NAIROBI, KENYA: In the 21st century the internet has become instrumental to our lives, every day we use it for entertainment, education, shopping, dating and more. Millions of people across the world depend on it to make a living. From celebrities with huge online followers who attract brands to advertise their products on their pages to politicians who communicate to their supporters, the internet is the new thing.
In Africa and Kenya particularly it has become a vital tool for start-ups .It levels the playing field and making more things than ever before accessible to new businesses. However, technology can also feel overwhelming, especially if one is launching a startup - it's appealing to stick to the tools and techniques one knows.
Rading Biko spoke to Kevin Rakama - Founder of Corido Marketplace -an online trading platform that connects sellers and buyers. Rakama shares his experience on the power of technology.
Most of the online start-ups in Kenya and Africa at large still believe in physical business compared to online. Why did you decide to launch your start-up online and how is the experience?
I started an internet-based start-up due to a number of factors among them the tremendous and fast-paced growth and more so the improved internet connectivity in Kenya. The other thing was the rapidly expanding market within the region that was in need of a secure and one-stop online service. The market expansion is in need of a service provider who would bridge the gap and provide solutions tailored to its needs that were not being met by the already existing players in this field.
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Technology also comes with a lot of challenges ranging from cybercrime issues like online fraud. What have you done effectively to ensure that you don’t get hit by hackers?
As a company we have invested heavily on our firewalls which are the current global standards. We have also placed a high-level security measures to ensure that round-the-clock security and integrity of both the buyers and sellers using the platform is maintained and all our firewalls are protected by the best
How is your business structured and how do you make money?
The business is a self-service platform for both buyers and sellers. The team is structured in a way that ensure everything is running smoothly from the IT specialists, key account managers and agents, market researchers, business innovators and developers, client feed-back managers among others.
Our platform has a variety of simplified, user-friendly and well-customized categories for the different goods and services to ensure ease of access by all our clients.
We make money from the fees charged to sellers for using our platform where both sellers and buyers meet in an easy way and transact with each other securely.
We are currently developing an internet-based app that can be securely used by both android and iPhone users, so I would say that it is working progress and we are on track to roll it out in the market soon.
Most Start-ups don’t live to celebrate their fifth birthday, what kind of strategies have you put in place to ensure you last a decade?
Every business requires continuous innovation in order to adapt to the ever-evolving market trends and needs on matters directly relating to their client-base for instance payment modes, popular services or seasonal variations among others.
As a start-up you need to be at par with current technological advancements so that our systems and services do not become obsolete.
As always customers are the driver of every business and when you don’t regularly communicate with them you are actually killing your brand. As a company we have a robust client feedback-handling system that always ensures happy and satisfied clients.
Mentors are key in start-ups especially when it comes to growth strategy, do you have a mentor and what is your opinion of having one?
I believe mentors play a very important part towards an individual’s professional and personal growth. I have two mentors. One is a largely professional mentor who has walked with me through my start-up journey right from its inception while the other is mostly a personal mentor, who has played a big role in my work-life balance. In some instances, they provide insight into either aspect hence there is no clear-cut line margin between them.
Continuous learning is key in every established or start-ups, what kind of courses are you pursuing that helps you effectively manage your business?
Learning is a continuous process. I am currently undertaking an online course that is being run by the University of Bristol. It is about understanding oneself, coming up with ideas and turning the ideas into reality. I believe continuous innovation is necessary for our growth and survival in this arena.