Step onto any street in Kenya, and you’ll hear a voice that echoes through the air:
“Karibia Karibia customer upate line ya Airtel 4G free of charge. Kisha tunakuzawadi 100 mbs of data. Vilevile tunafanya sim replacement na tunafananisha number. Karibu customer.”
But who is the mastermind behind this iconic voice?
Meet Simon Richoh, better known as MC Richoh, the man responsible for the instantly recognizable voice promoting Airtel’s products and SIM cards.
In this article, WoK delves into the fascinating journey of MC Richoh and his struggle to receive the recognition and compensation he deserves.
After completing high school in 2017, Richoh embarked on a journey to the city to pursue his dreams.
Fate led him to a sales job, where his natural ability to engage people made him excel.
“I just love speaking. Even in class, I was a noise maker,” he said in an interview.
With two friends by his side, they were given Airtel lines to sell and earn a commission.
But Richoh had a unique idea to boost sales – he decided to record his voice and use it as a promotional tool.
He had always known he was talented as a voice-over artist. So he went to the studio, said the iconic phrase, and recorded his voice.
“I saw that instead of selling the sim cards that we were being given for free, let’s also give them out for free.
That was how I came up with the statement ‘Free of Charge’. As an incentive, we would award the customer 50 MBs of data,” said Richoh.
He then shared the voice with his two friends.
They bought speakers and started going around estates, blasting the Karibia Karibia customer phrase.
The trick worked like magic. Sales increased significantly as customers flocked to acquire the SIM cards.
Soon, his friends shared the voice with other sales agents, and it went viral.
The success of Richoh’s voice didn’t go unnoticed.
It caught the attention of Airtel, who embraced it as their official promotional voice for their SIM card sales.
The voice spread like wildfire, reaching every corner of Kenya.
However, to Richoh’s disappointment, Airtel never offered him any compensation for his invaluable contribution.
Feeling betrayed by the company he had helped thrive, Richoh made numerous attempts to reach out to Airtel, hoping for acknowledgment and compensation for his voice.
In interviews, he said he tried reaching out to them by email, social media platforms, and even visiting their dealership shops.
Yet, all his efforts yielded no response.
In a desperate bid to grab their attention, he has resorted to walking around with a placard, demanding recognition and sharing his story on social media.
He says there was a time when he was working as a mjengo guy. His house had been closed due to rent arrears.
That day, he came across an Airtel-branded van selling Airtel SIM cards outside his estate. It was surrounded by customers.
He told the sales agents they were using his voice and to at least give him a job.
“However, they started beating me, saying they had been issued the voice from headquarters,” he said.
His family, under the impression that he has been paid by Airtel, fails to understand his struggles, unaware that he now earns a living as a bodaboda rider and through his artistic talents.
He says he should be compensated because the Voice has given employment to young people who sell sim cards across the country.
According to him, his voice has brought the Airtel company trust by using a unified voice across the country to sell lines.
“When people in any part of Kenya hear my voice saying Karibia karibia customer, they know they will automatically get an original sim card,” says Richoh.
He believes that his contribution should be acknowledged through fair compensation.