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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Ndiang’ui Kinyagia: I invest in other people’s businesses

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Ndiang’ui Kinyagia is the Managing Director of ARI Limited, a software and integrated payment solutions developer.

In business, it is important to know when to cut your losses and run. There was a time when I worked on a property management solution that I dubbed ARI Homes. I worked on it for 3 years, investing a lot of time, money and effort. Eventually, I shut it down because it was not returning on investment in a viable manner. I shut it down even though more than 100 companies were already using it to run their business operations. It was very difficult telling these customers that we could no longer service them, and sending them to our competitors for the same service we had been offering.

I have had some proud moments in my business though. One of these has been the development of the P.I.T Stop, a payment solution that has managed to reduce payment processing and reconciliation for our customers from 20 minutes to 2 seconds. This has effectively enabled our customers to collectively process more than Sh. 1 billion in under 12 months.

After investing Sh. 750,000 in farming, this is what we earned!

There is a lot of wisdom in remaining foolish and seeking advice and lessons from mentors. These are the people who have walked the journey before you. This strategy has helped me avoid multiple loopholes and business traps. There will always be someone who has walked your journey better than you are walking it now. Seek them out and plead for their guidance.

I am convinced that greed and the copycat mentality are our number one enemies. This country has suffered from greedy business people, civil servants and even families. Lack of originality is seeing someone prosper after opening a kiosk, then out of greed and jealousy, 10 similar kiosks pop up round about within weeks. This inevitably shirks the market and gives leeway to the provision of poor services and products.

The cliché that you invest in people is a fallacy. When investing in a business, you actually invest in the processes, procedures, operations and systems. I have lost money after investing in businesses without doing due diligence, proper financial analysis and establishing proper systems. People can be replaced but culture eats strategy for breakfast.

I was taught from an early age that saving is not putting money in the bank. It is investing money so that it works for you by gaining value or interest.  As a result, my preferred saving model is investing in other peoples businesses. I also park my money in the money market funds as I evaluate businesses I can invest in. This is not a perfect system given that I have lost money while investing in businesses.  But I’m now wiser and knowledgeable in investing.

Business owners and employees will always be two parallels that can never merge. As an employee, you do not have the burden of carrying peoples’ hopes, dreams, ambitions and families on your shoulder. You do your part excellently, get paid and go home. In entrepreneurship there is no going home and getting paid is never a guarantee. The responsibility and stakes are very high. I am an entrepreneur, though, because I believe the work I do is very important to the people I do it for. Companies depend on the efficiency of the solutions I develop to run smooth operations.

Covid-19 has been a very sour taste in the mouth of the Kenyan entrepreneur. But it has helped some of us to appreciate the five stages of business. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and recovery. It is only those who follow these stages will recover as the country moves towards a post corona era.

This feature on Ndiang’ui Kinyagia, the Managing Director of ARI Limited, was first published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.

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