At the beginning of 2021, Steve Karanja, a youthful businessman, found himself in a fix.
Things were beginning to look up after the difficult year, due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was optimistic about the new year and wanted to take full advantage of it.
However, Steve, who deals in electronics sales and repairs, faced a challenge. He did not have financing to ship in goods in sufficient quantities. Besides, most of China, from where he gets his wares, is typically in a lull in January as the country goes on holiday, which meant that he needed to get sufficient stock to cover for this period.
“Most of the stock I had was cleared during the festive season,” recalls Steve, a Nairobi Aviation College-trained IT professional who has been fascinated with gadgets from childhood.
Despite 2020 being a slow year, his business had managed to stay afloat. His Gadgetworld premises on the first floor (suite 2) of Norwich Union House, within Nairobi’s central business district still attracted business. He also got orders from his online shop.
“A phone is a basic need. When you lose it, you have to get a replacement,” the go-getter entrepreneur explains.
This meant that he needed to ensure that he had stock in case a customer came calling, looking for high-end phones, tablets, computers, office equipment and stationery, or the wide range of accessories. Only a few months earlier, he had unveiled a trade-in option for I-phones that was proving popular with his customers.
Steve would get his relief from his bank, National Bank of Kenya. He successfully sought the bank’s Till Financing, an unsecured lending solution. Based on the activity on his Lipa na M-PESA merchant till, he was financed to replenish stock without need for collateral. Interest for the solution that is available to private firms and sole proprietorships, is also priced at a fair 12.5 per cent. All they need is to have been in operation and with the till for 6 months, handling at least 24 transactions through it every month.
This was not the first time Steve was taking up the facility. Since 2018, he has been advanced financing several times, which he has repaid.
With the financing, Steve is happy to keep the doors of his business open and to sustain his young family, as well as the livelihoods of his five employees. Gadgetworld is also able to continue fulfilling orders from e-commerce platform, Jumia, with whom it has an existing partnership as a merchant.
The nudge from National Bank gives him confidence to pursue the grand plans he has for the business.
“We want to be an end-to-end electronics firm. At the moment we are selling high-end phones and other electronics, as well as repairing them. We are exploring ways of insuring them, in partnership with insurance firms,” he explains, adding that he is also considering value-add products like branded t-shirts and hoodies that he sells, as well as playing cards that he gifts customers with.
The leg-up also edges Steve closer to his long-held dream of owning his own phone brand in future.