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Accountant’s love for Land Rover Defender builds him profitable business

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On January 29, 2016, the last classic Land Rover Defender rolled out of the production line, marking the end of 67 years of production of the iconic vehicle.

For Jaguar Land Rover, this marked the end of a chapter, paving way for a new era in modern day transportation. For lovers of the Defender, which premiered in 1948, this was a major blow.

In Kenya, the classic four-wheel-drive off-roader symbolised authority for a long time, a preferred car for government officials during the Moi era. Enthusiasts such as Johmark Ndetto, mourn the classic Defender’s nostalgic architectural design and practical functionality that can only be likened to a military vehicle. The Defender is admired for its legendary power and performance, and rightfully so, after all, it was initially built as a war machine.

For this reason, motoring enthusiasts are working to keep the vehicle on the road through restoration, which involves repairing and rebuilding old and damaged car models back to their (almost) original form.

Vehicle restoration

Moran Defenders, a garage based in Kingo’ong’o, Nyeri County, is one of the enterprises that specialises in restoration of this vehicle.

Ndetto is the man behind this initiative, the idea, obviously emanating from his passionate desire to keep the classic Defender firmly on the road.

“My dad used to drive one. I loved everything about it, especially the sound of its engine revving. I knew I would own one of my own one day,” Mr Ndetto says.

The 28-year-old accountant would spend his free time researching and studying the car, and in 2014, he bought his first of the classic model from a businessman running a towing venture in Nanyuki. At the time, the Defender 110 pickup was operating as a towing vehicle.

“Initially, it belonged to the British Army based in Nanyuki before it was decommissioned and converted into a breakdown. The owner was not getting enough towing business, so he put it on sale,” he explains.

Johnmark Ndetto (right) and his staff at Moran Defenders garage in Nyeri.

Nicholas Komu

Barely running

 

Ideally, most vehicles that undergo restoration are usually damaged and barely running — this was the case with Johmark’s first Defender.

“The engine was still running with a few hitches here and there, but the body was quite damaged,” he explains, saying the old car cost him Sh250,000 in repairs.

With the help of his trusted mechanic, he began working on his first Defender’s restoration by dismantling it and rebuilding it from bottom to top.

At first it was a tedious process since he could not find all parts while some did not fit right.

 “To get the results I desired, I was forced to improvise. For instance, we had to build the roll cage from bending the bars ourselves, but sometimes it just did not work, forcing us to start afresh – while restoring, you end up with the desired product at the end and some experience on the side,” he quips.

Johnmark Ndetto test drives one of his Land Rover Defenders.

Nicholas Komu | Nation Media Group

Back on the road

After struggling with restoring the car, the raggedy former tow vehicle was back on the road with a fresh look. The jungle green Defender 110 pickup now stands as the first of Ndetto’s successful restoration and served as the blueprint to the establishment of Moran Defenders as a business venture.

The auto garage officially opened its doors for business in 2018, primarily focusing on restoration of the iconic vehicle, even though the garage does repair works for other car models as well.

“By the time we finished working on the 110 pickup, we had gained enough skills and understanding on the build of the Defender. Even though it started off as a hobby, we decided to capitalise on the skills and started Moran Defenders,” he explains.

At the garage, located at the industrial estate in King’ong’o on the outskirts of Nyeri, Mr Ndetto and his lead mechanic Felix Ochieng have captured a unique specific market with a desire to preserve the classic car.

Five mechanics

On any given day, he is usually working with up to five mechanics who help in stripping down and reassembling the Defenders that are brought to the garage.

Usually, the process begins with stripping the vehicle down to every component and inspecting it for damages.

“In restoration, the most important aspect is rebuilding the body to its original form. This starts with fixing the chassis,” he explains.

Since the car was built for stability and strength, it is imperative for the chassis to be restored to the original fit, ensuring it is not bent, broken or rusted. Part of this process involves galvanising rusty spots and giving the chassis a fresh coat of paint.

