Ever since my high school years, I had always wanted to get involved in Information communication technology (ICT) and even toyed with the idea of creating my own software and other innovations.
However, as it become clearer to me that my core role in society is to inspire, support and equip others in their visions hence create growth and address social issues, I moved towards supporting others, specializing in mostly start ups.
In 2008, Kenya launched its vision 2030 program and I wanted to be a part of it. By that time, I had done a few ICT courses in university revolving around programming and database management. I had also launched a website, the first popular content management system (CMS) website in Kenya called twawezakenya.com - Yes we can! (2005-9. please note, I developed the slogan in 2006 years before I knew of President Obama’s existence).
Twawezakenya.com was an information portal in which also aimed to upgrade the web environment in Kenya. Later in the year, Kenya laid down plans to set up a Techo city dubbed Konza Techno City. The concept was to make Kenya a global ICT powerhouse in the lines of Silicon Valley and Bangalore in India. The focus then was Business Process Outsourcing (B.P.O). I did a little investigation on the project realized some important gaps and oversights.
- Firstly, the concept was to attract huge multinationals to set up shop in Kenya hence create employment. However, a major oversight was these huge multinationals are business entities and therefore would need a profitable reason to set up an office. Kenya at the time had little ICT business mostly handled by distributors from the Middle East.
- A second problem was there was little innovation in the industry then - Just trading. With the development of MPESA by Safaricom, the mobile segment burst in growth attracting the likes of Nokia and IBM settling up research labs in Kenya. However, that growth is only taking place in the mobile Software segment, what about other software segments and general hardware?
- A third problem was the information gap. The Konza Techno project remained an elitist government project that had little awareness and involvement from the various ICT Stakeholders in the country. An important missing link group was the computer resellers who at the time housed most of the graduates from various technical institutions of ICT. In a proper layout, these ICT resellers are the ones who would move first to Techo City providing support services to the remaining populace that would move into the city. Strangely the ICT resellers were: Completely not aware of the Techno city development plans and their role Not interested in the project cause they could not see the money their sole purpose of existence Were not in the right mind frame to take advantage of the opportunities arising from the proposed government project Lacked the necessary business infrastructure and skills to take advantage of any opportunity arising
Step one, The initial project- the entry point and establishing contact
I therefore, decided to pilot a possible solution to the problem and at the same time establish contact with the various ICT players starting off with the resellers. My underline philosophy was that cities grow organically and are built by people usually using a bottom up approach rather than a top down approach. If the Konza city was to work, a key pool of people to be involved were the channel partners since they have the basic skills and interest in ICT to make it happen. They would also serve as the resource pool the multinationals would tap into to set up Africa offices in terms of business opportunities.
In December 2008, Then in media, I approached one of my clients, then a distributor, to assist him in launching a new Indian computer antivirus in Kenya called Quickheal. My personal objectives were:
- To get a practical understanding of how the ICT business environment works.
- Understand better why there was no interest in the Techno city by channel partners, discover and research on additional gaps and issues to be dealt with in order to make the ICT growth plans a success.
- To establish direct contact with the ICT players especially the resellers so as to launch my future project aimed at growing the sector.
- To possibly attract the Quickheal mother company to set up shop in Kenya hence achieve a Foreign Direct Investment (F.D.I)project in Kenya
- To use my basic ICT training that I paid for in college but never used and earn some money in the process.
- Use the lessons learnt to implement the project on a much larger scale and hence help actualize the building of the Techno City and Kenya’s Vision 2030 objectives.
Progress so far
By December 2013, I had established contact with over 2000 computer resellers all over the country, gained a deeper understanding on how the business environment works, gained some additional ICT skills and in a surprising twist of events, Quickheal India had set up an African office in Kenya. I had also successfully helped one of my resellers move into the level of sub distribution and transferred my Quickheal business to him. Another reseller had also grown into sub distribution of many other products with a countrywide network.
A third client had moved from the level of distributor and was now a vendor of their own computer toner product, the first Kenyan owned brand with hopes of going global with it- a huge success on my part. Most importantly, I was able to move into the second step of the real project which was to grow the general ICT sector.
