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Blog Archive


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Old Tariffs in New skins

I was looking forward to enjoying some 'pick-me-up' music on morning radio the other day, but instead was subjected to a very lengthy and repetitive announcement about how a new mobile providers tariff worked. Not only did I find this intrusive and rude, It was also very confusing. It was as if the rocket scientists at the company were trying to establish exactly how many *digit*digit# commands kenyans can actually remember. I was so focussed on memorizing what I was meant to do that I even forgot what service the command invoked. It made me think about the tons of information that we are bombarded with everyday, about what network does what, about cost/minute and per second billing or limited Vs 'virtually' unlimited data bundles.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Virtual City turns heads at Nokia

... by winning the Growth Economy Venture Challenge. Founder John Waibochi gets to take home a handsome cheque for US$ 1,000,000 in what will be remembered as a watershed moment in SME history. In all his dealings Waibochi epitomizes the modern entrepreneur with tenacity and creativity in the face of a society that clings to tradition. One thing that is not discussed enough in business forums nowadays is how difficult it is to overcome the average Kenyan’s inherent mistrust of any ‘new way of doing things’. To understand it we probably have to go as far back as our school life where innovation was stifled and stereotypes reinforced by a rigid syllabus and outdated ideals. Virtual City’s achievement needs to be celebrated because apart from providing a solution that will improve the lives of rural people, it also a resounding endorsement to the SME’s belief that you can do anything you set your mind to. Yes We Can!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The war of the payment platforms

... promises to get more interesting as we go along. The arrival of the latest entrant called Paysure is sure to add some spice to the highly competitive market. The incumbents, who include pesapal, mi-pay, sleek-pay, I&M and of course the ubiquitous Mpesa, are all struggling to be heard above the din of free enterprise. The prize they are all chasing is to be chosen as the primary payment channel for the burgeoning group of e-commerce players in Kenya. So far many websites have understandably opted to play it safe and piggy-back on the Mpesa bandwagon, but it is often offered alongside the other options, with the exception perhaps of Zap which for obvious reasons hasn’t quite caught on with Kenya’s new ‘e-preneurs’, despite having very similar functionality. For the benefit of the merchant-to-be out there who is uncertain which model suits his business I will split the various options into three groups, namely phone-based, account-based and card-based. The phone-based group includes

Monday, July 5, 2010

What I liked most about KeNIC AGM last week

... was the open forum session that preceded the meeting proper. How participants shared ideas and knowledge freely and animatedly was a breath of fresh air. The truth is, if the enthusiasm levels in that room are a reflection of the passion that local entrepreneurs have for developing the ‘e’ in Kenya, then the sky is the limit! Like with any ‘hot new’ market the breathtaking growth of internet usage in Kenya will eventually be matched by a plethora of internet related products/services. At the moment however all that seems to have happened is an as yet disproportionate increase in the number of internet related service providers, ranging from established ISP’s & Safaricom on one end to briefcase domain registrars & hosting companies on the other. The reason I referred to the internet as a ‘hot new’ market is because in Kenya it still is. Yes, many people have had email addresses and websites for over a decade now, but the internet only started showing practical commercial potential in Kenya with the emergence of affordable internet enabled mobile phones.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

“I don’t like my domain name anymore”,

...was the first thing that came out of my clients’ mouth when they walked in to e-biz offices for a meeting. It was a complaint I have heard quite a number of times before and having been through it, I know exactly how they felt. In my case it was 8 months before I woke up one morning thoroughly disliking the name on my websites’ banner. In other cases I’ve heard it sometimes happens as early as a couple of weeks or even days. The common denominator here is that whereas most active domain names were chosen on the spur of the moment, only a very lucky few of them retain their appeal over time. Admittedly some of it has to do with the degree of success that the website has had e.g. if Yahoo was a huge flop I think Yang & Co might have reconsidered their silly sounding domain name, ditto Google. More often than not however, a domain names lost appeal is quite simply because very little thought went into choosing the name in the first place. The reality is that nowadays companies in the US and Europe take naming so seriously that they are prepared to pay professional firms colossal sums of money (up to $ 35K) to come up with the ‘perfect name’ for their business. WHAT!! US$ 35K could finance the entire operation of many e-commerce startup's in Kenya for a couple of years including a handsome advertising budget. Well luckily for us small–fry is that we don’t really have to sacrifice an arm-and-a-leg to name your website, as long as you remember that the most important thing about choosing a domain name is Relevance.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Choosing who should design your website

