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Did Blue Chip companies learn from Kenyan garages?

By XN Iraki | July 8th 2020

It’s surprising how Kenyan garages and blue-chip firms have a lot in common.

One advantage of visiting a garage is that you get a chance to meet the real Kenyans, away from offices and other artificial work places. It’s better if you wait for your car to be fixed.

Garages are not just dirty or oily places visited like hospitals only when you have a problem. They espouse lots of modernism but rarely noticed by scholars, too obsessed with listed companies. Keen observations will surprise you.

First there is a lot of outsourcing. Your mechanic will call someone to weld, panel beat, fix the electronics, clean the car and other things. He has their contacts.

Our garages or mechanics are closer to Apple Inc or Google than you think. Apple or Google create services we never thought we needed like listening to music as we walk.

Remember iPod? Did you tell Apple you needed to store your photos or autocomplete for Google? Once you use these services, you suddenly realise you need them and are willing to pay for them. What of Facebook or WhatsApp? You still lived without them, but once you start using them, they become an addiction and the money thereof.

Mechanics too are good at offering services you never thought about like brightening your head lights, new wipers, riveting windbreakers, seat covers, mud guards and more. And for each additional service, there is a dedicated person do it at a fee, not sure if the mechanic gets a cut for referrals. Noted how the blue-chip firms too outsource?

Beyond car-based services, food peddlers keep visiting garages carrying boiled maize, eggs, tea, mandazi, fruits, water, KDF and more. Garages are rarely located in affluent suburbs, not just in Kenya but everywhere. They create their own ecosystems with outsourced services. Mechanics don’t even keep spare parts; they buy them when needed. They never hold their money.

The garage model could be emulated by many other businesses to keep the costs down, create new jobs and markets. Noted after a haircut, ever smiling girls often lead you to facials, pedicures or manicures.

Yet, we think the mechanics, usually dirty, oily and rarely talking English are not cool. Even academics have no time for them. Seen any thesis or case studies on mechanics or garages? Yet they could be ahead of their time, using ideas we think belong to Apple Inc and other blue-chip firms.

Next time you visit a garage, get off your social media and watch them as they carry out their business. They are ahead of the times.

Are you a mechanic and want to share some of your tricks including overcharging ladies? Talk to us.

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