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Monday, January 17, 2011

I live in Tanzania but do business in Nairobi and Mombasa

Kumekucha exclusive money-making special report

How technology has revolutionized money-making in Africa

A personal experience as told to Coach Lusweti (guest writer)
There is no topic that interests me more than the topic of making money and narrowing it down even further there is no specific subject in the process of making money that jazzes me more than the use of widely available technology. And I am not talking hi-tech here. I just mean simple technology like the cell phone, email and stuff like that.

Why does this interest me so much? Because I believe there are huge opportunities to make tons of cash from business for those who make use of technology to do things that were previously impossible to do. This article explains all that in very simple language and I actually give you practical experiences from my very own life.

I started out in the very low tech basic traditional business of printing. I used to make some very good cash printing letter heads, business cards etc for various clients large and small. Then computers came and turned the whole industry upside down. The computer made the office paperless and thus in need of much less stationary. Clients who required 500o letterheads now tool 500 for the whole year and just communicated using email and even sms messages. To make matters worse computers and cell phones invaded the market at about the same time that easy accessible loans came so almost everybody who got a loan in Nairobi bought a printing press. The result was that we ended up having too many printing machines around at a time when the market for printing jobs was shrinking rapidly. To cut a long story short I got into serious financial problems and I was auctioned and lost all my furniture and electronics in the house and everything in the office (including ironically a computer I hadn’t even finished paying for)..

Then one day an old friend organized for me to get a pretty lucrative printing job from a client in South Sudan. He client sent me the artwork from Juba as an attachment to an email. And then he wired me the cash via Western Union. When I was done with the job I took it to Wilson Airport where it was flown out. I ended up with some pretty good money that gave me a little respite from the considerable financial pressure I was going through at the time. I sat down and reviewed the role of technology in enabling me to serve a client who was so far away without leaving Nairobi. I asked myself questions like “Could I get more clients in South Sudan while I was in Nairobi? That way I would not be bogged down by the crowded and yet shrinking market for offset printing in Nairobi.

My mind quickly zeroed in on technology as a tool to help me make money in an increasingly hostile business environment. I have never looked back since.

To cut to the chase I ended up getting a very good job in Dar-es-salaam Tanzania where I am currently based. When I went there for the first time I was naïve and I thought I would hit that under-developed market with all kinds of products and services and become a millionaire overnight. But alas, it was never to be. I was quickly brought back to reality when even my Tanzanian employers ran into serious problems trying to get me a work permit to work in that country.

To be honest I lost quite a bit of money trusting locals to act as my front as I tried all kinds of businesses which failed one after the other. My wife got really upset about my continued “investments” into cash draining failures and pointed out that the cash I had lost would have been enough to buy a big prime plot in Athi River or Kitengela. It really angered me when she said this. Especially because it was true.

Then it dawned on me that I did not need to struggle in the Tanzanian market which I didn’t know very well when I could use technology to do business in Kenya while I was still employed in Tanzania. It was not smooth sailing to what I have today but finally I got to setup something that works like a charm.

I have two businesses that do extremely well. I sell cars in Nairobi and Mombasa as a middleman. I advertise my cars using the noticeboards at Sarit Centre in Nairobi and another one at Nakumatt in Mombasa. I do my colour poster for the cars on my PC at home and then I used to print out the posters and physically send them via Akamba bus from Dar all the way to Nairobi and Mombasa where they would be picked up and put up at the respective notice boards for me to start receiving enquiries. The whole exercise would cost me about 4,000 bob. But these days technology has made it even easier and much cheaper. I use a blog site called pata kwa soo where I hire somebody in Nairobi and another in Mombasa to receive my posters as a pdf attachment in their email. They then print them out and put them up at Sarit Centre and Nakumatt Nyali respectively. I pay them only Kshs 100 shillings each for this simple errand. I do this through the site which means that they don’t get paid until they have accomplished the task successfully. I usually send them the cash via Mpesa to the innovatively simple site. I use this guy in Dar who travels with buses every other day to Mombasa and back and I give him the cash in Tanzania shillings and he deposits Mpesa in Kenya shillings and sends the cash to the recipient when he is in Kenya. To confirm that the work is done, I simply call a friend in Westlands and ask him to go for lunch at Sarit Centre and check if they see my poster. I do a similar thing with the Mombasa poster. I could easily use the same site to hire somebody else at 100 bob to go and check and confirm that the posters have been out up, but I guess I want to save 100. The cell phone advertised is my personal one (which works in Tanzania) When clients call I tell them as much as I can about the car and then direct them where to view it. I work with about 3 different major car importers in Mombasa. When they buy the car the sellers simply deposit the funds in my KCB (Kenya Commercial Bank account) and I can then access the funds via an ATM in Dar-es-salaam. Whenever my contacts get new cars in Mombasa they post them to their websites and I simply download them from there and create my sales poster. Simple but it works.

I still have my very well paying job and at the same time my side business brings in an average of Kshs 500, 000 every month.

You get the drift? Now you know why I am so interested in discussing technology and how to use it to make money through a small simple business. Remember that you can do virtually any kind of business as the absentee owner because technology now enables you “to be there” without actually physically being there.

Sit down today and try and figure out how to use technology to make money.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is this Chris?

M. Pesa said...

I would say it's pretty hectic and expensive printing posters and sending them on Akamba bus to be posted on shopping malls- sounds old fashioned in this day and age. Why not use this cheap to advertise magazine (dished out freely in every post office box) which is highly effective and widely circulated. Your Ad will aslo be posted online if you want.

http://www.xpatlink.info/ads/vehicles

Alternatively to sell the cars, there are lots of FREE websites where one can advertise e.g,

http://cars.co.ke/

http://www.patauza.co.ke/index.php

http://mombasacars.com/

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