Skip to main content

African businesses: Not a child's place


This post has been updated from the original post with additional content and verifications. Updated content is in blue. 

Vishal Patel, Executive Director , Copy Cat
limited used to spend his holidays working
at the business from the age of 12
The other day, no, the other month, I was lucky enough to attend Pivot 25. I remember that before the award ceremony at Pivot 25, I was chatting with John Waibochi,  Isis Nyongo and Moses Kemibaro. The event was taking place at the Ole Sereni Hotel which is along Mombasa road. It was here that I learned that Parkside Towers, one of Mombasa road's imposing structures and probably Victoria Furnitures (according to rumours) which is opposite Parkside Towers , all belong to the family that owns Tile & Carpet Centre. In addition , the Indian brothers own other real estate. This are rumoured to include an upcoming structure behind Victoria Furnitures.

Well, the Tile & Carpet Centre brothers are Kenyans, but of Indian decent, commonly refered to in Kenya as Wahindi. Waibochi said that he went to college with the brothers, and wonders what differentiated them from him such that they are that successful. If you know Waibochi, he is a seasoned entrepreneur by himself .



A  child hangs around it's mother's Grocery shop at Mukuru
kwa Njenga
Waibochi then ahead to explain what probably distinguished the Wahindi from himself. The Tile & Carpet brothers parents had operated a dukawalla  -  These are were small-medium sized shops that Indian families ran in the front of their homesteads.  Most of them have eventually grown into large enterprises at the moment.


What is striking about the dukawallas  is that the amongst the shop owners, you would find the owners young children, The children usually hang around the shop  and often took over manning and selling either as roles or to cover when their parents were absent. By the time they were growing up, Waibochi says that they knew how the business ran like the back of their palms.

With capital accumulated over the years from the family business, their business acumen and business school tips, the young wahindis were ready to take the businesses to a new level. Couple with the young ages that made them more willing to take risks, it only meant one thing. Great businesses empires arose from such beginnings.

Another similar tale is that of Copy Cat, a major ICT equipment supplier and solutions supplier in the region. Vishal Patel , the firms executive director says that at the age of 11 years , he normally spend his holidays working in the firms offices. When it got more boring, the young Vishal would accompany sales and supply teams as they traversed across the region in the firms vehicles , helping him understand the supply chain.

After attaining his university degree at Florida Institute of Tech, Vishal had a passion to run the business joining the firms operations in Tanzania which he led for 11 years. He then joined the fims directorship in Kenya where he has been for the last 7 years.

That is the wahindi  story. Now for the native Kenyan stories.

You may have heard the story of the Gerishon Kirima and how his family could not wait for the guy to die, to begin the fight on his massive real estate portfolio. Kirima, a former member of parliament and assistant minister had over time come to own several structure and parcels of land within Nairobi. His extended family started fighting over the property in his last days, as he lay on his hospital bed.

Kirima's saga is a common tale in Kenya when a rich individual dies, leaving his family fighting for the spoils.


When the children grow up, they have to wait for their parents - mostly their father - to pass away, or get very ill, and it is from here that they attempt to take over the business empire. Most of the time, the take over is usually a hostile take over rather than an inheritance. By the time they are taking over the business, the kids are usually in the late 40s , or well into their 50s . At this age, they are past the risk taker age, and are at an age that they themselves should probably be in the process of handing over to their children. Most of the time, they will run down and scavenge the business empire rather than built it. 


A once giant empire is divided amongst kids who will not talk to each other, who in turn sell parts of it to earn the golden retirement handshake.


Strangely, the wahindis  are rarely  mentioned in such cases.

When native Kenyan children are growing up, they are brought up to respect fear their parents, and other grown ups. They are often chased away to go and play with the saying , hapa si mahali pa watoto - translated to mean "this is not a child's place".

When it comes to family run businesses and shops, they are kept away , due to the suspicion that they will steal , or that they cannot be trusted enough to undertake such enterprises.

Lately, their holidays are occupied with holiday tuition. Holiday tuition is meant to make the learners brighter so that they can pass exams more and be in much better position to be employed.

Figure it out for yourself.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Kenyan in Addis Ababa (Part 2) - The "University Girls"

This post continues from Part 1. 

