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The teacher behind Sh3 million USB cable factory in Kirinyaga

ENTERPRISE
By Ndungu Gachane | September 1st 2021
Antony Muthungu 28, at his Toto Scie company in Sagana. His firm manufactures USB cables after he established am market gap over substandard cables. [Ndungu Gachane, Standard]

Antony Muthungu, a graduate of Karatina University, has never set a foot in a class to pursue his teaching career thanks to his industrial start motivated by the widespread sale of substandard products in the Kenyan market.

The 28-year-old trained physics and mathematics teacher has set up a mobile chargers and data transfer USB cables manufacturing unit at Sagana in Kirinyaga County exciting Kenyans online.

Muthungu said he developed the idea of setting up the assembly line one day when he needed to transfer a document from his phone to a laptop but the cable failed him because it was substandard.

“I started buying damaged cables and within a week I had bought over 5,000 cables, I tested each of them and found the main problem and then commenced the research on how to make better cables,” Muthungu added though vowing to keep his findings on the substandard cables a secret.

The father of one noted that although he has made an Sh3 million investment, he had to buy the assembling line equipment one by one until he completed the factory in March last year.

Since he can’t afford some of the machines, Muthungu has improvised the cooling tower which he has set up with local tanks to cool the machines.

“We also buy wire connectors and microchips since we have not been able to buy the fabrication plant,” said the entrepreneur.

With the help of about five workers in his firm, he makes between 300 to 500 cables but has the capacity to produce 10,000 cables.

Although the market response is positive, Muthungu fears unscrupulous traders may counterfeit his products and destroy his business.

“We urge the anti-counterfeit agencies to improve their surveillance on fake products even as we look forward to partnering with major and authentic dealers where our products will only be sold to minimize the risk of our products being replicated by unscrupulous traders,” Muthungu added.

He has also pleaded with the government to come up with friendly policies to encourage upcoming manufacturers who play a greater role in reviving the economy.

Brian Muriuki a worker at Antony Muthungu's firm in Sagana [Ndungu Gachane, Standard]

“There should be a tax reduction of companies below three years as opposed to subjecting us like the established companies. Cost of production, fuel and electricity is very high,” Muthungu said.

However, even with the challenges, Muthungu is gearing to establish earphones and other phone accessories and by 2025, he hopes to launch a fully-fledged phone assembly.

“I look forward to work with Dedan Kimathi University who produce semiconductors, also known as system chips, which are used in smartphones, tablets and other electronics products.

He sells his cables through his TotoScie company a name he derived from his earlier hustle where he used to teach children on science and technology hence the name toto which is slang for ‘a child.’

But the lure of money through his regular inventions saw his university studies stretch to seven years when he would have wrapped the same in four years. He admits he had to stop schooling to start his hand in business.

Muthungu was always a bright kid with big ideas. While in his second year at Karatina University, he invented a gadget meant to reduce road crashes.

The device would alert motorists whenever they approach black spots from as far as 500 metres.

“The daily tragic news of people dying in accidents are horrifying. I went through statistics provided by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) about accidents occurring on our roads and I thought I can come up with this device that will be alerting the drivers - especially in new road sections - on the dangers they may face,” Muthungu said at the time in an interview with The Standard.

Christened LUAM Blackspot Tracer, Muthungu said the device would be configured through software that he had invented too.

Remote electric switch

He had used an ordinary television remote control as one of the gadgets that would be fixed at black spots and emit signals that would be captured by motorists using navigational maps warning them they were approaching a black spot.

The graduate also invented a remote electric switch where one can light their houses from a distance.

Three years ago, Muthungu also established a water meter reader which is able to send billing messages to water firms and consumers.

“The meter readers would ensure that both consumers and the water firms receive their water bills in time. Staff from water firms do not have to trek to peoples’ homes while consumers will not have to be penalized for failing to pay their dues in time,” Muthungu noted.

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