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Business

When it Comes to Data, The More, The Merrier

Posted on 2 min read

What if I gave you a list of all the phone numbers that are registered in Kenya? What would you do with this information? Nothing much, unless if you wanted to blindly text every Kenyan. Perhaps, you could if you are running a presidential campaign, or sell Kensalt which is a product used by almost all Kenyans, but this would not even be a good marketing strategy.

What if I added the names in addition to the phone numbers? You could easily search for the phone number of any person you want, as long as you know their name. This could be useful, although you would need time to sort out through the different John Does. There would still be limited commercial uses.

Add the date of birth, and the data becomes more useful. You can now target people on their birthday, and you can as well decide to text all the people aged 18 years telling them of the great courses you are offering.  The data begins to make sense.

If location data is included, the data becomes a real asset. You can SMS people of a given location telling them about a new hospital that you opened. You could SMS residents of a given ward to ask them to support your political ambitions of becoming a Member of the County Assembly. Through a combination of age and location, you could text people who are likely to be parents and tell them about a new school you started.

Add gender, and you could message ladies of a certain region, telling them of your beauty products shop and the offers that you have. Since you have their names, you would be addressing them by name and it would feel even better.

We can add more and more data which can help make the data even more useful. For example, if we added work related data, something better can even happen. You could contact all the teachers and tell them of useful resources for their students. You could contact all the farmers and offer to sell them effective pesticides. You could target people just about to retire and help them invest their pension funds. Data becomes even more valuable.

If we added some information to that data, like the information on who is expecting a baby, we could easily sell to them various baby products. If we add information about who loves football, it would be easy to tell who to tell a sports jersey to. If we add information on who loves to travel for holidays, we can message people who are likely to take a vacation and give them irresistible offers.

The more the data points, the more useful is the data. Better, if one can have a real time access to that data, the more it would be easier to make use of it. This is one advantage that platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter have.

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Is Kenya Becoming a Retail Deathplace?

Posted on 3 min read

Kenya is quickly becoming a deathbed for giant retailers. In a period of about six years, several retailers that had a national presence have met their grave in what appears to be a national curse that befalls whoever attempts to win the retail

The state owned Uchumi Supermarket has died multiple deaths, and everyone knows that the remaining shell is just a cash cow for many corrupt stakeholders. Nakumatt followed suit, although it is not fair to call Nakumatt a supermarket, but a retailed supported money laundering platform. It was once the biggest retailer in Kenya but met its death in 2017.

Ukwala was rescued by Choppies, but this later found its death in the Kenyan Market. Shoprite also exited Kenya, although it was also exiting many other markets outside South Africa. Ebrahims closed down in 2019.

Tuskys Supermarket is on life support.

Impossible Failures

When Nakumatt shutdown, details of how the supermarket was operating shocked many. The supermarket was sustained by suppliers who supplied goods on credit and would be paid months later. Almost all the assets the company was using were leased, leading to a situation where the company was in debts worth billions of shillings but had very little assets. Disgruntled suppliers had nowhere to turn to.

This is the puzzle of the retailers that get goods on credit, sell in cash but suffer cashflow problems. What is killing them?

Bad management, fraud and outright theft are to blame.

Fraud in Family Businesses

One of the problems that have plagued major supermarkets in Kenya is that they are family ran businesses with little external oversight. There have been cases where directors and shareholder would get interest free loans from the businesses or simply get money transferred to their other companies.

In the case of Tuskys, this seems to be the cause of death. Nakumatt was also bleeding for the same reason. This could be a general pointer to how family owned enterprise are run in Kenya.

Theft in Retail

The retail sector is also a beneficiary of the rampant corruption that plagues the country. Kenyans holding political positions are extremely corrupt, but that is just a celebrity bias. Kenyans are corrupt at all levels, and any retail service provider will have to work very hard to stop their employees from stealing from them.

This is one reasons that were cited for the closure of Ebrahim supermarket, a 75-year-old retail chain in Kenya. Dishonest employees had milked it dry; never to rise again. I have personally witnessed an employee stealing from a supermarket and I have heard from a supermarket owner talking about the pain she went through as employees looted her business dry.

If you want to do retail business in Kenya, you must invest in good control mechanism.

The Future

Retails in Kenya seems to be a zero sum game. When Nakumatt died, Tuskys sprang up and grew quickly. With Tuskys on the deathbed, another giant is rising fast. Naivas now has 64 stores in Kenya, followed by Quickmart with 34 stores and Chanadarana with 20. Naivas and Quickmart have diverse ownership that includes foreign investors, and we hope that they will survive the curse that has stalked the Kenyan retail giants. Carrefour is also doing well, but they are all always doing well until the first domino moves and the whole thing crumbles.

