Ratio Blog: ICT Conferencing, Bad Coffee, and E-Commerce
Friday, 17 September 2010
This week, it was time to wrest myself off the internet obsessively hunting for typos (best find: a journalist quoting the ICC’s Ms Arbia on Kenya respecting ‘its obligations under the roam statue’) and go to town. To talk about the internet.
With the right invitations and an interest in ICT, you could have spent the entire week living on conference coffee (note to KICC, self-described premier conference venue: Kenya grows fantastic coffee. Why not, for goodness’ sake, do your bit for Kenya’s branding and actually sell it rather than torture guests with instant coffee?) and a random assortment of cookies: First a Strathmore-Google event, then the AITEC ICT Summit and also the CIO conference at the Safaripark Hotel, plus an ICT security event to round off the week (which eventually was postponed to avoid clashes with Eid).
But unless you’re really very fond of conference coffee and have no other work obligations, this was a bit too much of a muchness – co-ordinating and spreading the events out a bit more would have allowed more people to attend each of them. My decision was easy: I’d rather chew my left arm off than attempt to drive out to Safaripark, and the AITEC people had invited me to talk about ‘Mobile Money and the Emerging Business Ecosystem’. So off to KICC I went, in what seemed like ever widening concentric circles since school has started again, and Nairobi traffic rose like warm, fertile yeasty dough into a giant gridlock, albeit with more metal and hate.
Mobile money is a success story that Kenya can justifiably brag with globally, and everyone knows how much of a difference it has made in millions of people’s daily lives. But together with rapidly growing internet access, it has also fostered a nascent e-commerce, and triggered quite a bit of tech innovation around it. The mobile money service providers themselves have pushed out more services, amongst them bulk salary payments and bill payments, but local developers have equally responded by, for example, creating payment platforms like Pesapal, Jambopay, Mobicash and others so that merchants can accept and manage large numbers of mobile payment transactions.

And mobile money helps people are taking their business online: I’ve spotted a number of different auction sites where you can sell anything from buildings to dangly phone charms, and goldfish, too, presumably: katewa.com, Mzoori.com, kenyaonlineauction.com, uzanunua.com and a bunch of others. None of those websites has yet any wildly impressive number of listings, but they are offering both individuals and retailers a platform for their products. It makes a lot of sense: now that ever more people are online, it gets products and services out to a much larger market, and with very little set-up costs.

And you’ve probably looked at a stall in a mall, too, when the proprietor handed you a business card with a website on it. These days, more people go online with their shop: Check out, for example, small retailers as fabguru.com and bagalicious.co.ke. Access Kenya’s portal, home.co.ke, hosts Twende Sokoni, an ‘online kiosk’ where you can order groceries. I even dug out a Kenyan porn website that I had discovered quite a while ago, and that left an impression because even back then, they asked clients to pay by mobile money first before sending the code for clients to download clips. As ever, smut is at the forefront of technological development.

A few big companies have also ventured out: You can purchase an e-ticket online from our beloved flying matatu, KQ, and the website gives you a choice of payment options: mobile money, credit card – or take your booking to the counter to pay in cash. Kalahari.co.ke is probably the largest online retailer in Kenya at the moment. Will one of the big retailers, Nakumatt or Uchumi, perhaps venture out into online sales, too?
So if in the e-commerce world, Kenya’s computer is the mobile phone, and Kenya’s credit/debit card is the mobile money service, are we ready to rock? To a good extent, I suspect this will depend on plain-vanilla, non-digital real-life issues: What happens to the small retailers if they suddenly become successful, and receive a surge of orders? Do they have the stock to service the orders? Can their back office keep up?

In Nairobi, I generally work on the assumption that there will be no customer service from anyone but my newspaper man, period, and am pleasantly surprised if, on a lucky day, I should receive some. If you’re selling online, however, this becomes crucially important, especially since this is such a young industry: How do you get your clients to trust you enough to make that mobile payment to a website, and not to a shop with real people to shout at? I suspect that with payment systems and auction sites, there will eventually be a consolidation and one or two will emerge as the leaders, and the others will fade away– but how do you become that market leader?

Again, this is not really a digital technology question: In the session that I participated in, a delegate asked the panel what she should do to ‘sensitise people about her service’. Some of my fellow panel members told her that as long as her service provides a solution, people will find it. At that point, I almost grabbed the microphone from the World Bank representative. Forget ‘sensitisation’. Because you need to think about this as a business: You need to understand who your clients are, where you find them, and how you can best reach them. Like with any other business. And don’t rely on people eventually finding you: your online business might just die a slow and painful death. But since you’re online anyway: There’s thankfully plenty of information on marketing at your googling fingertips.

Andrea’s weekly column is reprinted with kind permission from the Star.

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One More ICT Project to Watch!
written by Jackson Musau, September 17, 2010
www.DataMaxKenya.Com is an ambitious project positioning as THE FACE OF INTERNET in Kenya.

We have a calculated target and game-plan strategy to join ranks of the the top 10 websites in Kenya within 6 months. Yesterday we were 390 and today 378 whilst still on pre-launch. (Alexa statistics for Kenya)

DataMaxKenya is a Digital Market Information Window for Kenya.

This unique online resource is a customized 'Internet Browsing Gateway' - a new concept - which places local digital content at par with the traditional Internet Giants. While not rubbishing Google, Yahoo & Facebook, we find no justification to start your internet experience with say Google every time you go online. How about DataMaxKenya, a smart landing page that gives you all the popular sites on the first landing while promoting local content there too!

How about a Classified Text approach with minimal barriers such as no passwords. We believe that if information is free then it should also be easily accessible.

Our TEXT-ad advertising service is Smart, Effective & Affordable.

So, Kenyans, set www.datamaxkenya.com as your homepage!

GET-WHAT-U-WANT ... mara moja!
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