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Meet the man behind the ‘noise’ in city shopping malls

You probably have heard his voice urging you to buy different products at various shops in downtown Nairobi.

This same voice will call you to have a nice hot meal in a hotel, buy recently imported shoes at a store, and check out new sleek, trendy handsets. You will even hear him calling out prospective buyers in boutiques.

Collins Musungu, 26, is the man behind these voices. Having finished secondary school in 2009, Mr Musungu was unable to pursue his dream of training as a journalist after failing to raise enough money to join his prefered training school in Mombasa.

“I therefore came to Nairobi to look for a job,” he told Money, adding that he wanted to be a taxi driver. This too became a tough nut to crack as he failed to secure an opening in this line and instead, he landed another job — selling shoes for his employer at Muthurwa market in 2011.

“I did not have a proper home; I lived in Muthrurwa with street boys,” Mr Musungu says.

DRAMA INDUSTRY

He, however, frequented the Kenya National Theatre with the hope of getting discovered by entities in the country’s drama industry.

Luckily, this is where he met his current manager, Mr Edward Thomas Junior, 24, who was also seeking to venture into the entertainment industry. The two have since become great friends.

Mr Musungu credits his first job as a shoe seller for helping him discover his talent in advertising.

“I did my first audio and took it to the studio for editing, then gave it to the shoe seller to sample it — for free,” Mr Musungu said.

Soon, traders became interested in the audio and began asking him to do more audios advertising their specifc products. “I then told him to patent the idea and we jumped on it to establish a business,” notes Mr Thomas.

They both began by charging Sh6,000 per recording but later reviewed the price upwards on realising that they were not making any profits.

Soon, they started getting orders from various traders ranging from hotel owners, warehouses and traders within the city and other major towns in Kenya.

The team, which now comprises of three men, came up with a strategy on how to run this as an enterprise and subsequently registered it as Voice for Business Advertising, a voice advertising outfit.

“We even came up with the pricing for the product and hit the ground running,” said Mr Musungu.

Four years later, the trio now charges about Sh80,000 on the high-end for an audio annually, and a monthly fee ranging between Sh1,000 to Sh1,500. They, however, can tailor-make an audio to suit a customer’s unique specifications.

NEGOTIATE PRICES

“For instance, if you have a small business and clearly your stock is not even anywhere near Sh100,000, we can negotiate a price that suits you,” Mr Thomas notes.

The firm also has another service, a call-back tune, where users download Skiza tune from Safaricom, an alternative revenue stream.

“The biggest cheque I have so far received from Skiza tune product was for about Sh1.2 million,” said Mr Musungu.

The trick here is to keep the customers coming back for new recordings, new advertising audios, each year.

“This works so well because we get requests to record from our return customers even before a year is over. Some come back immediately they have added a new product to their collection and ask us to include it in the audio,” said Mr Musungu.

Traders in the East African Community region have also not been left behind. Mr Musungu’s voice advertising has gained traction with entrepreneurs from Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania who are referred to the unique business by other users who have found the product helpful.

Each audio lasts between 10 and 15 minutes and keeps re-running.

“It takes talent to convince a person to stop by and see the products displayed in your store and eventually place an order,” Mr Musungu says noting that he has mastered the art of doing the trade.

“I include humour in my ads and describe the products in such a way that the targeted customer feels the need to view it and confirm the details I have given out,” he says.

DUPLICATE

After an order has been placed, it takes less than an hour to come up with a complete audio ready to be placed in a store after which we give the client a demo to test and confirm if it fits their specifications.

Then, the final product is delivered in a flash disk ready for use and a monthly fee is then agreed upon depending on the specifications of the store.

The challenge, Mr Musungu says, is ensuring that the audios are not duplicated and used in other stores, which at the end of the day, would mean no income for the team.

Mr Musungu now looks to diversify his enterprise and venture into video advertising.

“We are also looking to include the clients who prefer visual advertising in our fold and increase our presence in more countries as well,” Mr Thomas adds.