.. is a very important decision. Should you go for the glitzy professional firm with a long-list of references, or do you find yourself leaning towards your computer-whizz cousin who says he can do it in a week? This decision would be a no-brainer if it wasn’t for the ‘not-so-minor’ shillings and cents issue. We would all like the best design firm to put together our website, but we can’t all afford it. Or can we…..? Perhaps all we need to do is look at ‘costs’ from a different point of view. The problem is that a start-up’s ability to fully understand project costs usually gets clouded by the immediate cash flow constraints that they are facing. We are tempted to go for the cheap quick-fix and ignore the possibility of future cash outflows to undo errors and omissions caused by poor design. Instead of attracting customers to your business, using a novice to design your site could end up frustrating them especially due to avoidable issues like poor site navigation, broken links, slow page-loading, software bugs, viruses etc. Since customer satisfaction and goodwill are the life-blood of any business, what initially looked like a good deal could end up costing you an ‘arm and a leg’. The experienced developer has learnt the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of web design and will save you both time and money in the long run. The only thing you need to be careful about is not to invest in more than you need.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Any budding e-entrepreneur will agree

..that stepping out onto the information superhighway is almost as tricky as trying to cross Mombasa road on foot. Faced with so many e-marketing options, opportunities, obstacles, barriers we end up doing a little of everything, and are surprised when our attempts don’t yield any tangible results. We already have in depth knowledge about our product/service, but are we also expected to possess the business sense of an e-marketing guru? The answer to that question is Yes and No. Yes, because your business deserves to get value for the money spent on marketing activities and No because you don’t have to do it yourself. Companies like e-biz make it easy for you to concentrate on your core business by showing you the best way to leverage the power of the internet, right from scratch. Remember that most startups will find the costs associated with conventional marketing channels very prohibitive, so what you need is a solution that can be scaled up or down according to your needs.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What they didn’t tell you about e-commerce

.. is that publishing your website is just the beginning of your pursuit for financial gains. It certainly doesn’t mean that all you need to do now is sit back and wait for e-shillings to start rolling in. In many ways the duka on the street corner is better off than you, at least his customers know where he is, he has been getting new walk-in customers everyday for years now, the sign above his door is visible from all the way down the street, plus the display in his shop window has been freshly decorated for diwali. Alas! Why did you get online in the first place? Well thankfully it’s not all doom & gloom. For one, you don’t have to pay all the goodwill, rent, and NCC fees that he has to contend with, not to mention daily harassment by askaris’ and hawkers. The main advantage your online shop has is the potential to reach millions of customers for a fraction of the cost per customer. Domain registration costs about the same as registering a business name so things are fairly even there. It’s when you compare the costs of web hosting with shop rent that the variance is alarming. For example the most advanced hosting package costs only about 833 shillings a month which wouldn’t get you much of a shop in Kenya nowadays. So don’t look at the corner shop and start doubting your decision to go online; besides you probably wouldn’t even be able to lay hands on such a strategic location in the first place since many of those shops have been passed down in their families for generations.

Don’t bother taking your business online

......if you aren’t prepared to keep your presence updated. It may not matter too much to a walk-in customer if the cartons in the backroom store of the shop on the street corner are dusty, but there’s nothing that will chase your online visitor away faster than stale information. One of the first things I do when I make a maiden landing on a site is to check when it was last updated, when the last post was made etc. For many landing pages, anything longer than a fortnight is unacceptable but in the fast paced world of social media one or two postings a day is the bare minimum i.e. don’t invite me to follow you on twitter when clearly the only tweet forthcoming is an occasional Christmas card. As the profile of the internet user evolves in Kenya, we continue to see increasing dependence on the internet for mundane daily activities. The business that meets the demand for accurate and up to date information in the most convenient way will win the customers. Plain & Simple

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