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Nairobi cyber cafés veer into side-hustles

By ANNIE NJANJA January 30th, 2014 2 min read

The advent of smartphones has made cyber cafés to go back to the drawing board to come up with side products that will help keep their businesses afloat.

With the dwindling revenues, Starcom cyber café on Mama Ngina Street has had to invest in a tea and coffee making machine, aside from the usual browsing, printing and photocopying services, to add more money into their basket.

As customers browse, they can order a cup of hot tea, coffee or chocolate with accompaniments like cakes, doughnuts or mandazis that are on display at the reception.

DigitalHive Cybershop in Vet on Ngong Road has partitioned its room and now rents out the extra space to a mobile phone accessory and movie dealer.

When I visited, the busy movie shop was a sharp contrast of the situation at the cyber.

Another one is the Tux Café on the third floor of Kenya Cinema which expanded their business by including a snacks area, renting out IRB games, movies, introducing, Xbox and play station games, hosting an advertisement board and making the space open for people to hang out.

“We run the cyber and other businesses in the café,” said Edward Kiiru, the manager. A favourite hangout spot for youths, the cyber café draws a lot of traffic.

“There is no ultimatum that you have to spend when you visit Tux Café.

This kind of hospitality has helped us grow greatly,” said Kiiru.

“The innovative services and referrals have really worked in our favour because the place is always full yet we spend nothing in marketing or advertisement,” he added.

Due to the heavy traffic the cyber café experiences; it has received a lot of attention from security officials. “The security officials and competitors think it is unbelievable that we attract a huge number of youths at a go and still be doing something legal,” he added.

The Music Copyright Society of Kenya officials for a long time have harassed cyber café owners and to some extent pushed for the closure of select shops for downloading local content illegally.

Besides, the Microsoft software for running the cyber cafés has become too costly for small businesses to buy and as a result they end up closing shop.