These three young men; Wilfred Kimotho, Edward Macharia, and Samuel Wainaina, not only turned a hobby into a business, they have also created jobs for several young people.

They own a virtual reality company, Tric Gaming, which they launched in July 8 this year.

Theirs is the newest video game spot in Nairobi’s CBD, already impressing young gamers with its 11 55-inch, 3D and 20 49-inch smart televisions and two virtual reality stations. This new gaming spot also has two virtual reality stations. One uses the Vive HTC virtual reality headset, while the other uses Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Both are powered by Lenovo ideacentre Y900 CPUs, with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 graphics card, and also features Kinect games at the Vive HTC station.

The three directors, whose business is registered under Vertis Group Limited, have been passionate gamers for a long time.

“We all have engineering backgrounds and have been avid gamers since our university days at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT),” says Wilfred.

The trio would meet at Samuel’s house to play video games, and after graduation, it was only a matter of when, not if, they would form an engineering company. “Through the engineering firm, we install and commission engineering labs for universities. Along the way, we decided to set up a gaming company to see whether it would resonate with people,” Wilfred explains.

Towards the end of 2010, they opened up their first shop, Tric Entertainment, located along Tom Mboya Street on the second floor of Roy Plaza.

“We registered the trade name Tric, and got statutory County Government certification for the shop. We also got MCSK (Music Copyright Society of Kenya) licenses for the music we played, and also the Film Board license for the screenings we do,” says Edward.

Their only competition then was another shop located at the Campus Mall, opposite the University of Nairobi.

FUTURISTIC AND MELLOW

The trio stepped out of the mundane set-up of plastic stools and a regular television set and decided to make the outlet look more sophisticated with couches and large TV screens.

“It was a challenge to raise the capital because we were just starting out, had just graduated and had little money. There is also the fact that we were also running our engineering company, so we had to borrow heavily, in spite of dipping into part of our personal savings,” Edward recalls.

They avoided bank loans however, due to sky-high interest rates and inflexible terms and conditions.

“Since our companies are registered in different names, we borrow from one company to finance the other, but ensure that we pay back the money, borrowed,” explains Wilfred.

In 2012, they opened a second shop at Avenue House, along Kenyatta Avenue. The initial idea was to focus on gaming, but they later introduced Kinect games, which were a hit with the young women.

At this second shop, they spiced things a little bit by setting up a snack corner which serves rice balls, hotdogs and burgers, as well as a selection of mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages. “Gaming can be consuming, and since gamers also want to eat, they can grab a snack without having to leave the place,” says Wilfred.

They also introduced the concept of virtual reality gaming; using the second generation virtual reality CPUs.

Tric Gaming’s ambience is futuristic and mellow. The turquoise blue LED lights make it seem like you are inside a space ship.

They also offer free internet to their customers. This enables the gamers to go online for online gaming experiences. One is also able to log on to their internet movie and series accounts to watch whatever they fancy.

Staying competitive

Should you have a Blu Ray Disc and want to watch a 3D movie, you will be provided with headphones and 3D glasses to experience the magic of the movie. You can surf as usual, YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp on your phone as you wait for a machine. Better still, you can read a comic book or watch television at the lounge in their comfortable couches.

They charge Sh200 per hour for the normal HD TVs and Sh240 for the 3D TVs and Kinetic games. The virtual reality experience costs Sh200 for half an hour.

To stay competitive, the three businessmen stay up to date with the latest gaming trends.

CASUAL OFFICE

“In this business, you have to keep up with two factors; technology, which is always  revolving; and what the clientele wants. There are games we buy that only two or three people know how play. We however go ahead and invest in them because it is important to anticipate the needs of our customers because they are the drivers of our market,” says Edward.

They also have to ensure their console machines are operating on updated versions. The three friends explain that they split workload according to their strengths and abilities. While Samuel is the customer relations person, Wilfred is the marketer, Edward the technician.

Currently, they have seven full-time employees. Their employees enjoy medical insurance covers, bonuses, and get to renegotiate terms at specified periods. Due to the nature of the job, the work environment is mostly informal. There is also the fact that some of the staff came in not knowing anything about gaming, and are trained on the job.

They are happy with how their business has turned out, but once in a while, as is common with any business, obstacles come up.

“Our biggest one is electricity; when power goes off, business immediately comes to a standstill. To go around this, we invested in an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) backup, but the fiber optic network speeds are not as fast, which poses a challenge for our virtual reality games,” explains Edward.

The other biggest challenge is rent, which is very expensive in Nairobi’s CBD. There is little they can do about this though, because this is where their clientele is.

So, what drives them? Passion, they say – you know you are pursuing your passion when you do not have to be pushed to work, and when ideas come effortlessly.

First published here