By Catherine Kuria
Ever wondered if your current career path is the right one for you? There can be a big discrepancy between the career you thought was fit for you and the one that is actually right for you. So, how do you tell what you should be doing? We all go through that period of self-doubt and uncertainty wondering if you are doing the right thing.
But, it is okay to not know. By the same token, it is okay to try your hands on different ventures till you find your perfect match. Mr. Kennedy Nyabwala is one such person who has engaged in numerous ventures till he found his fit.
Mr. Nyabwala is the founder and chief executive officer of Bwala Africa – a last mile logistics company that focuses on order fulfillment. It’s a new industry in Africa that seeks to address logistics bottle necks. Basically one can order a variety of items which are delivered within a specific amount of time. It addresses challenges that face e-commerce companies and also distributors by trying to solve the turnaround time for items to be delivered to customers.
Mr Nyabwala started his career as a sales person with Airtel (formerly Zain) in the late 2000’s. He used to sell airtime and sim cards to customers. He basically moved from one market to another as he was in charge of the entire Kisumu region.
“I also used to do campus activations for students. At that time I was trying to push bundles and airtime as a cheap way of communication. I was also undertaking an undergraduate degree in business administration – majoring in marketing – at Maseno University,” he says.
After leaving campus, his dad insisted that he had to get masters in business administration (MBA). Airtel could not relocate him to Nairobi since there wasn’t a vacant position at that time. He therefore opted to resign. Consequently, he started his MBA at KCA University while still actively looking for another job in Nairobi.
He recalls how he used to tarmac all the way from Zimmerman to Nairobi daily. Seemingly lost in thoughts, he notes: “I would use the Kasarani route and once I reached Ngara, I would change my shoes.”
The heavens finally smiled at him and he got an internship at Laico Regency as an unpaid trainee. He worked there for about seven months. After his internship ended, Mr. Nyabwala put all his focus in trying to find another job during the weekdays and continued with his studies during the weekends. In addition to that, he later on undertook a master of science degree in internet programmes from the University of Liverpool (UK).
Eventually, he got a job with the Nation Media Group but it was commission based. He felt incomplete and left Nation to join KCB as a teller. It was an interesting and challenging job for him but then again things did not work out and he had to leave.
That’s when he joined OLX as a product ambassador. He expounds: “After a year and a half, new roles were created because the company was expanding. They needed somebody to focus on building the general sales category and I was put in charge of it as the manager. They saw the potential in me because I was very passionate about consumer trends and I had a very solid background in sales.” He worked in that department for a year and a half then got another promotion and was put in charge of business intelligence and fraud.
In late 2015, Nyabwala left OLX after five beautiful years. He ventured into consultancy and did a number of jobs for various organizations. He did this for the better part of 2016 to early 2017. In 2017, he realized that his calling was not in formal employment. In as much as he was good in his job, it still did bring him satisfaction.
Consultancy was working well for him and that is when he started considering starting a business of his own. “I had done a lot of consultancy projects on logistics and that was when I identified gaps in the market in respect to last mile deliveries. Everyone was focusing on inbound and outbound but no one was addressing how efficient items would be delivered to the last mile. That is how the Bwala concept came to be,” he says.
When Bwala was starting out, every employee used to work from his house in Kitengela. This is because it didn’t have an official office at the time. Mr. Nyabwala had converted one of his bedrooms into an office where they did all their work from.
Come 2018 , they needed to go big and that is when they officially launched the company. The team had already worked on the concept and had acquired a few contracts. They rented a spacious office space in Westlands and now Bwala has a warehouse in Industrial Area that is used for storage and dispatch. The company has a team of about 38 people who are fully employed.
Role as CEO
He describes himself as a jack of all trades in the company. As the CEO of a young business, he cannot afford to hire managers to head all the departments. His role basically starts from operations. He comes up with the marketing and sales strategy which he takes all the marketers through. He also looks at accounts department.
Mr. Nyabwala remarks: “Although these departments have team leaders, I still oversee all the operations because we neither have the money nor time to correct errors.”
The customer insights base gave him the best experience. It basically helps a person to spend time well. “For example, if I know what you need, I’ll be able to get it to you without going through a hassle of trial and error,” he avers. Customer insights module is a very efficient way of rolling out a product and service. “If you don’t understand your customers well, then you may end up spending time rolling out products that they don’t need,” he adds. Early days of operation. This is because it was focusing more on car hire and vehicle service maintenance.
He did a very good project for Copia Kenya sometimes back whereby the company was trying to understand repeat purchase. He terms this as the most fulfilling project he has ever worked on. A repeat purchase is often a measure of loyalty to a brand by consumers and it is taken into account by marketing research professionals to evaluate a business.
He is a realistic person who likes working with data. He likes solving problems and making money out of them. “We don’t have many entrepreneurs in the country, we have business people,” he observes. A business person according to him is someone who is focused more on making profits irrespective of the path he or she uses.
Currently most players in the logistics sector are offering service on demand such as Uber, Little Cab and Taxify. According to Mr. Nyabwala, that is not the future of logistics because in as much as he uses Uber, there are still gaps in logistics. Movement of people is pretty much sorted out already.
What about movement of goods? The future is not in the shopping malls but in people buying items from the comfort of their living rooms. He concludes by saying: “This is what is pushing me to look at this particular trend of logistics. We are not reinventing the wheel because logistics has been in existence for a very long time.”