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2020 KeNIC Awards

Posted on 3 min read

The 4th annual .KE Registar Awards was held virtually on 2nd December 2020. This is an event that brings together all the .KE domain registrars together and is organized by KeNIC, the registry in charge of the .KE ccTLD. This year’s event had been postponed due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and was eventually held virtually.

In the awards, KeNIC CEO Joel Karubiu said that 2019 was a good year for KeNIC where 47k domain were registered, an improvement from the 39k domains that had been registered in 2018. Currently, the registry has already surpassed the 100k domain mark and prospects for 2020 seem to be even better.

The CEO also said that KeNIC has made a number of changes such as strengthening its governance by bringing more people into the Board. In addition, the support to the registrars has been improved and there are regular newsletters and webinars that are done by the registry.

Bob Ochieng’ who is the Stakeholder Engagement Senior Manager – Eastern & Southern Africa with ICANN talked about the resilience of the DNS during the pandemic, noting that this is something that had kept the world moving during the Pandemic. He said that KeNIC is a major stakeholder in keeping Kenyans online, and also noted that ccTLDs formed 7 out of 10 TLDs in the world, although none of these is from Africa. He argued that Africa needs to grow these numbers to strengthen its voice on the global scene.

Others present include Barrack Otieno – the General Manager Africa Top Level Domains Organization (AfTLD), KeNIC staff, Board members, registrars and other stakeholders who participated remotely.

Awards

Some of the awards given were:

.KE Registration award

Those nominated were the registrars with more than 2500 registrations during that period and were Truehost Cloud, Global Internet Fortunes, Safaricom, EAC Directory, Sasahost and Kenya Website Experts.

The winner for this award was Global Internet Fortunes with Kenya Website Experts as First runner’s up and Truehost Cloud as the second runners up.

Customer Support and Retention

For nomination to this category, a registrar needed to have more than 2000 domains, have a 24/7 customer support line, actively sends renewal notifications to clients, registered growth in the new registrations and renewal of domains, and has an automated domain renewal process.

The winner for this category was Kenya Website Experts with EAC Directory as first runners up and Sasahost as second runners up.

.KE Marketing award

Registrars were awarded for their marketing effort, which includes actively engaging with potential clients, running adverts, online marketing campaigns, direct sales and holding events to promote the .KE brand.

The winner for this category was deepAfrica with Kenyaweb.com as first runners up and Peak & Dale as second runners up.

New Registrar of the Year

This was for the new registrar who had been a member for at least six months and showed a remarkable growth.
Winner: HostPinnacle

Registrar of the Year

This was for the top registrar in sales who showed consistent growth with significant registration of new domains.
Winner: Global Internet Fortunes

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Android Tax?

Posted on 1 min read

Can you imagine Google squeezing out 1.8% of all income from the poorest of all people in the developing world? It sounds crazy, but it could be happening.

Word going round is that Android phones exchange 260 MB of data every month with Google servers. This happens in the background even when no applications are running and even when using cellular network.

If this allegation is true, then Google has a big case to answer. 260 MB of data would easily go unnoticed in a world where people have access to a dedicated bandwidth of internet connection. But for the many parts of the world where people depend on cellular networks to access the internet, this is something of great concern.

According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet, the average cost of 1GB of mobile broadband in Africa was 7.12% of average monthly income in 2019. This implies that this background data transfer by Android phones would cost people 1.8% of their total income, if they have the data and keep mobile data enabled on their phones.

This is a major heist!

It could be the reason why many people suspect that telcos such as Safaricom steal their mobile data. It would be the reason why most people will keep mobile data disabled on their phones, unless they are actively using it. Android users could be paying a form of tax!

Is it true, Google?           

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The Power of an Opportune Tweet in Marketing

Posted on 2 min read

What is the power of a Tweet?

On a normal day, Stephen Odhiambo works to build furniture along Ngong road. He is good at what he does, based on the video that has been circulating online. But being good is not good enough for business. You need to make a sale. That is what matters.

It is for this reason that Stephen Odhiambo displays his furniture along Ngong road in Nairobi. Like many others of his colleagues, Ngong Road is an established furniture heaven in Nairobi and most do not even formal stalls. It is simply a roadside display of furniture. Willing buyers will see furniture that they like and will stop to buy. That is how it works.

