Resourceful: Ecochicks Kenya started out as a repair shop for faulty incubators before its owner began assembling new machines
One evening two years ago at the University of Nairobi (UoN) hostels, electrical engineering student Martin Kaberia was having a chat with his fellow finalists about what the future held for them.
â€œAll of us wanted to have big jobs in leading engineering firms in the country. We wanted to earn millions and live flashy lives,â€ he recalled as we chatted.
However, when he was asked to repair a damaged egg incubator, his dreams took a completely different turn.
Today, Kaberia, 28, owns Ecochicks Kenya Limited, an egg incubator supplier and manufacturer. His monthly turnover ranges between Sh2 million and Sh5 million.
â€œMy business has employed and provided space for some of my classmates whom we shared the employment dream with on that evening when the egg incubator was brought for repair,â€ he said, during the interview at his second-floor workshop in Nairobiâ€™s Midtown House along Accra Road.
Kaberia recalls that he borrowed the tools for that first repair job.
â€œWithin a few days, the owner â€” who had written it off saying that he had unsuccessfully looked for a repairman â€” came back to me and said: â€˜Young man, you did a brilliant job. Why donâ€™t you try this business?â€™â€ he says.
These days, you will meet Kaberia dressed in designer jeans and expensive jewellery in the company of farmers in the rural areas.
â€œMy egg incubators are for farmers who want to grow indigenous chicken on a large scale. This is a market that you cannot easily exhaust,â€ he says.
Kaberiaâ€™s business model is simple â€” he prices his egg incubators cheap so that he can sell several units.
He believes that this is what has helped him compete with larger companies in the eggÂ incubationÂ business.
He, however, notes that the industry is cut throat, with several would-be entrants being frustrated through court processes.
â€œLast month, a businessman wa taken to court for allegedly infringing on a patent. I have also been taken to court but won,â€ he says.
The poultry sector is estimated to be worth Sh4 billion and it has created its fair share of billionaires, including the late Nelson Muguku, and Kaberia hopes to be among them.
â€œMy future plan is to be the biggest egg incubator supplier in the country,â€ he says.
In less than three years, Kaberia, who started his company without capital, has made impressive progress towards achieving his dream. He has 10 employees and has offices in Nairobi and Meru.
Ecochicks Kenya Limited is benefiting from the soaring interest in the poultry and poultry products market.
The incubators are ideal for those seeking to incubate chicken, duck, quail, peacock, turkey, goose or pheasant eggs to either breed the birds or sell them to large-scale breeders.
The machines are popular among small-scale farmers due their user-friendly functions and the high hatching rate of over 90 per cent.
The incubators he sells moderate temperature, humidity and allow farmers to turn the eggs. They are not power hungry and in case of electricity outages, they can be run on solar power or a generator.
His company sells 11 types of incubators, with the smallest having a capacity of 48 eggs and the largest capable of incubating 1,232 eggs. The 48-egg incubator goes for Sh25,000 while the 1,232-egg one costs Sh150,000.
â€œMy prices are affordable if you compare them with my competitorsâ€™. This is because I am able to manufacture or assemble the egg incubators locally, unlike a number of other firms that import the machines,â€ Kaberia says.
He adds that he remains competitive by offering repair services, which few others in his field do.
He started out repairing incubators before venturing into importing new machines. He then started shipping in parts and assembling the units locally, cutting down his costs by almost 30 per cent.
Ecochicksâ€™ clientele ranges from farmers to government organisations and NGOs.