Duo builds phone repair shop into a professional, thriving business

Tech Garage owners Charles Obonyo (left) and William Karo during the interview at their Yala Towers office in Nairobi. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

Tech Garage is not your usual electronic gadgets repair shop. First, the outlet is nestled in the heart of Nairobi where most phone repair shops are found.

And its clients need not visit the company’s physical location to have their needs met — the shop has an active online presence and serves customers from any part of the country.

Tech Garage was founded by William Karo and Charles Obonyo with the aim of bringing professionalism in a disorderly phone repair market.

The duo, while trying to unlock iPhones they had sourced from America, could not locate a professionally run phone repair shop. The shortage of experts inspired them to start a phone repair venture although the line of business was not directly related to their educational backgrounds.

Karo holds a degree in International Business Administration from the United States International University-Africa, while Obonyo studied Information Science and Technology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The two left employment to establish the business with a cumulative 10 years of experience both in government and private companies like Cisco and MTN.

“We decided to start a company to offer unrivalled professional and convenient services. Our idea is to disrupt the current segmented market, which is mainly made up of one-man back street repair shops,” said Karo.

Backed by Sh1.6 million capital from their savings and loans from friends, they set up the company in September 2014 at Yala Towers.

Most of the capital, they said, was spent on setting up the business and buying tools and equipment. But what set the company apart from competitors was the use of a website in the day-to-day operations.

Customers book in their gadgets through the Tech Garage website, get a personalised ticket and follow up on the progress of repairs in real time.

Because of the digitised system, one hardly finds customers hanging around the shop as is the case elsewhere.

The portal enables the company to reach out to customers from all over the country, who deliver their phones for repair through courier services.

“We digitised the process to ensure that our clients book their gadgets online and track the repair process as well as inquire and receive feedback through the portal,” said Karo.

They repair 15 to 20 phones daily. Software repairs cost a customer between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000, depending on the model of the phone.

Hardware repairs are also charged depending on the make of phone. An iPhone 6 screen replacement, for instance, costs Sh15,000.

Tech Garage repairs all types of phones and offers clients a one-month guarantee. The company has also forged partnerships with phone companies and is contracted to repair phones on their behalf, a move that has helped scale up the business.

Among the phone manufacturers they have partnered with are LG and Oppo.

“What is unique about us is that we can repair all type of phone,” said Obonyo, adding that the company plays a role in protecting the environment.

“We do not dispose of phones every time they develop an issue. One can save money by having it repaired, which also means that we reduce electronic waste,” he said.

Tech Garage is in the process of introducing an insurance product for mobile phones which will cover them against damage.

A client using an iPhone 6 will, for instance, be required to pay Sh4,000 per year which will see the phone repaired at no cost should it develop a problem. Other phone models will be covered in packages starting at Sh1,500.

“We are not all about repairs, we strive to come up with solutions to other common problems,” said Obonyo.

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