Furniture on Sale along Ngong Road

But is there more to the roadside display? Can these people make more money from other locations outside Ngong Road? It turns out yes, and the tool needed to achieve this is in their hands.

Stephen Odhiambo took a video of his foldable table/seat and shared with potential buyers on WhatsApp. One would expect the clip to circulate in various groups and a few inquiries. But something bigger happened.

The Tweet

The clip got into the hands of one Mohammed Hersi who shared it on Twitter.

The Tweet that Made the Sales

Results

Stephen Odhiambo has received more than 800 orders. In short, orders worth KShs 20 million in just a week! How did that happen?

The person who shared the clip in the Tweet is a well-known figure in the Tourism industry. He also has almost 300 thousand followers on Twitter. These would be people very likely to buy his product. The power of a single Tweet was manifested here.

Lesson

Stephen Odhiambo will need help to fulfill all those orders because it takes him four days to make one piece. He will need a team, and collaboration with other people if he is to meet the demand. This is one of the hardest parts in business. Building a team that can deliver is not easy. I hope he can pull this.

But it is even worth noting that he is not the first to make such a table/bench. There are many videos of it on YouTube. Most likely, he found one online and decided to make it. It is good if you can come up with a new idea, but you are not doomed if you cannot.

You do not need to be the inventor of something to benefit from it. You can implement many ideas that exist because the world is big enough and there will still be a market.

I am sure today almost every other furniture maker is busy trying to replicate what Stephen Odhiambo did, and soon the supply will be flooding. May the best win.

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17 Business Lessons I’ve Learnt Building a Tech Company

Posted on 3 min read

I have spent most of my working years thinking about Cloud services and offering them at Truehost Cloud. I have experienced great success and also failures. Now that it is the time of the year that I audit my life because I am turning one year older, I decided to share some lessons learnt through the journey.

Nothing special about 17; it is just that they came to that number. If I had some good time I would collapse them to fewer, or add more which would take more time to put in words. I hope you will relate with some of them in your business, or even in life.

Note: Not in the order of importance.

  1. Cash is king. You need to have cash when you need it, otherwise you will stall. You can find innovative ways of minimizing your need for cash by having lean operations, but the moment the cash needed exceeds cash at hand, your growth will be impacted.
  2. However, sometimes the need for cash may not be as critical as it appears, for many times cash shortage has forced people to innovate in ways they would not have thought possible.
  3. A sale is very important. It doesn’t matter how great your product is if you are not selling. There are many great products out there which no one is buying, while some not very good products continue to dominate the market.
  4. Execution is more important than the idea. It only matters a little how creative, smart, connected or even experienced you are. Only those who can execute what they envisage are successful. History is full of smart geniuses who died empty for they did nothing. So are entrepreneurs. Take the first step and get it working.
  5. It might take a lifetime to get it right, but you have to keep doing it. The world also changes, and what worked yesterday might not work today, thus a need for one to be on the move, and to keep trying.
  6. The customer is number one. Work for the customer and the mission will make sense for everybody else.
  7. Dream big, but also wake up and work hard. There is so much one can achieve if only they can dream it possible.
  8. Working smart is overrated, even for those born with a silver spoon in their mouth. You have to do a lot of work and get your hands dirty of you are to stay on top of the game.
  9. There is a (big) place for luck in business, but it falls on those who try more. If you keep doing things, and learning, and trying again, and refining your strategy, you will get lucky.
  10. You need a team. A team is hard to build, and a team is as strong as the weakest member. Build a strong team and you can take any challenge.
  11. There is no substitute for knowledge and experience. Businesses collapse due to lack of knowledge. Get knowledge at all costs, and learn as much as you can.
  12. The longer you do business, the better you become. Start early and rise up fast when you fail.
  13. Your networks matter a lot. Build great networks and use them where possible. Your friends might be your first clients and your main marketing channels.
  14. Entrepreneurship is hard for people who do not have a social safety net. This is because at some point you will fail and you will need a support system. However, if it is necessary, burn the ships and get in there headlong. I don’t promise that you won’t regret that move.
  15. Some things excelled because they were launched at the right time. But even with timing being right, the other factors must also be right to survive.
  16. Do not underestimate yourself. More important, do not overrate yourself. If you succeed, do not think you are good, while if you fail, do not think you cannot do it.
  17. Learn from other people in business. You can learn a lot by asking other people who have been there and avoid repeating their mistakes while acquiring their best practices. Reinventing the wheel might good for experience and exposure, but stupid for your cash book.

Thanks to the team at Truehost Cloud for the support.

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