VENTURES AFRICA – A Kenyan inventor has developed a regulator gauge that allows gas users to estimate how much gas they have remaining, avoiding the possibility of untimely shortages.
Gilbert Maina, 29, has added Kenyan size specifications to gasomitas imported from China.
The gasomitas, though common elsewhere around the world, are the first of their kind in the Kenyan market. Maina is already seeing huge interest in his innovative product, with 250 of the 1,000 first batch sold in just a month. The next batch of 10,000 imports is due in the next two months. Kenya consumes around 90,000 metric tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas each year, though this is expected to reach 200,000 in the next five years. Shortages are common, however, and Maina’s Sh1,500 product allows users to plan ahead in terms of replenishing their supplies.
“By mid next year, I target to reach 30,000 gasomitas a month,” Maina said. He plans to copyright the product in the near future but cannot patent it as it is an improvement on something available elsewhere.
The gauge measures how much gas has been used and how much more is left, meaning users can properly estimate when they need to buy more. The gadget is fixed onto the gas valve and as the gas flows through it estimates how much is remaining. The product has sparked much interest, with a quarter of the first batch of imports sold “without even much aggressive marketing”, mostly due to word of mouth and Facebook. He is currently in discussions with a fuel marketing company about selling its gas cylinders along since the gasomitas.
The idea for such a product was born from experiencing the very situation the gasomitas are designed to prevent, as his gas ran out in the middle of the night when there was no option for immediately replenishing. “It was at that time of the month when you don’t have much. We wished there was a way to know before it got finished,” he said. Searching the Kenyan market for a solution, he found nothing, but internet searches revealed that there were products elsewhere that dealt with the problem.
“I found that in China they have a similar product but for the Asian market,” he said. He contacted the manufacturers in China and struck a deal with the Lumei Valve Company, who promptly developed the gadgets to the exact size and measurements of Kenyan gas cylinders, which are different from many other countries.
“It took me several email exchanges before we agreed on the terms and the product you are seeing today was born,” he said. “To western countries this thing is not new. They have piped gas and the product we have come up with is a fusion of things that existed.”