Azym Dossa: Easy Coach founder on building model transport firm at 50


Easy Coach Limited managing director Azym Dossa during a past interview. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Azym Dossa tells little white lies. For instance, he told his wife he had finished doing his physio reps this morning. He hadn’t. He told me he takes 1 percent from his employees to be rich. He doesn’t.

The truth is, he is a grandfather now, and part of that job description is dishing out half-truths. But he is also funny, in a professorial kind-of-way, with an elegant mane of grey hair and wise golden eyes, speaking in an inimitable tone, at once mordant and wistful, self-lacerating and romantic.

He’s also hilarious. Great one-liners. Bang. Cutting. What you see is what you get.

Perhaps that was the secret to starting Easy Coach in his 50s. “From scratch,” he is quick to point out. He doesn’t let anything get lost in translation, not even with a broken leg, which he got from slipping down a plane’s stairway.


Azym Dossa, founder and Managing Director of Easy Coach at his residence in Westlands Nairobi on August 23, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

You wouldn’t know if he didn’t tell you, though, seeing how he’s treating it as a buoy rather than a weight.

His wife, Dilu Dossa—they have been together for 50 years—will say goodbye twice, then return a few moments later and ask if he needs anything.

He will say no, probably another half-truth. Then she will say goodbye again. That’s what 50 years of marriage looks like these days.

Now 75, he is flirting with selling the Easy Coach empire—maybe he will, maybe he won’t, but when the music stops, oh, what a ride it will have been.

What’s it like being you?

I am glad I am me. One of my passions is my company because I saw it growing gradually in the right direction, and it has become more of a challenge to keep climbing.

When I was starting, I was warned that it would flatline after four years, then crash. I didn’t believe them.

How does one remain passionate even after 20 years?

You do it by always striving to offer exemplary service. Before starting this firm, I noticed that no company in the long-distance travel sector had a waiting lounge with washrooms for their passengers.

You’d go round the corner and look for a bush [to relieve yourself], haha! I started with 50 staff who kept telling me, “Mzee (old man)! You can’t charge more money.”

At that time, I was charging Sh500, and Akamba [then leading operator] was charging Sh400. I always charged five percent above market fare. In the beginning, we only had one destination—Kisumu.

We set up a lounge there [Kisumu] and another here in Nairobi. People from Kakamega would take a matatu to Kisumu to use our buses. So, we started a Kakamega route.

What’s the best part about being a CEO?

Being able to take care of your staff’s welfare. We have almost 900 people working for us. The first thing I do [when they join the company] is to offer them a way to borrow money for school fees and pay it back in four instalments, which is usually when the next term starts. I have not lost any money doing that. [Someone walks into the house].

Is that your son walking in?

Yes, he is a massage therapist who lives in Canada and practices there. I have a younger son, a chiropractor who also practices in Canada. They went to university there but to Peponi and Hillcrest schools for their O-levels.

What are your children teaching you?

A lot of things. They are disciplined. They are running their own practices. When they are here, like for these two weeks, I told them to merge their practices and physio.

Have they?

Well, they are talking, haha! They meet often over there but not as much as I would like them to. The younger one has two boys, so he has to look after them.

I go to Canada to visit them every year during my three-week leave. I have two sisters living there, and my wife, Dilu, also has half a dozen sisters there.

How has it been running a business with all its politics and running a marriage?

She [Dilu] has also been working but retired 10 years ago. Less than a year into retirement, she wished she had not retired. But since then, she has found something that keeps her busy. Today, August 25, we are celebrating 50 years of marriage.

What has marriage given and taken from you?

If you are married, you will say to yourself at some point or another, “This marriage is a hindrance to the things I want to do.”

Sometimes, it’s as simple as that planned trip to Malindi with your boys, but the wife puts her foot down because you were there with the boys two months ago, haha! On the other hand, I broke my leg and haven’t told her yet. But I really appreciate what she is doing for me.

So you’ve discovered the secret to marriage?

Give and take. You take more, but at least give something. However, the model is changing. The roles are reversing. Nowadays, you have to give more, and the wife takes more.

What’s the meaning of life?

It’s important to have self-discipline, and I don't mean don’t drink or steal.  Help somebody. Life is hard. Most of the people I knew before Covid-19 came out worse than me. It is good to consider their hardships and shortcomings.

Today, I got three messages. One read, "Can you do me a favour? Temporarily, I need a small loan." Now, I've dealt with many such cases to know that money borrowed ‘temporarily’ never returns, especially if it is small, haha! But that does not stop me.

If the company does not support good causes, I try to support them from my pocket.

I learned that at the end of life, there is nothing we take away. I once told my boys, "Whatever I have is for you.

When you were young, it was 50 percent for your mom and the rest for you," because mom could run away with another guy, haha!

I have since changed my Will; I am leaving everything to my wife because these are our children. I don’t want my children to gongana (fight) for money. The younger one is married, and I want this money to support my grandchildren. Does your wife work?

I don’t have a wife.

Well, he does and I told him, "You’ve got two incomes in your home but your brother has only one—although I hear his income is almost equal to your two put together, haha! You don’t need to be jealous of anyone, especially your own brother."

Did you want your boys to take over the company?

They are more on the medical side. Ten or 15 years ago, I asked the older one to return to Kenya. I told him that while he was here, I would pay his golf subscription and get him a car and an apartment, and he declined. But he would come to visit every year because he grew up here.

