• By admin
  • February 18, 2024

Amazing Kisumu

Amazing Kisumu

Amazing Kisumu 1024 643 OBG VIRTUAL OFFICE

It’s half past ten on a warm Monday morning at the Tisa Suites and Lounge in Kisumu; a quiet Bed and Breakfast (B&B) with a tasteful outdoor design, complemented by fresh air from the lush green suburb of Milimani. My guest is running late, but he sends a courteous text to apologize. “I’ll be there in five minutes,” another text arrives, sending vibrations across the wooden table now decorated with my noted. “Cool,” I respond without thinking, and continue shuffling through the foolscaps, while listening to the sweet tunes of nature; birds flaunting their talent for the earthlings awakening.

Impressively, he keeps his word. His fashion sense is A1 – a polished gentleman. And you can literally smell the professionalism in his demeanour. He offers an apology yet again, I offer my gratitude and admiration in return. The waitress comes, he orders for a bottle of water.

I place my voice recorder at the middle of the table where we are seated, then press play…

Hi, can you briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Dennis Nyakach. I am a resident of Kisumu and I work at a startup called Amazing Kisumu.

Describe your experience living in “Amazing Kisumu” so far?

Now here’s a funny story: When I first came to Kisumu from Nairobi, after finishing college in 2008, I actually hated it. I can’t explain the “phobia” but maybe it had something to with the PEV that had stoned and razed the city. When I arrived here, it was almost a ghost town. Luckily, I got an opportunity to work for an NGO in Busia soon after. I was ecstatic but my delight would be short-lived, as my employer decided to set up a branch in Kisumu, assigning me as the team lead since it’s my hometown. I reluctantly took the offer, but it didn’t take long for my attitude to change. Together with a like-minded colleague cum housemate, we set out to explore what Kisumu had to offer in terms of entertainment. We walked around sipping from cups in coffee shops, eating “specials” in restaurants and vibandaz, then later on quenching our “thirsts” in night clubs. We discovered a lot of new and interesting joints that we wanted to share, but unfortunately most of that information wasn’t available online. Having identified this huge gap, we put our heads together and the rest is history, as they say. Honestly, I’ve never regretted my stay since then.

Fascinating story. So where are your offices located?

Currently, we are renting space at LakeHub.

How’s the workspace like over there?

I think it’s sufficient for our lean staff at the moment; good sitting space and access to utilities.

Any limitations?

Oh, yes. Since it’s an open space, sometimes it gets noisy because of the frequent events hosted by techies and creatives. In addition to distractions, there’s also the issue of privacy – it’s difficult to have private meetings with clients.

Are you familiar with the term “virtual office” or “serviced office?”

Yes, I am.

So in your own words, what is a virtual office?

To me, it implies having a work environment that doesn’t require one’s physical presence. Everyone in our startup, for example, works remotely most of the time, therefore meeting at central place like LakeHub, only when required, is an ideal system for us. Is LakeHub really a virtual office?

Deducing what you’ve just said, I’d say yes and no. YES, because it serves as an office space for rent, giving your startup a sort of “presence,” without having to incur the actual costs involved in setting up a permanent, dedicated office. And NO, because it doesn’t provide all the facilities or resources of a fully functioning office such as; a receptionist to handle calls and messages, a dedicated support team for I.T, admin or H.R, and fully equipped meeting facilities with uninterrupted Wi-Fi. Quintessentially, well-run virtual offices such as OBG Virtual Office in Nairobi, should have ample free parking space, 24/7 security and automatic back-up generators.

Okay. Now I know.

Apart from LakeHub, have you tried working in a different virtual office or shared office space here in Kisumu?

I don’t think there’s an exclusive virtual office in Kisumu. Not that I’m aware of.

Really? Why so?

Well, some years back, before devolution, I was approached to do marketing for ESBC Ltd, a household name in the virtual office world, which had just opened a branch in the region. Unfortunately, the company didn’t get the traffic and clientele that it was seeking, hence it decided to close shop due to high operational costs and low returns. I think it only operates in Nairobi nowadays. I think they came at the wrong time – the city was not ready yet. Moreover, I feel that they should have been patient because Kisumu has been urbanizing and developing at a relatively fast rate, and so is the demand for smart business solutions.

In your view, what are some of the factors that have boosted urbanization in Kisumu?

High-speed internet thanks to fibre connectivity, affordable housing (until recently when rent started soaring), conducive climate as a result of the lake – which seems to attract expatriates and tourists, and of course devolution.

I’m still rather perplexed by the fact that there are no virtual offices in “Amazing Kisumu,” a complete contrast to “Congested Nairobi,” despite having the stimulators you just mentioned. Help me understand why Kisumu is not living up to its potential?

Awareness. That is the real issue. As Amazing Kisumu, we need to do more to raise awareness about flexible and serviced workspaces and flagging them as the green-but-soon-to-be-ripe areas of investment. Most investors in this city are fixated on commercial real estate; apartments and shopping malls. If you accompany me to where I stay, in Lolwe Estate, you’ll see what I mean.

The rush to get a piece of the housing pie is quickly turning the area into an eye-sore, a testament to the Kenyan “copy-paste” culture and lack of creativity in the industry.

Do you think the virtual office concept is the future?

*He nods in agreement as he gulps from a water bottle*

So do you believe that all the big or established companies in Kenya will inevitably oscillate towards the wave, with time?

Yes, absolutely. Owing to the fast pace of technological advancement and internet penetration, heavyweights like Equity and CBA have already started cutting off their branches in a bid to “unbank” their customers, through mobile banking. That already shows you that virtual banking is taking root and you’ll notice a similar trend in other industries.

If a virtual office hub was to be emerge in Kisumu, who do you think stands to benefit the most?

Hmm, I can’t really tell whether one particular group shall gain more than another since anyone can utilize any of the various services a virtual office offers. However, in my opinion, constant traffic shall be accelerated by business professionals on transit or assignment, and also college students who can afford the services.

Speaking of business professionals, why do you think some opt to go to a serviced office as opposed to a café, a hotel or working from home?

Personally, I’ve had very bad experiences in the business lounges of hotels. I find them to be unreasonably expensive for cyber services, especially in an age where I can perform most tasks on or via my smart phone. Café, on the other hand, are affordable but there’s no privacy, along with some degree of noise distraction. Lastly, working from home is convenient and cost- effective, but it often doesn’t bring out a professional image, plus there more distractions in the “comfort zone.” Serviced offices provide dedicated and peaceful spaces to work productively, have meetings, presentations, etc., all while maintaining a professional image.

What do you think virtual offices should do or add to the services they provide in order to improve the customer experience?

Apart from offering a dedicated space, I think they should offer office beds and bedrooms for teams working overnight. And since this is the age of millennials, having a gaming/play room (with a pool table or dartboard) for unwinding during breaks, would be a big plus.

And that marks the end of the interview. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this with me.

Pleasure is all mine.

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