For most students, the prospect of walking great distances to get to class is often a challenge, forcing them to spend money on boda bodas or skip the classes altogether.
This is something an enterprising student from JKUAT took note of — in addition to the limited availability of fitness activities for campus students. This led him to come up with a bike rental business, through which students can hire bikes for a few hours and ride around for leisure or to get around campus.
George Wayne Murungi is in his third year studying computer science at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The idea came to him one weekend when he had nothing to do, so he opted to go bike-riding to pass time. The business instincts kicked in immediately.
“I was at Moi University previously,” he says, “I thought it would be a good place to pilot the project, so I set out looking for capital and carrying out research.”
“I had discovered that there is not much for campus students to do for leisure, which is why most of them end up getting into funny activities. Biking is a good activity to keep you busy, while also functioning as a workout.”
He started with a capital of Sh250,000, with which he bought mountain bikes and had them transported to the university’s main campus. There, he set up shop at the main stage, between a couple of hostels. He was helped by John Ken Methu, his chief operations Officer and Ian Muge, who handles technology.
“The initial demand was very high,” he continues. “Students come rent a bike, leaving their school or national IDs as collateral. On a good day, there can be as many as 120 rentals.”
Naturally, the peak days are from Wednesday through to the weekend, after students are done with their classes. The charges are Sh50 per hour. It is convenient for the student who wants to rush to class to hand in an assignment, for example, or even the couple looking to go out and have some fun. There is also a trainer, who takes the bikers out for a workout session.
The biggest challenge so far has been maintenance, from dealing with customers who bring the bikes back in poor condition, to having to import spares in bulk just in case there is a problem with the bikes. The weather is often a problem, too. Heading into the rainy season, not as many students are willing to brave the rain and mud.
But the business is growing.
“We are looking to expand. Already, we have carried out recon at Daystar University and we should launch there in June, followed by Africa Nazarene University by the end of the year.”
The bigger plan is to introduce biking to Kenyans as an alternative to matatus.
“If we embrace biking, as they do in Europe, it could be a significant step. There is really no reason to spend hours in traffic in a matatu when a quarter of that time could be spent to get to the same place,” George explains.