My physiotherapist also made an offer to him to move here and merge, and when he asked me what I thought, I told him he had no baggage called a wife or children, haha! I told him to think about it.

How did you take that rejection?

He will probably ask me again. But the main thing is, do we want to continue holding on to the company forever? Is it time to bail out and what do we do afterward?

You get a chunk of money and have nothing to do with it—you don’t drink, can’t play golf, and travel is limited. I should have travelled 10 years ago. Instead, I kept saying I will resume as soon as the company gets on track. I never resumed, and I have always been paying my golf membership subscription!

I think Windsor Golf Club stopped billing me because I never attend, haha! I met Frank Michuki [Director, Windsor] during the Koroga Festival, and he called me over to Windsor.

He told me he has some friends interested in looking at my business. He told me to think about it and they would make me an offer. But I was not interested in the money.


Easy Coach limited managing director Azym Dossa during a past interview. FILE PHOTO | NMG

What does money mean to you?

If you decide to keep it to yourself, it is useless.

When will be the right time to turn off the ignition?

I had spoken to different parties during the Covid-19 period. Some told me they’d buy me out, but I have to work—even if it’s just for a few hours a day. I protested.

"I want to quit," I said. And they said, "You are going to get a salary for doing nothing," then I scratched my head again and said, "Maybe," haha! So, maybe.

How has running a company changed you?

Running a company is one thing. Starting from scratch is something else. When I was 52 and living in Canada, I told my boys I would return to Kenya to start my business. They discouraged me.

What do you think the 52-year-old would tell the 75-year-old you?

First, you have to have a knack for this thing. Then, if you decide to go, get to the deep end and make sure you float and swim.

Many people said I was crazy. I don’t need to know everything; that’s why I have qualified people to do the job. I don’t want to know about 900 people, just certain people.

Are you a head or a heart person?

You need both. Because if you just stick with your heart, you are spoiling the discipline of your heart. When it’s just the head, you will go banging the table all the time, and one day, when your people get a chance, they will walk away from you.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Something to do with legacy. There are so many companies that, after us, started the waiting rooms, lounges, and toilets because it is all going to enhance a good customer experience—even if we are still more expensive than any other company.

People say, ‘Never again, Easy Coach!" But they still come. It doesn’t mean I take things for granted, but we always investigate and resolve our client’s issues.

Has becoming a grandfather made you softer?

My grandchildren came home and went to the game park. But we went with them to Mombasa. There was a lot of bonding: husband and wife, children and grandparents.

What season of your life are you in right now?

As in Twilight? [chuckles] The teacher does not say at the end of our life; instead, he says when your 100 years are over, it is time to go. I still have 25 years to go, but in the meantime, I can’t teach you to play golf, but I can teach some kindness.

What’s your superpower?

To motivate and lead from the heart, and of course, pay people’s salaries. The prayers soften you from life's harsh realities and inspire you. Like thou shall not steal…

Have you been stolen from a lot?

It is the only commandment I know, haha! I cannot speak about adultery here [chuckles].

What price have you paid for your ambition?

I have enjoyed life greatly, but I missed out on me-time. My gang of friends go three times a year for visits to Mombasa.

Three months ago, they went on a Mediterranean cruise. I wish I could have joined them, but I always say next time! Next time!

What do you have that money can’t buy?

I am tempted to say love, but I think it's the inner happiness of buying a very expensive Range Rover. It initially gets you very excited, but after that, the maintenance bill steals the joy.

Did you buy the Range Rover?

No. My car is a nine-year-old Jeep Cherokee. But we have 80 buses on the road. And we are getting seven more this month, with 10 more set for December.

Which one makes you more money—cargo or passengers?

Passengers. But cargo saved us during Covid-19 time. We converted our old buses to cargo buses, removed the seats, and cut a door at the back.

So now it’s 20 percent cargo, 80 percent ticketing. The cargo business assisted because we continued to pay our staff—not salary, but leave money.

What has been your lowest moment?

Covid hit us badly. And during the post-election violence, our six new buses were burned down. They had been launched on the road in December and in February, they were burned.

They had not been insured so the money went to ashes. Several people from the ministry came to see us, and promised us goodies, but we never saw them again.

How do you want to be remembered?

For the brand. Easy Coach. Building it.


Azym Dossa, founder and Managing Director of Easy Coach at his residence in Westlands Nairobi on August 23, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

What do you fear now?

There are reports of contrabands like chang’aa [ illicit brew] being hidden and other flimsy stuff. People try to carry those on the bus.

We’ve caught people wanting to wrap and transport bhang as well, and that’s why we don’t allow any liquid, even if it is paint, on our buses.

What do you know to be true about life?

Karma definitely. But have you behaved yourself? Have you told someone to get lost because they are arrogant?

Has it all been worth it, the life that you’ve lived?

For sure, because I wonder what I would be doing. I am still here, throughout all those years.

Who has your back?

This interview [chuckles]. When every employee gets paid, he or she has to bring me one percent of the pay so I become more prosperous than them, haha!

Okay,  the truth is, in the morning, my wife asked, “I hope you did your physio because I am supposed to do some exercises.” It takes about six minutes, but I had only done three minutes, but when she asked me, I shouted and said I did!

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