It has been a long journey for Chrispus Kinene, an entrepreneur who manufacturers speed limiters and a system that monitors fuel usage in vehicles.
This journey began in 1990 when the sales and marketing graduate from Egerton University resigned from his job in the private sector to start his own business, having risen to the rank of manager.
With Sh500,000 partly made up of savings and a loan from a Sacco, Kinene opened his first hardware shop in Nairobi, where he sold building materials. Within a 10-year time frame, he would go on to open other outlets in Kajiado, Kitengela and Namanga.
In 2000 when the country was experiencing a dip in power supply, leading to constant power blackouts and rationing, Kinene identified a gap in the energy sector and begun importing generators, power inverters and power back up batteries as well as solar panels, which he offered as alternative sources of energy, a business he did for two years.
When the late John Michuki, then Minister for Transport, instituted a policy that required all public vehicles to be fitted with speed governors and seat belts in 2003, Kinene, quick to spot an opportunity to make money, went into the business of importing speed governors, which he supplied to the local market. He imported them from South Africa, and wondered why there was no one manufacturing them locally. It is then that he decided to manufacture his own brand of speed governors, the aim to provide a local solution to a local problem. He went ahead and hired four people - three technicians and someone to man the new office.
He invested Sh40 million into the business - Sh30 million was borrowed, Sh10 million from his savings. He then travelled to China, with the aim to acquire knowledge on how to manufacture speed governors.
The businessman, however, returned home a disappointed man since there was no production knowledge for making the gadget in China. When the government directed that local manufacturers come up with locally made speed governors through a task force which recommended that the country stop relying on foreign gadgets, Kinene and his technical team started the process by studying the manual of the motherboard of the South African-made gadget.
“We studied but did not copy and paste, eventually, we came up with a locally made one that could not only limit speed, but record speed data,” he says.
That major breakthrough came in 2012, a year before the speed governors came into use. Since then, the businessman has been working hard to improve on the gadget. In 2017, when first generation speed governors were being phased out, he and his technical team incorporated a fuel management feature in the new speed limiter, calling the gadget PGL Contro.
“We sought to have a single solution gadget that would work both as a speed limiter and also fuel management gadget that would discourage fuel siphoning,” he explains. The gadget was put in the market in 2019 after many successful trials. So how does it work? Fuel level sensors are installed in the vehicles’ fuel tanks and calibrated to the speed limiter. Through use of special sim cards issued by Safaricom, the system is linked to the service provider’s server and to the handset of the vehicle owner who is able to monitor levels and usage of fuel starting from the fueling point. In case of tampering with the vehicle's fuel tank, instant alerts through texts are sent to the service provider's server and also to the vehicle owners’ phone.
The limiter plus installation costs between Sh45,000 to Sh50,000. An installation takes between one-three hours. The company has offices in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Nyahururu, Meru and Thika. He started with five customers, and largely due to referrals, he has since serviced more than 200 vehicles, all diesel fueled.
“Apart from offering speed governors and a fuel management system, we monitor and manage fuel levels on behalf of petrol station owners”, he explains.
He advises upcoming entrepreneurs to seek mentors, be consistent, endure the hard times that every new business endures and keep to the vision. For Kinene, innovation will be key to the growth of his business as he trains his sights on the region and the rest of the African continent.
“I thank my bank for trusting my business enough to lend me. This has seen my business grow from employing four to 100 employees.”