Wonder why firms like Nakumatt and Naivas started out in the countryside before coming to the city?
On a recent trip to the countryside, I checked into a garage to have my Vitz’s wheels balanced and aligned. In the first garage, there was no wheel balancing, a service which is about adding some weights to the wheels to ensure they do not wobble as they rotate on the road.
The mechanic was very kind and showed us where to get such a service. “I know that garage has the weights you need,” he informed us. I was perplexed by this innocence. Why lead us to your competitors?
In urban areas, particularly Nairobi, it is unlikely that someone will inform you where to get a service or a product if they do not have it. The most popular answer is always “I do not know.”
Why would a countryside business owner lead you to a competitor? Some will argue that the ‘countrysiders’ are not sophisticated and do not know how to make money.
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The truth might be deeper than that. The different reactions shows how two set of Kenyans view business. For the countrysiders, it is all about relationships. It is more about service than money. And they believe there is room for everyone. The Nairobians see business as a zero-sum game; if I get something, someone loses.
Could this explain why firms like Nakumatt and Naivas started in the countryside before coming to the city? Which approach to business is better?
I see the countryside way more European; an easy and relaxed way of life. It is no wonder then we have no big malls in Europe and 24-hour shopping is rare.
The Nairobians’ way is very American in its hyper competitiveness. The European route leads to more satisfied citizens. My visit there seemed to confirm that. The American route leads to stress and anxiety among entrepreneurs, from experience too. But it is more preferred because of media blitz.
Anytime I visit the countryside, I am always touched by the innocence of its people. I always wonder who will reward the innocence of the countrysiders. We know for sure that politicians take full advantage of their innocence during campaigns then neglect them thereafter.
The majority of Kenyans are rural dwellers with lots of proud Nairobians having deep roots there. If we focused and harnessed this innocence, Kenya would probably be a happier nation, not necessarily richer. That would be a great achievement.
After all, we want to be rich or affluent to be happy. Maybe I am too philosophical. Do you live in Nairobi or the countryside? What is your view?