Step two of the ICT growth project-channels
My initial approach, launched in July 2013, was to change the mindset of the computer channel business in the course of 2 years through articles and other inspiration campaigns that included one-on-one sessions. I sent an initial article to over 100 resellers on a pilot phase and held inspiration sessions with over 50 of them.
The objective of the article included To convince the computer channel players that specialization was the way to go since there are over 2000 brands distributed in Kenya. If each player was to be appointed the Africa distributor for the various brands, their market would be much larger. They would also buy items from each other hence reducing competitive and undercutting which was killing the industry.
Secondly, specialization would lead to skill enhancement since a specialist in keyboards would now have the support from the manufacturer, to repair, train, undertake in knowledge transfer etc to a wider African market leading to less electronic waste and more profits for the manufacturer and the channel partner involved (there are numerous additional benefits not within the scope of this proposal)
Thirdly, with improved skills, support and linkages between the manufactures and the channel partners, projects like the Konza city would become viable leading to greater economic growth Most importantly, Kenya would give rise to new technologies, create new sectors and employment to the over 5000 graduates in the ICT sector that don’t have jobs and reduce poverty in the country.
For me this last point was and is the most important objective- Growth in the ICT sector in which students would become technicians, technicians would grow to become resellers, resellers would grow to become distributors, distributors would enter into partnerships with global vendors to set up Africa operations, vendors would set up assembly, research and manufacturing hubs and finally new innovations and projects would be successfully launched since the necessary support infrastructure would be in place
Having piloted the initial idea successfully (Quickheal antivirus) and now beginning the second step of the project which is providing inspiration, mindset change shift and laying the foundational structure for growth (through articles and one- on- one sessions), I seek funding for this stage since Having transferred the sales element of Quickheal to focus on the project, I do have no reliable source of income to pursue the project. Getting involved in the sales of other products or employment would leave me with no time to pursue this project leading to its failure. The expected countrywide benefits that surpass my personal needs and gains will not be realized.
In the year 2014 I have relied on my personal savings to pursue this project with limited success due to limited resources. I also wish not to waste any time as I have done this year due to limited funds. It will also be extremely difficult to convince the channels to pay for a service that they do not know they need let alone see its relevance. Consultancy currently has no value to them. This phase being primarily conceptual appealing to mindsets gives no direct financial gain to any potential investor. Hence a good social investment. I have therefore chosen the path of crowd funding since current government and donor policy funding does not cover projects like this one.
Am hoping to find random Angels individuals and from government and organizational staff. I am also open to a possibility of attracting funding through new policies from government and other organizations.
This stage will cover hopefully, 2 yrs by which channel partners will have started to explore ways to specialize and have started laying down the necessary managerial structures in the areas of marketing, management, product and finance to enable their growth. So far a number have started to restructure their business models and have began to explore growth options.
The funding will cover
- Information dissemination to the various stakeholders in the industry which will include government, businesses, enthusiasts etc. I intend to hold 1000 meetings each costing Ksh 300 hence Ksh 300,000 (USD 3500) over the two year period.
- Follow up meetings that would serve as mentorship programs and basic consultancy with at least 100 of the initial pool of 1000 meetings for at least 4 1hr sessions each costing Ksh 500 hence Ksh 200,000 (USD 2350) over the two year period
- Other miscellaneous costs that include research, correspondence, transport and communication costs and Establishing contact with potential foreign and local partners that include vendors, investors, researchers etc and to attract them to Kenya to support the project via volunteer programs and other projects that would move the project to the next phase costing ksh 200,000 (USD 2350) over the two year period
Total funding over the two years would come to Ksh 700,000 (USD 8200)
After two years I hope the mental frame of the channels partners will have changed and they will have began to lay the foundational structure in terms of their businesses. I hope then to help them identify partnerships with various brands and explore with them various new technologies that will help them grow.
It is my hope that by that time they will have valued consultancy and would be able to pay me for my services. I also hope to be providing complementary business services that would also be able to support my relationship with them and hence require no additional funding unless some new project arises
I therefore hope that you may support this initial funding request due to its nature and accrued benefits which include mutual growth for Kenyan businesses and ease of entry by foreign business since the necessary business infrastructure and foundation would be in place for growth.
You can also follow me on my projects and work by sending a friend request to https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004868268440
For further information you can call me directly on +254 720 654 543 or email me on [email protected]