Stephen Ngei: The Hawker Who Founded Makindu Motors, Importing 10,000 Motorcycles Annually

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Stephen Ngei: The Hawker Who Founded Makindu Motors, Importing 10,000 Motorcycles Annually
Stephen Ngei Photocredit/Courtesy

Makindu Motors is arguably one of the most successful automobile companies that primarily deals with motorcycles, tuk tuks and tractors. However, most Kenyans don’t know the entrepreneurs behind this success story. In this article, WoK bring you the story of one of the founders, Stephen Ngei, who was a paraffin vendor and hawked jewellery and second hand inner wears to women in bars to supplement his income.

The Journey

Before Makindu Motors Limited came about, Mr. Stephen Ngei Musyoka was a paraffin vendor and would hawk second hand inner wears to women in bars and other meeting places to augment his income. 

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“I would walk into bars within Makindu town and other small shopping centers along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway with bundles of clothes and jewels strapped on my shoulders. The bar maids and revellers were ready customers for my wares and my business grew quicker than I had anticipated,” Ngei told the Standard.

From the profits he made, the entrepreneur started selling second-hand bicycles to local teachers. According to Ngei, teachers were the only civil servants in the villages at the time who could be able to obtain loans.

“We wanted to help teachers reduce the cost of travelling to their schools and so we opted to sell them old bicycles. And because they could get loans from their Savings cooperatives, we found working with them very conducive. While some of our customers ran away without completely paying for bicycles that were sold on credit, the teachers paid for them up to the last cent even without us going after them,” he told the Standard.

Establishing Makindu Motors Limited

The market for motorcycles was ripe prompting the company to change tact. Armed with Sh1.6 million in savings, the company imported their first new 25 motorcycles from Dubai, out of these, 23 were sold in credit and the remaining two for cash. They doubled the numbers to 50 motorcycles. The company got a breakthrough in 2004 during a Chinese trade fair held in Nairobi when they landed a dealership partnership with SkyGo to supply its motorcycles in Kenya. In 2006, they began sourcing motorcycles from China to quench the demand from teachers and bodaboda operators.

“Sourcing for motorcycles from China was cost effective as opposed to getting them from Dubai. Initially we would import them readily assembled from Dubai and this threatened our business because they would arrive with some dismantled. Forcing us to sell them at low prices,” Joshua Kamonzo, who is the firm’s Managing Director (MD) told a local publication.

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Establishing an assembling plant

The deal with SkyGo entailed that the company would import the motorcycle in spare parts from China and have them assembled in Kenya. Ngei and his co-founder Charles Musinga worked together to establish an assembling plant in Makindu. According to Mr. Ngei, the deal reduced the number of losses from smashed motorcycles and theft of motorcycles that had thrown the company off balance especially with the Dubai deal. With the assembling plant in place, the company went on to land three other deals to sell motorcycles and motor vehicles with Flyboy and Ya-Maana motorcycles as well as JAC light trucks, cars and farming tractors.

Success

Today, Makindu Motors limited imports over 10,000 new motorcycles yearly from China. It also ships new trucks ranging from 3 to 5 tons of Jack trucks, tractors for farming and tuk tuks. It has created job opportunities directly to over 100 people and indirectly to thousands who work as dealers spread across the country.

According to its Managing Director, the company has plans to scale up its presence to East and Central Africa countries in future. The company opened a driving school dubbed ‘Yamahana Driving School’ and participates in charity activities through sponsoring education for vulnerable children. It is also involved in environmental conservation activities by participating in tree planting and advocacy.

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