BY VICTOR ADAR
Many professionals would stick to their career path but Njoki Waigwa, 32, is probably on a mission. The desire for her to venture into business seems to stem from the demise of her dad whom she lost in 2003 while she was around 16 years old. To help her mum who teaches English and Literature sustain the family, she had to think of ways to create income streams at an early age.
This kind of scenario is evident in most households but with financial goals and proper plans, things can turn around. While she was at the University of Nairobi (UoN) from 2008 to 2012 studying Bachelor of Commerce, Finance, Ms Waigwa did a survey in Nyeri County and managed to raise some little money that she would later add to a loan from Higher Education Loans Board. Then, she approached her uncle for a top up, and bought a motorbike. One lucrative venture was born.
Her mum would oversee operations of the tiny business and money was flowing. Back then she was 22 years old. In 2014, though, she disposed off the bike to a young man in her village and deserted the business to focus on a new job. It is also interesting to note that besides enrolling for a Master of Business Administration in strategic management in 2018 at the UoN, she is a certified public accountant. Second born in a family of seven, motorbikes make her heart race.
“My interest with bikes started in the village,” she says. “I don’t come from ‘old money’ so I think I am the beginning of the formation of my empire and I can’t do this while working for someone else. When I am employed I will be making big moves for the company. Why not do it for myself in my small way?”
The biggest move was in October last year when Ms Waigwa felt that courier business still holds sway. She registered Haraka Delivery Services, a motorbike use delivery services company based in Nairobi. Prior to this bold leap, she was an employee of the accounting firm, KPMG, where she practiced tax for three years before she quit in August 2018 to join Lendable Market Place, a micro-lender (based in the US but with offices in Nairobi) that supports lenders in other markets. She was a deal operations manager but with a plan to go big on delivery business at the end of her tenure.
“The dream is bigger. That’s what pushes me, and since I was previously in employment, I had savings. So I started off with my own money and I have three bikes and three riders so far. My starting capital was around Sh200, 000,” she explains.
She used the amount to purchase one bike, and added two more after a couple of months, registered the business, looked for someone to create a logo as well as a website for the company, and embarked on a search for customers.
“I settled on motor bike business because I would like to build systems and processes that will work for me in the long run. An empire is going to come from this business. It is interesting that the first three months I had around 20 requests of partnerships. However, I have tried my best not to have unrealistic dreams and grow gradually,” she says, adding that she is keen on building processes and systems that are solid.
“I am also into building a grounded business, one that will go beyond me. If I dedicate my time now in building the systems and processes then hopefully in about two to three years the processes will work for me,” she says.
The company came into being at a time when there are many players in the market vying for a piece of the pie but the future is looking bright thanks to the potential of word of mouth and social media, mainly Facebook. She brought on board nearly 60 clients in the first three months of operation, an indication that she is in a business that is yet to be tapped. She has just added a little bit of professionalism. You see, delivery services, sort of, is dominated by rogue players – Some riders have not always been trustworthy, and stories about delivery guys who stayed with clients’ money have been a nightmare for a majority of customers.
In addition, most riders combine deliveries so much that a package that should have reached its destination in about two hours could end up taking a whole day thereby inconveniencing the parties involved. But Ms Waigwa is rewriting the rules.
She has classified her customers into three groups: businesses, professionals and individuals. That means she can deliver technically to everybody. She is targeting people who have forgotten their keys at home, mobile phone chargers, those who need cheques picked from their offices, or banked on their behalf. Her riders can manage about ten deliveries per day, she says.
“We are also targeting people selling online and I have classified them into sub sections. Cosmetics business, and one of our biggest customer is a brand called Zeron. There are so many people who are making natural products, hair, sheer butter, coconut oil, honey… people who are selling baby clothes, household items, beddings and duvets. Another area is electronics. We deliver a lot of computers, laptops, phones, small cables, and general appliances,” she says.
At the same time, she is hands on and follows on each and every delivery. In the coming months she is planning to buy three or four bikes with an aim of increasing the number up to 15. With her career spanning around finance, tax and accounting, the founder of Haraka Delivery Services, is a calm, smart professional who is on a mission to rewrite the rules of delivery business. By concentrating on small number of clients she is able to do the business properly while giving clients a personal touch. Hers is a motorbike only company, a new niche in the market.
On the pricing front, some riders charge Sh250 from Nairobi to Westlands and others Sh150 to the same destination. But Ms Waigwa is cock sure that in the short term a majority of customers might go with cheaper options but in the long run they will see the advantage of Haraka, a name that was inspired by the fact that most of the people who buy online want ‘haraka’ (fast) delivery.
There are enough vans and tracks to do delivery and they are mainstream. “That’s why I do bikes. I am building a brand that can be trusted and I have been very intentional not to spread myself too thin. I have decided to focus on delivery business. But after I have grown the fleet to up to 15 bikes, we will transition to vans, and who knows, we might even transition to tracks,” she says.
Amidst the opportunities are challenges. What makes her go belly up at the moment is hiring. Getting riders is no easy task. However, she has stayed rooted in the business so much that she has learned that it is the responsibility of a founder to inculcate processes for a business to thrive.
“We are in a new space. Sometimes customers want assurance that if their items get lost at least they will be compensated. So it is a relatively new area. Furthermore, without trustworthy riders, the centre cannot hold. There are also conmen in this space. It has happened to several players according to my research. So if you have a fair relationship with the rider it translates into good will. If you create goodwill the riders also will play back. So I make sure that I am reasonable.
The logistics space is extremely tech and she is planning to go tech by including e-commerce functionality and perhaps a mobile app whereby users will be able to request services directly through their mobile phones – the company’s website is plain for now. Actually, it is a just landing page.
“You need to be on social media big. You have to believe in yourself even if there are many players. There is a market for everyone irrespective of charges. You also need to be trustworthy because that is what all businesses are looking for. Can I trust you with my luggage? Can customers trust you? Why I have more customers is because I know what I am doing,” she says.