As a child, Jorgs Mbugua wanted to become a magician. Magic taught him about the importance of putting the customer first, a trait he has brought along with him to his present venture-E-Bikes Africa. Even as a young man, his entrepreneurial side was always evident.
He traded in drinking chocolate at primary school and quickly realised that once exposed to the elements, his product became damp. From there, he started moulding it into ‘chocolate’ which he would sell for thrice the price.
The light bulb moment
Mr Mbugua travelled to the Coastal regions for the 2021 New Year celebrations and wanted to hire motorbikes for his and his partner’s transportation during their holiday.
“Everyone said they would rent me their bike but the fuel costs would be on me,” Mr Mbugua recalls.
At The Technical University of Kenya, he’d also gotten tired of the fumes from the traffic along Haile Selassie Avenue, Nairobi.
“The exhaust pipes are also on the pedestrians’ side,” he’d observed.
For his holiday, electric scooters were not an option either. “They look too touristy,” Mr Mbugua jokes.
The idea was mooted. He knew electric bicycles would be his business and once he got back from holiday, a Google search brought him to a YouTube video of a very excited electric bicycle owner. The overjoyed American’s video and sentiments on his new acquisition were exactly what Mr Mbugua was feeling.
Partners and competition
In his research, he discovered others who were involved in the same venture. He got to know more about ARC Rides, E-Bee Africa and “a name that kept popping up” from every conversation he had about electric bicycles – Victor Gitau.
Mr Gitau was a pioneer in the electric transportation arena and is the founder of Baiskeli Centre, a parking lot for bicycles where one can get off their bike and grab a hot shower before walking to the office. Mr Mbugua reached out to ARC Ride Kenya’s CEO, Bede Hesmondhalgh about the prospects of a collaboration.
He asked to learn from their expertise and the mistakes they’d made along their journey and was received with open arms. In June 2022, Mr Mbugua registered E-Bikes Africa and has been in the process of endearing his and ARC Ride products to the Kenyan market since then.
“We will not manufacture!”
As it stands, E-Bikes Africa doesn’t have a tangible product of their own that they sell. Mr Mbugua thinks that getting into manufacturing when his partners are already deeply steeped in the same would not serve his company well. He has however thrown his efforts into designing multiple electric bicycles which he says will be in production in collaboration with fellow stakeholders by December 2023.
E-Bikes Africa also looks to raise funds and assist others in Research and Development in return for a seat at the table in terms of sales of electric bicycles. E-Bikes Africa will own the designs and trademarks. “We want them to build as we sell,” Mr Mbugua says.
In the future
Mr Mbugua would like to see E-Bikes Africa’s presence in all countries on the African continent in the near future. He further looks to have all fast-food deliveries made on electric transportation.
Costs and challenges
There has been a lot of interest in electric bicycles in Kenya, according to Mr Mbugua. However, one of the problems raised by potential customers and which they are looking to address is the entry cost.
For this, Mr Mbugua says E-Bikes Africa is looking to build a bicycle that can be bought in several parts and then made electric over time. The current model on the market from ARC Rides costs USD 900 which at prevailing market rates comes to around Sh123,390.
Mr Mbugua is looking to bring this down to Sh60,000. They are also entertaining the prospects of a payment plan. According to Mr Mbugua, the future looks bright for their mode of transportation which he testifies can carry up to a load of 140 kgs.