In 2006, Sweden-based Tamarind Translations conducted a market survey in Kenya to establish need for professional translation services in East Africa.
Findings of that research revealed that international agencies like the United Nations, which use Nairobi as their regional headquarters, needed such services since they communicate in several languages.
Armed with this market research, Mrs Britt-Marie Seex, the owner of Tamarind Translations, decided to invest Sh3 million to set up the Kenyan subsidiary of the 28-year-old business, hoping to replicate its success in Sweden.
The business opened its doors in December 2008.
Today, the company is arguably one of the leading language agencies in the country, providing professional translation services to tens of organisations across the region.
“Language barrier is a big problem to international business and all activities related to international development. This is the gap that we are trying to bridge,” said Theophan Marube, the managing director of the Kenyan arm.
Some of its clients are the World Bank, UN and the African Union.
Multinational corporations like Google, Airtel, Nestle as well as some non-governmental organisations such as IPPF and government ministries also turn to Tamarind for help.
Tamarind also serves regional economic commissions like the East African Community, Economic Community of West African States and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Swahili and Swedish make the list of languages it uses to serve. They translate for legal, medical or technical fields.
The firm was instrumental in helping the National Council for Law Reporting to develop guidelines on how legal documents should be translated.
Tamarind Translations has seven permanent and a similar number of workers on a part-time basis. Two of the permanent staff have been with the firm since inception.
Tamarind Translations, however, bolsters its capacity by being a member of global network which has more than 1,000 translators from whom they draw assistance.
Interpretation services during conferences, business meetings as well as during court hearings also part of its business. Tamarind Translations also sells translation technology.
“With a team of translators, reviewers and terminologists, we have not only translated text, but also localised the content for the benefit of humanitarian workers in the region who work as responders during emergencies,” Mr Marube said.
Tamarind Translations' annual turnover for the year to December stood at Sh70 million and the management says they are targeting to grow this income by 30 per cent in the next two years.
Expanding into other markets such as Zimbabwe and Malawi and Angola are in the pipeline.
It operates in East Africa, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Sudan, South Africa, Somalia, Swaziland and Seychelles.
In Kenya, the skill is creating a new crop of entrepreneurs.