The second part of the process is the body work. At this point the customer can choose between restoration to stock format or a customised fit for the exterior and interior.

Cost

Ideally, restoring a Defender to the stock look at Moran Defenders will cost a customer between Sh70,000 and Sh100,000 depending on the extent of the damage on the body.

A custom job with customised fittings to the exterior and interior can raise the cost up to Sh150,000.

“The work that goes into the body work depends on what the customer desires. Some want it fitted with a roll cage, soft or hard top roofing and others want to fit different seats, dash, stereo systems and other components. However, the idea is to have the final product come out looking as authentic as the classic Defender,” Johnmark explains.

Some customers usually request for custom paint jobs and a change on the bonnet design and tires. Most of the customers who ask for a bonnet change are usually owners of the Series lll, whose original design is characterised by a retracted radiator grille.

At the same time, the garage also works on fixing and tweaking the engine of the car, usually to fix pre-existing problems or give the vehicle more power.

“The Defender is loved for its unique design as well as performance and power, so it is only logical that some customers would want to give their vehicles more power besides a fresh look.”

Engine work

For the engine work, customers usually choose between four-cylinder petrol engines and four-cylinder and five- cylinder diesel engines. While the two classes were the original versions of Defender engines, others were adopted with the advancement of technology, like the Ford-built Puma engine and the Rover V8.

According to Mr Ndetto, the cost of fixing and tweaking of the engine also depends on the customer’s desires.

“Custom work will vary in price depending on what the customer wants. Usually, we advise those that bring their cars to us to purchase the parts that will be needed, but for those we can design in our garage, we usually factor in their cost in the final billing,” he says.

He notes that the restoration process to stock fit usually takes a minimum of two weeks depending on the extent of damage to the vehicle and availability of parts.

“Unlike what is portrayed in some automotive television shows, restoration is not as fast. This process requires patience.”

Their biggest challenge, he adds, is that scarcity of key parts and components of the Defender.

In-house builds

“Once we study and understand the features of some of the components such as the seats and seat covers, we have been able to design our own in-house builds at way lower cost compared to what one will find in shops, this way we can save the customer some money and also create jobs for artisans around Nyeri Town,” he explains.

The garage’s latest component build is a race car seat and custom tailored seat covers which were built by a local welder and tailor.

“Nyeri has very talented people and we are learning this by outsourcing some of these services,” he added.

A common concern for car enthusiasts looking to restore classic cars like the Defender has always been the cost and availability of parts. However, Ndetto says that the cost of restoration is affordable and a pocket-friendly exercise, particularly to the customers.

The business has over time focused on networking with classic Land Rover Defender owners and builders, a factor which the proprietor says has made it easier for builders and customers to access parts as well as share ideas.

No fixed timeline

“You do not have to restore your Defender on a fixed timeline. We are open to working on the vehicle gradually depending on your budget. Also, we have created a wide network with the Defender family which makes it easy for our customers to connect with buyers, sellers and spare parts dealers across the country.”

Since its establishment two years ago, the garage has restored 12 of these classic cars. With a profit margin of up to 25 percent, Mr Ndetto has managed to turn his love for the iconic vehicle into a business venture that creates employment for up to 15 workers at any given time.

Currently, Johnmark is working on his second personal car, a double cabin Defender 110, 300Tdi.

In the near future, he plans to expand his restoration venture into a large-scale business with outlets countrywide.


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Business

KQ resumes direct flights to New York

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The national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) resumed its direct flights between Nairobi and New York on Sunday.

In a tweet, KQ announced the move and topped it up with an offer to passengers who book their flights before December 10 that they will enjoy discounted prices.

Welcome back to the Big Apple! Today we resume our service between Nairobi and New York, and we can’t wait to welcome you on board. Book your ticket via https://t.co/hitS3Whxtp before December 10th to enjoy discounted rates ✈️🌎 *Disclaimer – video from our pre-COVID archives pic.twitter.com/1kET4h0kRK

— Kenya Airways (@KenyaAirways) November 29, 2020

“Welcome back to the Big Apple! Today we resume our service between Nairobi and New York, and we can’t wait to welcome you on board,” the airline said.

