The Virtual Seat: One CEO's Journey in the Business of Producing Interlocking Bricks
SMEs contribute almost 45% of the GDP and such enterprises should be supported, celebrated and appreciated. Gideon Gichamba, one of the entrepreneurs, saw a gap in the market and he makes it his point to fill it one day at a time. I hosted the CEO on my virtual seat and this is what he had to say.
- Tell us who you are and what you do.
My name is Gideon Gichamba. I am the CEO of Glittering Diamonds Ltd, a fast-growing construction company specializing in the production of and construction using interlocking blocks. We have a workshop in Embu and Naivasha. We are however vagile and can work anywhere in Kenya as duty calls.
- How did you start?
In the last 2-3 years I have been involved in various construction projects and spaces, 4 of which I was directly involved. I was enraged by the whole experience of fundis taking advantage of amateurs by giving unreasonable quotes and failing to deliver on time every time they are instructed to run a construction project. This horrific experience is exacerbated by the fundis deliberately overstating the materials required and the homeowner is left with materials they will not use or need in the future. I particularly remember one project where a fundi made me purchase 30 extra iron sheets that are still lying pretty in the store to date.
This whole drama motivated me to incorporate a construction company. Together with my co-founder, we assembled a team of credible and trustworthy fundis as well as a team of professionals, among them a Quantity Surveyor and an Architect who not only ensure we deliver on our promise to make that dream home for our clients but also add value in every aspect of the construction project. With this team in place, we have managed to produce unique, affordable and formidable Interlocking Stabilized Soil Bricks (ISSB).
- How do interlocking bricks work?
As their name suggests, they work by interlocking mechanism, similar to the lock and key system. This eliminates the need for hoop iron and mortar since the blocks seamlessly interlock with each other as you construct the wall of the house. Everything else remains the same: a builder will need to lay the foundation and work on the roofing just like he would for any other building. Interlocking bricks only make a difference when it comes to walling.
- How are they convenient from the traditional bricks?
To begin with, they are unique and neater compared to traditional bricks. Secondly, they save on mortar and labor costs: bricklaying for the ISSB is fairly easy compared to the traditional bricks. They are therefore preferred for their unique appearance and for their cost-saving elements. Since they are made from 95% soil and 5% cement, they save the costs of walling up to 40%.
(One of the complete projects)
- It usually takes three to four months to complete a two-bedroomed house using the conventional method. How long does it take with interlocking bricks?
When the blocks are ready and the team is on the ground, then it will only take 6 to 7 weeks to complete. What takes time is the production of the bricks. The bottom line is, timelines are affected by the size of the house. A smaller house may take less time than a bigger house. We discuss the timelines with clients once we finalize the floor plan sketch and the scheduling of the materials.
- How can clients reach you?