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22nd of July 2018


BikeFundi: Mobile repair toolkit coming near you

BikeFundi employees work on bicycles at a city estate.

Bicycles are almost synonymous with the Kenyan scene. We grew up either riding them for leisure or using them as a means of transport. Conrad Mochu never owned a bike when he was a child, he bought his first bicycle after high school for Sh3,000 which he had earned as a casual labourer.  Today, at 37, he owns an innovative mobile bicycle repairbusiness, called BikeFundi.

BikeFundi, operated from a van, traverses different estates in Nairobi, bringing the mechanics to the clients instead of the other way round. Though a relatively new operation, they say they are already booked round the clock.

Conrad tells Hustle how he got his idea for the business through a passion for riding, and his desire to bring wholesome entertainment to children.

When did you get the idea to start BikeFundi?

I have been riding as a form of exercise and leisure since 2015. Naturally, there are many instances when I had to take my bicycle in for servicing or repair. I am also a father of two sons and I realised how much time I spent on maintaining our bicycles. I’d load the bicycles into the car, drive to the repair shop, wait for the bicycles or return later to pick them. That’s half a day gone. Somewhere in the back of my mind I always thought, there has to be a more efficient way to do this.

I first thought of the system back in 2016. I had formed a riding group in my estate in Loresho and many of the members complained about the hassle of getting their bikes fixed. So I organised for my repair guy to come to the neighbourhood. He ended up fixing more than 15 bikes, which was well above our expectation. This was definitely a gap in the market.

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How long did it take, from idea to actualisation?

About two years. Initially, I didn’t want to get involved in the business so I told my mechanic, Hussain Manfred, to take it up. But he didn’t have the resources. It wasn’t until towards the end of 2017, when I was looking for a viable cash flow venture, that I remembered the idea to start a mobile repair shop. I approached Hussain once again and offered to put up the capital if he would run the day-to-day operations.

What was the start-up capital?

If I had been starting from scratch, it would have cost Sh5 million for the van, Sh300,000 to convert it and Sh700,000 for the repair toolkit. But I already had the van from a previous venture. So my total capital came to roughly Sh1 million.

The concept of BikeFundi is fairly new, how confident are you that the business model will succeed?

I think all great ideas have started from a point of uncertainty. For me, the issue is not projecting into the future pondering whether or not it will work, it’s making sure we serve our clients well from day one.

What makes us stand out is that we repair bicycles using original parts only. Some people have told me that it’s not good business sense because of the high cost of original parts. Yet, five months in and BikeFundi is already paying for itself. Why? Because of our ethics and quality assurance: once we repair a bike, it lasts for three to four months before it needs attention again. Any cyclist and, more importantly, any parent will tell you this is rare in Kenya. I think I can comfortably say we have less than 10 professional bike repair shops in the country. BikeFundi is joining those ranks.

What are your charges?

We charge Sh800 to service a child’s bike and Sh1,500 to service an adult’s bike. For repairs it completely depends on which part is spoilt. It can cost as little as Sh100 if it’s to fix noodles or as much as Sh3,500 if it’s a rear derailleur issue. I am honest with my customers that some of the parts I replace will cost them more, but for sure those parts will last longer.

Since you are a mobile unit, how does somebody book you?

We have different clientele; estates and individuals. For estates we have to be invited by a member of the community. Usually we will only visit an estate if we have at least five bikes to repair. We don’t charge transportation in that case. If it’s an individual, we offer free transportation within a 10-kilometre radius of the city centre. Our schedule is Saturday – Tuesday, estate visits and Wednesday – Thursday individual visits.

The one thing this business and riding in general has given me is knowledge of the road networks of Nairobi and its environs. I can show you roads and back routes from Kiambu to Athi River, Arusha to Kericho.

What made you start cycling?

My wife wanted me to keep fit, so she convinced me to join the gym but I found it boring. Since my younger brother used to cycle for fitness, I decided to give it a try. The funny thing was, he was riding a bicycle worth about Sh20,000 and I wanted to beat him, so I bought one of Sh70,000. I still lost. I came to understand that riding was not just about the bicycle you were using, but about the skill you acquired. The challenge gripped me. Before I knew it, I was building my own custom-made bike, importing parts from all over the world. Today, I ride between 60 and 100 kilometres three times a week. Every once in a while, my riding team and I do a long haul ride - the longest we have done is 208 kilometres in two days.

What’s your vision for BikeFundi?

My greatest achievement would be to inspire children to go back to playing outdoors, the way we did as kids. But here is the thing, a child whose bicycle keeps getting ruined will lose interest in that sport.

However, if we give them an instrument that they can rely on, it becomes a trusted companion. Ask any adult to describe to you their first bicycle and they will. Why? It’s like having your first car and everyone needs a reliable car. Why not a bicycle for our kids? 

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