and then said to my team ‘let us build a cable that is durable, authentic and of high quality, which we did,” Mr Muthungu who studied Bachelor of Science at the Karatina University, Nyeri County says.
His team consists of computer, software, mechanical and electrical engineers.
“So, we have a lot of strength when it comes to technical know-how,” he emphasises.
With the right team in place, Mr Muthungu embarked on getting the right equipment. To keep costs down he opted to have them locally made, only importing what he could not get within the country.
“We import some (machines) from china as well as fabricate others at Nairobi’s Industrial Area,” he adds.
When the Enterprise arrived at the firm’s factory at the two-storey Kenya Industrial Estate (KIE) building at the Kiangwaci Centre, Kirinyaga County, employees were busy testing, sorting out and packaging the USB cables into different packages.
The company produced about 300-500 USBs per day. But Mr Muthungu plans to scale up the production.
“We will be able to make even 10,000 pieces per day if we can get some machines,” he adds.
He says they source raw materials such as injection plastics, wires and recycled plastics locally. But, they have to import connectors from China and India.
The company started selling the USB cables two weeks ago and has so far it has sold more than 800.
Mr Muthungu is, however optimistic that sales will pick up as they increase their marketing, noting that they have priced the USB cables competitively.
For instance, at their wholesale shop at Almana Hall, opposite Luthuli House in Nairobi, the company sells the micro USB cable at Sh135, type c (Sh165) and iPhone (Sh200).
So far, the company has employed five people directly with an additional 20 indirectly on the supply chain.
Mr Muthungu has injected up to Sh3 million from personal savings as well as from friends.
“You start small then you grow. But if you wait until you get Sh3 million to start a business then that will not happen. You make one step at a time and that is how I have been able to reach here,” he advises.
Its products have been approved by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (Keproba).
“I would be lying if I say that the government has not supported me,” he says.
By the end of 2023, the company is looking to manufacture earphones and assemble phones by 2025.
“By 2026, hopefully, we will have started making phones, earphones and chargers all at a go.”
Like hundreds of companies in the manufacturing sector, the company faces challenges such as high taxations, stringent regulations from government authorities such as Kebs and costly fuel and electricity prices.
“That is why you see everyone fear starting a business (in Kenya).”
But, he does not see other international brands posing a big challenge to his brand.
“If the government can eradicate counterfeit products then we will be able to compete with imported products.”
He says he had to relocate the company from Nairobi to Kirinyaga since rent is cheaper.
He says the cost of production is high since they spend about Sh80 and Sh90 to manufacture one USB cable.