Captive crowds are the next business frontier

A hawkers siezes an opportunity of a traffic jam build up to sell his wares along Mbagathi Way in Nairobi. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Just outside a supermarket on Monrovia Street, Nairobi, a kiosk sells all types of coffee from mocha to expresso.

Another sells sugarcane juice. Yet another popcorn. There are no seats, you just pick your coffee or juice and go. They simply take advantage of the captive crowd from the supermarket.

Hawkers take advantage of traffic jams to sell their wares. They do the same during funerals and graduation ceremonies.

Along the overpass from the central business district (CBD) to Harry Thuku Road, someone has set up a thriving juice parlour to capture the crowd crossing.

Add construction sites where open-air cooking and hawking of tea and other foodstuffs are common.

In the airports, duty-free shops take advantage of captive crowds. Food and other items are nowadays hawked in planes and trains. Captive crowds are not just for hustlers.

Preachers take advantage of lunchtime crowds while street hawkers wait for workers going home in the evening to sell them their wares.

In all these cases, you take the market to the people! They have no time to analyse and buy on impulse. Think of it, you shop for Sh3,000 in a supermarket but get coffee or popcorn for only Sh100. You “don’t feel it.” That is why such “mini markets” are money minters. 

They focus on volume and our afterthoughts. Their other source of profits is miniaturisation, low labour costs, and one person only operating the coffee maker or hawking without paying for space.

Add ATMs, miniature banks and nowadays coin-operated kiosks. The customers in transit rarely have time to compare prices therefore likely to pay a premium. 

Should we add vibanda (kiosks) here? They reduce their cost through a just-in-time production system. They produce for that day keeping their food fresh. Their premises are temporarily reducing the costs. You sometimes eat standing because your break from work is short. 

These miniature or mobile markets do not attract our attention more as scholars who prefer "neat" listed firms. Yet if we studied these small firms, they would give us insights into human behaviour and how to run businesses.

We would discover that hustling has patterns and trends that would offer great insights into mature businesses. Don't we study children to get insights into our behaviour as adults? Do you run such a miniature business? Talk to us?