Sunday, October 16, 2011

When are Kenyan Internet Entrepreneurs Coming of Age?

At face value, Kenya is doing quite well in the the internet sphere; lots of bandwidth, more choices in terms of broadband service providers, deeper penetration and an online population that now numbers 10 million by CCK estimates. Kenyan population is increasingly using the internet to facilitate the daily tasks of life. The online population mostly goes online to look for jobs, read newspapers and a few popular blogs, network on Facebook on Twitter and watch videos and other less savoury content.

Earlier in the millennium, a typical user could only spend a few minutes or at most two hours at the steep costs of access. Today, cheaper internet means means people can afford to spend more time online looking for information and products. But are Kenyans shopping online or they are just browsing looking for information ad infinitum? For the internet to create value in the country, the statistics must generate value. 10 million people online creates great value and an economic sense only when their presence leads to a vibrant online marketplace. They must be empowered to find relevant goods and services and also make purchases online and not just information.

Don't Just Offer Information, Offer good and Services
A typical user should be able to order their monthly shopping from the comfort of their house, pay bills via the internet, buy shoes over the web from an online catalogue and have them delivered in hours, buy phones online, order lunch online and have it delivered to an office on time, browse and buy offers on hotel booking, spa treatment, weekend getaways, hair treatment, salons and so on.

To do this, trust in the online space is important. Many Kenyans I meet do not trust using their credit cards on e-commerce websites beyond the few trusted websites like amazon, airline booking, hotel booking etc.Internet banking is rapidly catching up in Kenya but the costs must be checked to make it affordable for consumers. That's the basis for consumer internet.

I think internet entrepreneurs in Kenya should start launching real all rounded businesses where the website is just part of the larger business process. If you are going to build an online store, then invest in a store or warehouse, a motorcycle for delivery, a secure e-commerce platform, an advertising budget and then go all out on marketing. invest for the long term and not the short term.

What we currently have in Kenya are "content entrepreneurs". People are launching websites that offer content for free to users and then relying entirely on the mercy of Google Adsense for revenue. This is the simplest and least profitable model. It does not make you rich unless you are corporation that can churn out 30,000 unique articles every year. I don't even see many Kenyan internet investors involved in lead generation, a very profitable business in advanced internet economies like the United States. Kenyan Domain Registrars and ISPs should particularly exploit this niche. Kenyan companies, especially in insurance and banking sector should exploit lead generation and also develop affiliate programs tailored for the local market. Other opportunities include dropshipping.

Entrepreneurs must now reap from the infrastructure. I love what South Africans are doing online with their profitable e-commerce ventures including the popular Group Buying websites and deals websites. Sites like City Slicker, Daddy's Deals offer limited time deals on relevant products and services that consumers really need like offers on Spa treatment, massage, manicure, pedicure, jacuzzi/sauna time, weekend getaways, weekend flight offers etc.

It's not for the Kenyan consumer to change their shopping/purchasing habits; the onus is on the entrepreneur to offer relevant, compelling and trusted products and platform that consumers will find convenient and affordable. So the work is cut out for you the internet entrepreneurs of Kenya; offer value and relevance and the money will follow. As they say in this business, build and they will come.

If you own an e-commerce website, please post a link below and let us know what you offer the Kenyan market:

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