NAIROBI: Business ideas can come from anywhere. For Ernest Makotsi, the idea for his application, Wayo, came to him while he was in a hospital waiting room.
Five years ago, his father had to be admitted to hospital, and Mr Makotsi sat waiting for hours in a room along with the families and friends of other patients, all hoping for information from hospital staff.
“My father was getting worse and we were trying to do whatever we could to get him the help he needed, but it was impossible to communicate to the person in charge at the hospital,” he said.
His father, unfortunately, did not make it out of hospital, and for the then 23-year-old Makotsi, the pain of loss was made worse by the lack of information from the doctors and nurses, who seemed more preoccupied with carrying out administrative tasks than dealing with the anxious people in waiting rooms.
Makotsi found himself wishing the hospital had a well-structured communication network between its patients, their loved ones and the people in charge — a real-time feedback loop would have probably saved his father’s life, he believes.
At the time, given the circumstances, he did not dwell too much on the idea, but it was planted in the mind of the fresh IT graduate.
A few years later, Makotsi was talking to one of his cousins who worked at a commercial bank.
“I explained to him that I was working on a digital information tool for corporates that allows for real-time interaction between two parties.
“He was fascinated by my work and said his employer struggled a lot with customer data, and if I presented my app properly, I could sell my idea to the bank.”
MULTIPLE SERVICE POINTS
This conversation strengthened his belief that organisations struggle to deliver and deal with data, and gave him the impetus to fully develop Wayo, a Swahili word for footprint, which symbolises progress. Makotsi launched the platform mid last year.
The application is a mobile SMS/USSD and web tool designed for organisations that have a large customer base, and multiple service points and locations.
The tool can be used by firms in healthcare, banking, insurance, aviation, hospitality, agriculture or education, and facilitates the collection of real-time feedback.
The app’s functions make it possible to analyse data to develop an understanding of service delivery and customer experiences across different contact centres.
“The idea is that when you are in a given location, you are able to give your feedback, and the manager, wherever he or she is, is able to view the aggregated data in a user-friendly format,” said Makotsi.
The tool is not dependent on an Internet connection as it can run offline using SMS technology.
“The service works the same way as normal text messaging, only that the flow of information is one way and free,” he said.
Wayo uses a post-paid USSD model, with the cost of sending messages borne by the client.
“The technology disrupts the market by allowing organisations to make sense of the data they collect, with a turnaround time as short as two days.”
With traditional models, organisations can take as long as four months to get the same kind of feedback, and it can get expensive as most companies have to hire research firms.
Makotsi said creating Wayo cost around Sh700,000, and is 12-18 months away from breaking even.
His firm’s clients include Java House, Coca-Cola and Mater Hospital, and the firm has five full-time employees — a developer, data analysts and consultants. Its turnover is Sh1.3 million a year.
Like many start-ups, the company has grappled with a number of challenges, the biggest being a lack of sufficient capital, especially given that the application is designed for companies with a huge customer base in multiple locations. This makes it expensive to set up the app to capture all the relevant data.
Sourcing for talent has been another challenge, as has been convincing companies to adopt a new feedback mechanism.
He has been accused of trying to take away some people’s jobs. To this, Makotsi responds by quoting Bill Gates: “No one gets to vote on whether we should use technology or not.”
He is also confident the Government will one day adopt his app and use it to improve service delivery.
“Africa is the last frontier. It is where businesses will be trooping, and when they arrive, they will find Wayo, a Pan-African data analysis firm, to help them learn about the continent,” said Makotsi.
“In five years, I should be in two or three regional blocs.”