Engineer finds success in phone repairs
By Mwaura Samora | November 18th 2014
Bolton Majale has had an interest in taking electronic gizmos apart and repairing them since his days as a student at Kisumu Technical College. So when he got a job with a leading smartphone dealer in Nairobi on completing his electrical engineering diploma, it was a dream come true.
However, two years later, his dreams took a different turn.
“I was a phone repair technician and would sympathise with clients whenever they were told their phones were beyond repair by my employer,” Mr Majale, 29, said.
“The truth was that some of those phones could be repaired, but the dealer wanted to sell more gadgets.”
He slowly began to see these clients as a potential market for a business idea he had been thinking about starting.
“I used to compare the small salary I was getting with what my employer was earning, and realised I would never be financially independent at the rate I was going. I wanted to establish my own service centre.”
Service centres at the time gave priority to phones on warranty, Majale said, which meant that those whose warranties had expired had to pay for repairs, or buy new devices. This is where the enterprising young man saw an opportunity, and he registered his company, Boltech Ltd.
Though he was sold on the idea of going solo, it was not easy; it got to the point he even missed the small monthly salary he used to get.
“I didn’t have any capital besides Sh40,000 that I had borrowed from a friend. The first three months were so terrible that I couldn’t sustain basic business costs like rent, which was Sh10,000. I eventually had to quit and go back to employment,” he said.
Getting clients was also not as easy as he thought it would be as he had yet to build a reputation; the line of business he was getting into relies mainly on referrals, not walk-in customers.
“I worked for three months and then quit again. I borrowed another Sh40,000 from several friends and rented an office on Moi Avenue,” Majale said.
“I paid the rent for two months and a three-month deposit in advance, but the landlord was auctioned, which forced me out after a month.”
Not one to give up easily, he moved to another office along Taveta Road, but clients with smartphones found the location off-putting as it was along a somewhat insecure section of Nairobi’s River Road area. Still, he was able to save some money from the clients he did get.
To make his business easier to find and more appealing, he moved once more. This time to Kenya Cinema. Within no time, business was booming for Boltech, and Majale hired five technicians to keep up with demand. He charges between Sh500 and Sh20,000 for repairs.
“We built our reputation by repairing phones within 40 minutes to eight hours,” he said.
This turnaround time was informed by the growing number of people addicted to their devices who could not stand the idea of leaving them at a service centre for days.
“Phone dealers are very reluctant to direct clients to private repair centres like ours because they fear it might make their clients think we are more competent,” he said. “However, if they are willing, I would like to create a working relationship with them.”
Boltech’s client base has since expanded to the counties, with the company receiving phones from other regions through courier services. Majale also offers pick-and-drop services to save clients the hustle of finding parking in Nairobi’s business district.
“My vision in the near future is to have service centres across the 47 counties, with trained technicians from these regions,” he said. “I would like to work with county governments to train local youth.”
Majale has opened a training college, where he charges Sh25,000 in fees per trimester, with each course taking a minimum one year.
Some of the challenges Boltech still grapples with include lack of trust from customers, failure to pay for services rendered and competition from multinational brands.
“My ambition is to be the biggest service centre in the region, recognised by all major brands as their first stop to service their customers’ devices,” Majale said.
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