Bicycles worldwide have been used for sports activities, transportation facilities or even for fun or leisure activities. Wycliffe Waweru the owner of Play Guru, found a stable job by hiring out bicycles.
“Riding bicycles has always been my passion since childhood. In 2010, I had to quit my formal employment and start my own business, Play Guru, with just six second-hand mountain bikes which I sold by the roadside in a Nairobi suburb,” said Waweru.
He was 22 by the time he quit his first well-paying job. “My main job was working with the directors, the chairman, the CEO and the managers. I was in a team where we were doing cash flow monitoring. We developed a model to tell what each child pays via hyperlink. We did it all from scratch,” he recalled.
Waweru, an I.T graduate quit his job simply because he couldn’t play. He had no comprehensive plan of what his future would look like. He was idle for some months, asking God to show him something that he could do. Something that was more fun and naturally motivating for him.
In February 2010, he was seated by the roadside in Buruburu after a bike ride with a couple of friends. He asked them if there was any potential for opening a bike business. All but one was open to this idea.
The following day, the two of them washed their bikes and took them to the roadside. Passers-by made enquiries about whether they were for sale. Deep in him he prayed that they could buy and by the end of that weekend he had made a sale.
“After I sold my first bicycle for double the amount I had paid for, I set a small shop. I continued to buy and resell imported second-hand bicycles, making very large margins of 200% to 300%, Wycliffe noted.
He added that he was selling to people who were tired of buying from supermarkets and having to constantly do repairs. They were willing to pay a premium for better quality second-hand bicycles from Europe.
His business was doing well despite the challenges he faced along the way. He recalls that he would make only one sale in some months. “It is never easy, but consistency pays. Yes the market is as big as the number of people who walk to work but there are still many infrastructural challenges to riding.
However, Wycliffe applauds the government and its various agencies for the great support they have accorded him. “We have a pool of private partners who are keen on partnerships to empower the ‘urban working poor’ beyond the bicycles,” he said.
Although his business is doing well, Wyclife noted a gap in the market. Hardly will low-income labourers afford paying for a bicycle. Many would rather walk long distances to work, since public transportation is also too expensive.
This led Wyclife to have a creative idea in order to penetrate into such a market and meet their need. “I approached one company, signed up 39 workers who were interested in acquiring bicycles, and convinced the managing director to enable them to pay for the bicycles by deducting a small amount from their salaries every month,” Wycliffe said.
He added that this was a game changing idea that saw him get referrals to one of the biggest private security firms in the country within three weeks. When the private security firm placed an order of 6,800 bicycles, it was initially very challenging for him to fulfil this order.
Apart from this Wycliffe ran into other challenges. Because he was stocking second-hand products from a variety of manufacturers, accessing spare parts was difficult. In instances where workers spent the same amount on different bicycle models, some would feel short-changed.
He is currently working on opening an assembly plant in Nairobi. He says the facility will likely open between the end of this year or early 2017 and will have all constituent parts of bicycles, sourced from Taiwan.
He expects the factory to produce 10,000 units in month and notes that there are enough people in the market to buy bicycles. They will work with companies that will deduct a small amount from their workers’ pay to enable them to make the purchase.
“We are going to reach these low-earning employed people who walk to work. It is a humungous market,” he said.
Looking at daily human activity, transport cuts across all economies. This function is majorly motorized in the developed spaces (urban) thus emissions from the choices of travel deposit tones of carbon into the environment. The move to bicycles which are human powered will reduce an individual’s footprint and collectively help de-carbonize.
Image Credit: Play Guru