An incredible work ethic


By David Henning, Kenya Client Relationship Manager 

I had the pleasure of meeting Ian Mwangi on Monday. We met in Nairobi town centre and together took one of the matatus (local buses) to his home in Buruburu, which lies on the outskirts of the city.

Ian takes me around a couple of corners along dusty roads with trash lying on the side to a comparatively nice house, which he inherited from his parents. The use of space is completely maximised. Upon going through a small door you are directly confronted with a bunch of clothing hanged to dry. Behind all the clothes, right in front of you is the house itself, while on the left hand side there is a small add-on that has now become the home for Ian’s new business, a call centre.


Ian’s story is full of challenges and opportunities created by hard work. After a few years of unemployment, at the age of 23, Ian managed to acquire a job in Kencall, the biggest call centre in Kenya. Here he worked as a transcriptionist (a person who listens to someone talking and types it out on a computer), which gave him the possibility to acquire the skills and education he was lacking. After two years he decided to quit his safe job and become independent.

He registered on Odesk, an internet site where he could get occasional jobs as a typist. In the beginning he was earning as little as US $6 for eight hours of typing – barely anything even by Kenyan standards. However, Ian was determined and put his entire energy into his job. He told me that in the year of 2011, at the age of 25, he was typing twenty hours every day. He told his mom to call him to make sure he stayed awake.

Ian’s hard work eventually paid off when a US client decided to give him a chance and hired him on a regular basis. The volume increased until one day Ian saw himself in need of assistance. He hired first one other typist, then three more.

Today Ian has a steady client in the US, another in India and another in the UK. Due to the increase in volume he has now employed four permanent transcriptionists, and on occasion might hire up to ten other temporary employees. He has three people working for him during the day and usually one or two during the night. He has even officially registered his company.

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One of Ian’s employees
He turned to Zidisha for the capital needed for the expansion from zero to four permanent employees. His first loan enabled him to buy more computers and stationary necessary to equip his permanent and occasional workers. His current loan is mainly used to market his company internationally and thus attract more clients. He also used a portion of the money to buy some equipment he needed to make his call centre efficient and reliable. But Ian has bigger plans.

One of the main things hindering further expansion is physical space. In the near future, Ian aims to move his call centre out of the add-on to his house to a bigger place. This would allow him to increase the volume of work immensely. He is certain that his company has become trustworthy enough that people will choose to give him the increase in volume.

In addition Ian has plans to create a school for typists. He will organise classes for typing and working on computers in general. This would give many more unemployed young people the opportunity to escape their current situation and earn a better living.

“I’m an honest person who enjoys working with good, honest people, who want to work hard,” Ian wrote in his loan profile.  “The funding I’m requesting is to expand and create satellite transcription training schools to be able to train, create and hire responsible, meticulous, reliable transcriptionists with a strong work ethic. The training we offer will enable Kenyans an opportunity to work from home. Ideal for housewives, college students, employed people looking for a second stream of income and people with restricted mobility.”

“Why do you believe a call centre in Kenya would be beneficial?” I ask him. “Well, you do not need a high education. You simply need to have a good ear and quick hands, and many Kenyans have both. In addition we are really good in English and we do not, compared to many other countries, require high wages. It seems perfect,” Ian replies with a smile.

Ian recently raised a third loan of $380 to further expand his transcription business.  You may learn more at his Zidisha profile page.

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