In 2016, Benson Chuma quit his high flying job as a business development consultant with Abt Associates; an international firm that deals in business and government research, technical assistance, and consulting to become a franchisee of Equity Afia in Ongata Rongai.
Equity Afia is a health care initiative under the social arm of Equity Bank Group foundation launched in 2015. It allows qualified individuals to become franchisees of the clinic. The clinics offer consultation, pharmacy, laboratory, nursing and specialist services.
The 34-year-old’s initial capital investment was Sh20m from a hybrid financing mechanism which included personal savings, loan financing and a grant for development and testing of the Equity Afia concept.
“My main motivation when venturing into health franchising was the opportunity to be at the forefront in the start of something I knew would have a significant impact on our country’s health outcomes. Additionally, the experience I had garnered from offering consultancy services to entrepreneurs drove me to the decision of quitting the comfort of a job with an international firm,” he said.
Dr Chuma is a trained medical doctor and health economist with over 10 years work experience in both private and public health sectors. He is the Managing Director of Equity Afia Rongai besides serving a Director at Equity Afia (a chain of franchised outpatient medical centres in Buru Buru, Kayole, Kawangware and Thika serving over 200 patients per a day).
He learnt about entrepreneurship after completing high school in 2000. Dr Chuma was lucky to secure an internship at Equity Bank Group through the organisation’s education sponsorship programme. While there he was exposed to the corporate life and interacted with successful entrepreneurs who shaped his way of thinking in business.
Dr Chuma interned at Equity’s Nyeri branch for 18 months prior to joining the University of Nairobi medical school from 2003 to 2008.
“The internship taught me a lot about business at a tender age. I worked in almost all retail banking roles including cashiering,” said Dr Chuma. After his undergraduate studies, Dr Chuma landed an internship at Mbagathi District Hospital which lasted for a year. From January to June 2010, he got a job as a medical officer at Marimanti Hospital in Meru. He later resigned and ventured into freelance work in different hospitals across Nairobi before joining Equity Group Foundation as the Health Programme Manager. He worked there until 2012.
In 2013, he quit his job to pursue a Masters in Public Health at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, specialising in Health Economics and graduating in 2015. While pursuing the degree, Dr Chuma landed a job at Abt Associates in 2014 as the Business Development Consultant. In this; he worked with various companies in the health sector focused on providing quality and affordable healthcare.
The exposure included understanding health IT, health insurance, and healthcare marketing among other aspects of health management for about two years.
“At this point I felt I was ready to move into health entrepreneurship which also happened to be the same time that Equity Afia was rolling out it first franchise outlet in Ongata Rongai. My application to run the first outlet was successful given my experience as well as history and understanding of Equity Afia’s vision,” said Dr Chuma.
Today, as a franchise owner for Rongai, Dr Chuma is involved in the day to day running of the clinic; overseeing and planning localised marketing activities, ensuring clients are happy as well as seeing some patients. At the franchisor level he supports strategy, relation building, brand position as well as overall operations.
“I started with seven employees, we now have 10 full time and five part time staff,” he said.
Apart from his daily work at Equity Afia, Dr Chuma is also involved in consultation work for the World Bank aimed at helping private health insurers understand opportunities in Kenya’s universal healthcare drive. He recently concluded an assignment meant to advice the East African Community (EAC) on the design of a shared health benefit package for the region in addition to helping a new health IT firm called TechCare for All (TC4A) that seeks to understand the health sector in Kenya as well as develop some business partnerships.
“My biggest challenge has been ensuring we can make Equity Afia stand as a brand on its own. It is not always easy marketing Equity Afia as a lot of people confuse our clinics with Equity Bank which we are not. We are essentially two separate legal entities.
“At times it takes a while for clients, including some insurance companies, to understand that Equity Afia is a group of medical doctors offering health services and not an extension or a department of Equity Bank,” said Dr Chuma.
First published here