We are fortunate to be living in an era where anyone can get almost anything done with the help of the internet. Whether it’s starting a business, accessing information, buying a house, learning a language, selling things, stalking people – the internet has revolutionized the way we do everything.
The challenge here in Kenya, however, is that many entrepreneurs are very conservative when it comes to adapting to the technology. And because of that, consumers are the ones that pay the price through the under-fulfillment of their modern day expectations.
Nobody wants to wait in queues anymore, we prefer to press buttons on our smartphones and have our problems solved. We have become spoilt brats, but that’s just a cost of modernization. Everything comes at a cost.
Below are the top 5 technology trends which businesses in Kenya can adopt to help streamline their processes, reduce their costs and enhance their chances of greater success.
Small businesses operating on a budget do not necessarily need to employ people to do menial tasks such as book keeping or social media posting. There are dozens of computer programs which can be used to automate such work. For instance, Hootsuite can be used to automate social media posts. Salesforce can be used to automate repetitive processes such as approvals and workflow. Quickbooks on the other hand can be used to automate accounting tasks.
Although some of these programs come at a cost, they are still significantly cheaper than hiring someone to do the same job. Automating repetitive tasks helps free up resources which can then be focused on other areas which are more technical.
2. Integrating artificially intelligent programs
The idea of Artificial Intelligence sounds like a long shot to many people, but it actually isn’t. Let me give you one example of how it is already being implemented by many innovative companies around the world. But before that, let me first introduce you to Mitsuku (link ‘Mitsuku’: goo.gl/5PgfUu) – a young girl trapped inside a computer.
Ok, not exactly that, but Mitsuku is the most human-like chatbot in the world. Go say hello when you get a moment.
Chat bots are artificially intelligent programs designed to replicate human conversations. For instance, if you ask a chat bot ‘What is the weather going to be like today?’ it would generate an instant response using data has been derived from the company’s database or from the internet.
‘It looks like it is going to be a sunny day’.
Many companies are shifting to the use of chat bots as the first line of communication with their customers. The advantage is that, being computer programs – they are available 24/7. A customer that leaves a query on a company’s Facebook page receives an instant response, regardless of the time of the day.
They can also scan through massive databases to find information much quicker than a human would. If set up correctly, chat bots can be a huge boost to the customer experience while reducing the costs associated with hiring personnel.
While the concept might sound a bit too complex, there has been tremendous advancements in the development of tools which enable businesses create their own chat bots. For example, you can now easily create a Facebook chat bot without any coding knowledge using a platform called Chattypeople.
3. Outsourcing to online freelancers
There are other types of work which are more technical in nature and cannot be automated using a computer program. Such tasks can be delegated to online freelancers.
Online outsourcing is often a more economical proposition than hiring full time employees. It can help businesses avoid paying monthly salaries, taxes, insurance, employee benefits, etc. Smaller businesses may not even need to rent office spaces if most of their work has been outsourced. Theoretically, a remote freelancer can do everything that an in-house employee can do, except maybe pick up the photocopies.
Some tasks that can be outsourced include web development, online marketing, accounting, customer services, graphic designing, business consultation, etc. The internet has made it very easy to outsource to world-class experts from countries like India and Philippines where labor is relatively cheap.
There are several platforms that can be leveraged to find such experts, including Upwork, Freelancer and Guru. The most common Kenyan platform is FiveSok.
4. Integrating online storefronts
The number of businesses in Kenya that are yet to adopt e-commerce is mind blowing. Integrating an online store can be an integral addition to any business. Most consumers nowadays tend to first research products or services which they seek online.
A Business that offers complete solutions via its online platform ultimately has an advantage over the ones which solely rely on their physical storefronts. The easier it is to buy a product, the more the product will sell. E-commerce websites can be easily set up without any coding experience using platforms such as Shopify and WordPress.
5. Using crowdfunding platforms to raise money
Raising capital is usually a major challenge for many new businesses. And although many startups and SMEs nowadays tend to bootstrap in order to get the off the ground without wasting time looking for capital – money will always be an essential requirement for any company that wishes to sustain its operations and scale in the long run.
Crowdfunding allows for small-time investors from all over the world, who generally have fewer investing restrictions, to put their money into a business idea. The most popular platforms are Kickstarter and Indiogogo. Both attract thousands of small-time investors who hope to invest in ventures that will be ‘the next big thing’. More than 104,000 projects were funded through Kickstarter alone between 2009 and 2016. That was over $2.3 billion worth of investments.
The future is here, ladies and gents. And moving forward, the businesses which are most likely to dominate the market and win over their competitor’s customers are the ones which use innovative ways to streamline their operations and stay ahead of the game.
Emmanuel Soroba is the founder and CEO of FiveSok, a Senior Editor at GrowthStrategies101 and a growth hacker for startups and SMEs. He started his career working in upscale hotels around the world – where he often got acquainted with business leaders staying over. His fascination with entrepreneurship became fully fledged after a tenure working in Silicon Valley, the startup capital of the world.