The national carrier last operated the passenger flights using the Nairobi-New York route in April after disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

KQ resumed international flights in August after suspending all its operations in March following the government’s directives after the firsts case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Kenya.

On Saturday, October 31, KQ announced that it had postponed New York flights’ resumption.

Through a notice, the airline said the decision to postpone the flights was informed by the increased cancellation of flight bookings to New York.

“We regret to announce that due to increased cancellations of flight bookings to New York City, we have pushed back the resumption of our service to this destination to November 29. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused,” read the statement then.

Kenya Airways inaugurated direct flights to the US in October 2018, cutting the journey to the US by 15 hours and by October 2019 KQ had flown at least 105,084 passengers after completing 594 flights to and from New York.

by NN


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Bodaboda chama grows into a multi-million shilling housing cooperative

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A journey of a thousand many miles starts with a single step. A Nakuru-based bodaboda operator’s self-help group proved this in its growth. Driven by the ambition to have something to take home once they couldn’t ride any more, ten bodaboda operators from Barut, Nakuru West in 2015 formed Kianjahi Group, pooling a minimum savings of Sh100 per week per person.

“Being a bodaboda operator is a risky job and has serious effect on one’s health especially if you don’t dress properly for the cold. After attending a seminar in Machakos we decided to start making savings,” said Benson Sigei, the group chairperson.

The group grew as more members joined in 2016. After evaluating their progress, the members increased their weekly savings to Sh200 and eventually to Sh1,000.

“Before the year ended we were nearly 100 members. Our savings were growing and we had to come up with plans which some members considered as too ambitious and pulled out,” says Sigei. With savings of nearly Sh2 million, they bought a 1.6-acre piece of land which was previously a sand quarry.

“It cost us Sh2.1 million in buying the land and rehabilitating it to usable standards. We embarked on making savings for constructing houses which would be of similar design,” he said.

To make this possible they converted the group into Kianjahi Housing Cooperative Society Limited and introduced Sh15,100 registration fee and minimum share capital of Sh60,000 payable in Sh500 weekly instalments.

AmpThe group started the construction of two-bedroom houses in a gated community model.

“Every member now contributes a minimum of Sh1,500 for savings every week. Those yet to clear their share capital make an additional payment of Sh500. This amount does not exert great pressure on the riders since the majority make nearly KShs1,000 per day.

The group then started the construction of two-bedroom houses in a gated community model where four houses sit on every 50 by 100 feet plot. The cooperative completed the construction of the first 50 units majority of which have already been occupied.

“We took a Sh15 million loan and in addition to our savings we bought an additional acre of land at Sh2.1 million. In the first phase, we have constructed 52 housing units. 35 members have already moved in,” said the vice-chairman.

The cooperative has bought a third parcel of land on which they intend to set up houses for all members. Members who moved in during the first phase like pay Sh2,000 per month. Sh200 goes to savings and Sh1,800 going towards offsetting the cost of construction. The payment for the houses is spread over seven years.

by Standardmedia.co.ke


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Business

Enough is Enough: Kenyan man in US relocates to motherland to become a farmer

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In a bold move and which took great courage, a former Kenyan Diaspora man Kunga Kihokia who was born and raised in Miami Florida has moved back to Kenya, bought a 20 acres piece of land and established an organic farm in Murang’a.

Initially, Kunga had planned to be in Kenya for three weeks 5 years ago but after what he says was the realization of the problems affecting Kenyans because of western lifestyle which he himself was struggling with, he felt strongly to start an organic farm to address those problems.

Kunga has built a water tower to use gravity that allows the water to get pumped and distributed  through  irrigation into the field. Everything in the farm is powered by solar energy and he has dug a borehole that supplies enough water for the farm. Watch the video, be inspired  and enjoy.

Source: Diasporamessenger.com


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