From trained teacher to cable manufacturer
When Anthony Muthungu, 28, completed his Bachelor of Arts in Physics Mathematics at Karatina University in 2020, he never thought he would land another job apart from teaching.
However, now he runs TotoSci Ltd, a company he founded to offer USB cables motivated by the widespread sale of substandard products in the local market.
“TotoSci is the name of the school we had started that taught children about science and technology in Sagana, Kirinyaga county where we later placed this cable manufacturing company.
The name is derived from Toto for Mtoto (a child) and Sci for Science. Due to Covid-19, we closed the school,” he starts.
Growing up in Karaihu, Tetu sub-county in Nyeri county, Anthony was just like other in the area he grew up, however there was something peculiar in him that caused him to be more curious about why things happen as they do and how they happen.
“I would experiment with crafts as I tried to research on what led to some things occurring the way they do.
However, it never crossed my mind that I would one day venture into the field of technology,” he recalls.
Anthony has never been employed and any work expereince he acquired was from internship and attachment that were mandatory for him to acquire his university papers for his teaching course.
His interest has always been self-employment and creating job opportunities for the youth.
In March 2020, when the country was hit by the pandemic leading to the closure of TotoSci Academy, Anthony realised it was the best time to fully venture into the cable business.
He started buying the assembling line equipment one by one. To cut on the expenses, he had to improvise some machines that were expensive to purchase.
His inspiration to start the business was born from frustration. He had purchased a number of cables so he could transfer files from his phone to a computer, but all cables he had were not working regardless of being new and in good condition.
“I was frustrated since it was urgent. I started buying damaged cables and in just a week, I had bought over 5,000 pieces.
I tried them one by one to analyse the main problem that led to this dysfunction and commenced my research on how to make better ones.
I also noticed a gap in this business and that’s how I got to manufacturing of USB cables. My passion for tech was unfolding day by day,” he narrates.
While most firms focus on setting up their tech businesses in major cities such as Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu or Mombasa, Anthony’s chose to set up his plant in the remote areas at Kiangwaci, in Sagana, Kirinyaga county. He thanks devolution for making this possible.
“The introduction of counties in the 2010 Constitution has helped us a lot. With the Kenol Marwa Highway and Nairobi Nanyuki train, we are best placed in moving our products easily and in a timely manner to Nairobi and other places.
We target mobile phone users in the country who need value for their money when buying a mobile phone charger,” he says.
There is perception that locally made devices are a counterfeit lacking in quality, a stereotype that made customers take a long time to believe in Anthony’s work.
He says the great support from his family, friends, mentors and above all, trust in God rubbed off the belief and now he makes 300-500 cables daily for the Ke nyan market and has a capacity of producing 10,000 cables.
“It was not easy when the business started. Remember we started the business when Covid-19 had just struck the country.
Businesses were struggling, but through God’s grace, we managed to overcome the situation.
I just started this alone, but now I have five employees,” says Anthony.
He adds that repeat customers and positive feedback from users of our products on our social platforms keeps the company going and they feel happy, knowing they have solved a problem people have been facing.
TotoSci is currently working on manufacturing mobile phones and earphones.
“We spend most of our time on the internet researching new trends. Technology is changing fast and we have to be innovative every day.
We are currently working on locally-made mobile phones and earphones. Our main aim is to be the largest mobile and its associated accessories manufacturing company in Africa,” he says.
Anthony is encouraging the youth to venture into self-employment, especially in the field of technology as it is the only way to solve the current unemployment crisis in the country.
He also warns them to never lend their ears to people that have no businesses and have never tried one before.
“These naysayers have never run any business. They are dream killers who will come up with reasons such as ‘regulatory bodies such as Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), among others will come for your neck and frustrate you.
Those are people who learn through rumours and not first-hand experience. You need to go for it and give it a try and have a personal experience.
I have a good relationship with all those bodies and so should any upcoming business owner,” he says.
Anthony says that his happiest moment was when his products were approved by KEBS. It was a breakthrough, a step to realisation of his dream.
He adds that he complied with all the requirements to have the products approved hence he trusted the process.
However, he laments that they are facing high taxation, high cost of fuel, electricity and an unfriendly business environment, which the government should make condusive.