24 March 2014

Kenya: Cleaning Their Way Out of Joblessness

Many young people who have professional qualifications for various career fields complain about endless 'tarmacking' and long periods of joblessness. A majority of youth also cite saturation of different investment sectors when an idea of starting a business is presented to them.

However, for young entreprenuers Ronak Shah and Kunal Chudasama, proprietors Kronex Chemicals Limited, the feeling is different. The duo - both of them in their twenties- decided to venture into manufacturing of liquid detergents with the aim of improving the deteriorated levels of hygiene in the country.

The managing director, Ronak Shah notes that about 60 to 67 per cent of the country's population have various hygiene-related challenges. Not cowed by the many giant firms producing various items in the household hygiene industry, Shah is optimistic that Kronex would slowly gain traction amid the competition.

"Our brand name is Basil and we manufacture home care products for improving hygiene in households," he says. The key differentiator to success, he reckons, is one's mindset. Kronex wants to make more Kenyans adopt use of liquid soaps, adding that these products present the next frontier in washing. The company was registered in 2012 and the manufacturing plant was set up along Mombasa Road in January 2013.

Manufacturing operations started in June last year. "For now, we have the dish washing liquid that comprises of brands such as Lavender Oasis which is multipurpose and Lemon Fresh and Berry Splash dish washing liquid detergents," Shah says.

Kunal says the company has been running a campaign dubbed achieve a germ free Kenya. It was initiated due to the poor levels of hygiene in the country and he hopes to use the campaign to market Kronex products as a solution to improving this situation.

"We are in the game of changing habits like the mindset that liquid soaps are luxury products. We want people to progress from using bar soaps and powders to using liquid soaps because they are hygienic, cost effective, and achieves cleanliness with minimum effort," Kunal said.

He adds that they see their business succeeding because they have worked on having appealing packaging and making products that suit various income brackets.

He says preemptive approaches like cost effectiveness and habit changing campaigns such as a germ free Kenya will in the long term help to change perceptions that liquid soap is for the affluent minority.

"Our company motto is to always have less expensive but never cheap products. For us to make a difference to people, we had to be at the lower range of the existing prices in the market for our products to be affordable," he said.

Shah says his company, like any other, had some challenges during the start up period, mostly arising from sourcing raw materials and skilled work force as well as commissioning the plant's machinery.

"It took us six to eight months to gain traction and we have not yet fully gained traction," he said.

"A big motivator is the sense of pride that we get from contributing to a germ free Kenya because hygiene is very important as it improves the standards of living and makes a workforce more productive".

He said it is quite early to issue comprehensive details of the company growth as it has been in operation for nine months but said it is gaining market share steadily.

Kronex plans to increase the product portfolio in future because of the positive feedback they get through daily interactions with customers via online channels like Facebook, Twitter, and email adding that about 90 per cent of the response is always positive.

According to the two entreprenuers, the company will concentrate on its niche, hygiene products, focusing its growth prospects on market expansion within the continent.

"We have future plans of venturing in the East African market and the rest of Africa but we will take it very slowly. We believe the basic thing is to first get a solid foundation in Kenya".

Although production cost is cited by manufacturers as a major obstacle to modern day manufacturing, Kunal says Kronex has managed to tame costs by employing green technology.

"Our machinery consumes less power and we have eliminated problems of water shortage by having treated borehole services," he said.

They also said the government can help manufacturers by reducing the high level of bureaucracy at its various licensing agencies and improving the infrastructure network.

"We say this because currently we have to get a licence for any little thing we do, while government officials harass us every week. Improved infrastructure will enable us to cut wastage on machinery maintenance costs," Kunal adds.

For the upcoming entrepreneur who wants to contribute to the creation of jobs, Shah advices one to work hard, think big and should not fear failure but always think of set backs as a learning opportunity.

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