The residents of Addis are friendly too. On my first day, I did meet a guard at a hotel, who later offered to show me around. Among the places he suggested, was this place where some “University girls” were holding some "dancing ceremony". He added, that Ethiopians being Orthodox Christians, were about to go on a sex, alcohol and meat fast, hence the importance of this “ceremony.”
I had some suspicion that I was being sold to sex, but my guide insisted that this was not a sex sale. Just dancing University girls. We did end up in some nondescript compound, and into a house. There was sort of a sitting area, with a radio system, low benches and tables, and grass sprinkled around the floor. Grass sprinkled around the floor is an Ethiopian tradition that indicates you are welcome to a place.

It was about 5 PM,  and the hosts seemed not to be expecting any visitors at this time. My guide disappeared down some corridor into the back to call them. In…

Why Kenyans love Kigali (Part 2)

See part 1 of why Kenyans Love Kigali, which this articl is a continuation.

In my previous post on why Kenyans love Kigali, or Rwanda for that matter, I had mentioned on the security of the city. The post however widely dealt with the feel and appearance of the city, and a little bit of the country.

Both of my visits to Kigali have been through the airport, though you may opt for a more adventurous journey by road. Getting to Kigali then required a Kenyan passport, but no visa. Now, all you need to go through both Uganda and Rwandan borders are a National Identity Card.

For travel by air, Rwandair is a cheaper option for Kenyans as compared to our national flag carrier, Kenya Airways. Ironically, most other Africans get to Kigali via Kenya Airways, thought most Kenyans will opt for the cheaper Rwandair. The flights are comfortable and the service on board the 1 hour 15 minutes flight is great.

Depending on the weather, your landing can be quite full of turbulence in Kigali. The airpor…

Medicines in Kenya: Cure or Poison?

Many of us do not like medicines or visiting health centres, not that we have a choice. When one is sick, they have to visit a health centre. It's at the health centres that one is given medicines, drugs that are expected to cure the ailment.

Prevention, we are told, is better than cure. For this reason, some of us will visit the health centres for preventive drugs - maybe we are a malaria prone area and are trying to limit our exposure to it.

Looking at the health sector in Kenya, it is far from reaching the health for all status. The country , like many of it's neighbours, faces an acute shortage of doctors. The number has steadily been rising over the years as the government tries to train more doctors to bridge the shortfall. However, bridging the shortfall has been made difficult by many countries that are ready to pay a premium for Kenyan Doctors, hence luring them away from the country.

Kenya's South Coast: Modern Coast

My first fully awake day since I arrived form the Coast, South Coast specifically. Having arrived yesterday morning on a Modern Coast Oxygen bus, I spend most of the day and night in bed, catching up on millions of lost sleep hours. When one is in the South Coast, you do not waste away those precious moments on sleep.

I had joined hundreds of others at Diani for the Connected Kenya conference , where in between open bar cocktails and parties by the beach I spend quality time telling the world more about what was happening in the air conditioned Dr. Meister conference room at Diani Leisure Lodge.

I have been to the coast before, once. Last year I was covering some e-learning conference at the Aga Khan Academy. We were hen booked in at Hotel Saphire on the island. One one night, we did visit the Sarova White Sands on the North Coast. The Aga Khan Academy at the coast does not deserve to be called an academy. It is instead a castle with lawns that several of the top golf courses in the co…

A ride on the new Nairobi Commuter Railway from Imara Daima Railway Station

Foreplay  Today morning found me walking to the bus stop as usual. This usually involves crossing the highway we call Mombasa Road, where we don't have foot bridges. Perhaps, there would be foot bridges if the government did not have to spend money on designing logos, branding stuff and Mercedes Benzes for visitors.
Government aside, I usually check if there are lots of people at my bus stop, and if so, do a 10 minute walk to the next one. See, our bus stop has too many people at peak hours which means you have to spent 30 minutes there or start off your day with a short run, after a bus.
Today, it did look busy, they didn't appear to be many people, but there were police officers. A lorry carrying ballast had tipped over by the side of the road, and this was slowing down traffic, probably people stopping by to watch. 3 officers, these are too many for an understaffed force  (in a country where dozens of them will line up the highways when the president is passing by?).  Mayb…