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January 17, 2019

With Sh20 you can now occupy an ‘office’ for an hour in Nairobi

Youth pre-Summit conference at the PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort in Mombasa/JOHN CHESOLI
Youth pre-Summit conference at the PrideInn Paradise Beach Resort in Mombasa/JOHN CHESOLI

Unless you have an office, meeting your clients of just holding a meeting in Nairobi or many other major towns can prove quite difficult.

You will either end up in an open park or a restaurant where you will have to incur extra expenses.

To help address this problem, various small scale business operators are taking advantage of the void to offer 'office' space at a very minimal cost.

This is a huge relief for business and small investment groups (Chamas) especially in urban centres which previously had to book restaurants and buy food for participants in order to meet.

In Nairobi, several institutions are cashing in on the high demand for meeting spaces with churches, schools and even business premises hiring a chair for as low as Sh20 per hour, enabling small business operators cut deals at ease.

The Star spent an hour each at three such spots in Nairobi, a single room hosted an average of three different groups. The smallest room at Yaya Centre accommodates up to 20 people.

Wote Siblings, a table banking group whose members originate from Makueni County but work in Nairobi meet at a larger space on fourth of Afya Centre. The place can accommodate up to 50 people.

"This place is both affordable and convenient for majority of our members who work in CBD, Westlands and Upper Hill. Initially, we used to hold meetings at City Cabanas along Nairobi-Mombasa highway every Saturday. It was costly and ate into members’ weekend schedules,’’ said the groups secretary Caleb Musembi.

The group now meets every Tuesday for an hour, spending an average of Sh1,000 per meeting compared to Sh5,000 and transport costs it used to incur at the City Cabanas.

Gregory Maina, a caretaker earns a living from this fast growing business. He operates three rooms at Afya Centre and makes up to Sh10,000 per room between 2pm and 10pm.

He is tasked with cleaning meeting venues, sell seats to those attending the meeting and ensuring that time is observed.

"I have two smaller rooms, which gives me Sh5,000 in eight hours on a good day. The bigger room with a capacity of 50 chairs generates up to Sh12,000 for same period. Time is of great essence in this business. Overstaying attracts an instant penalty,’’said Maina.

Salvation Army Church situated in downtown Nairobi also uses the business model to generate The church is charging a standard fee of Sh50 for a four seater bench.

When the Star visited the venue, at least nine group meetings, separated by benches were in session. Modesty and time keeping is the rule of game here. Meetings are conducted in low tones not to distract neighbours.

A group from Majengo slums that runs cart pulling business in the city’s Gikomba market was meeting a potential investor at the venue. He is ready to buy them 40 new carts.

"This place is safe, convenient and affordable for low income business operators. Although we operate from Majengo, we thought it wise to meet the investor at midpoint. It is convenient and assures him much safety,’’ said John Mulwa, a member of the group.

A apart from churches, city based educational institutions are tapping into this business earn revenues from empty classes especially during weekends and school breaks.

The longest operator of this business model is Garden Square which sells tents at its Garden for prices ranging from Sh5,000 to Sh10,000. It is mainly frequented by burial arrangement committees.

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