BAG Innovation seeking to reduce unemployment of Rwanda’s youth

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Rwanda-based startup BAG Innovation was shortlisted for this year’s Seedstars edition in the country. BAG Innovation is a Youth Consultancy Agency offering services such as youth consulting, youth recruitment, and capacity Building Training. Its main objective is to strengthen the capacity of university students, as well as those in higher learning institutions in Rwanda using the latest and most innovative approaches which are fit and a hot sale in the dynamic employment arena. The end-goal of this is to reduce unemployment and poverty of youth and the progress of this intervention will contribute towards the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
TechMoran spoke to BAG Innovations to find out more about how the startup intends to achieve its vision.

Tell us about yourselves; your team, your educational and professional backgrounds
BAG Innovation consists of a multicultural/disciplinary team. We have team members from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and Sweden. Our Swedish MD, Gabriel Ekman, has a project management and entrepreneurship background, both in studies and experience. He has started some few companies back home before he moved to Rwanda 2 years ago. Yussouf Ntwali, our COO and Co-founder, is our rapper/organizer/multi-talent who is yet to study on a higher level. Sonia Mutoni is our Head of Recruitment and actually has an educational background in Medicine, but who has proven to be an expert in driving our HR-department. Brian Andanje is our Lead Consultant who has a passion for WASH and training youth. Dina Nziza is our Sales Manager and expert communicator. Jean Luc Nshiminyana is our genius in the finance department and has a strong background in financial management. We also have a team of excellent “Baggers” who help us on a daily basis with sales, training, marketing and of course our Youth Consultancy.

How would you best describe Bag Innovation briefly, what does it do?
BAG Innovation is a Youth Consultancy Agency. We offer 3 services to our clients in Rwanda:
Youth Consulting: delivering affordable and creative development solutions for our partners in the areas of marketing, sales, product development, and operations.
Youth Recruitment: We offer our clients the most talented and pro-active young people for entry/mid-entry level positions. We have designed our own algorithms for the matchmaking process and screening that makes us more effective, faster and more reliable in our recruitment process.
Employee Training: We offer our clients the training modules they need to up-skill their teams in areas such as Sales/Marketing/Problem-Solving/Customer Service etc.
We train around 20 students/week to join our consulting program and learn more about what it means to build and analyze a business. After going through the training our young minds get to solve a real-life business challenge and present to the concerning company. After this, we put the young people into our recruitment process and more advanced consulting. We also place our students in temporary paid positions to build websites, manage social media, do research and much more to empower both the client and student.

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What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start this company?
There are a lot of NGOs and institutions in Rwanda working with youth development, but none of them is an attractive option for the current students in the country. BAG Innovation is a space for the young people to come and develop their skills on their own terms and compete with other like-minded talents. We have found a great balance between the consultancy (which is our entry-service) and Recruitment and Employee Training (where we actually make our main revenue from). There is a need for skills development not just with the students, but for the companies so they can invest in the future workforce. Investing in BAG Innovation therefore also becomes impactful for the company since we have the ability to train more students for every new client.

Who is your target market?
The company is currently operating in Kigali and also outreaching to Huye and Musanze among other provinces of Rwanda. We have 2 sides of BAG, our students (who attend for free) and our company clients (who pay for our 3 services). We target companies who are expanding in Rwanda or in the region. We have worked with big institutions like I&M Bank all the way down to fintech start-ups like Benefactors.

How does your company make money?
BAG values social enterprise, our aim is to train and equip young people with relevant skills needed on the job market to be able to recruit them into the companies we work with and reduce the unemployment among the youth in Rwanda. However, to sustain and help the social part of the business, our partner companies pay for the services offered to them: Students Consulting, Recruitment, and Capacity Building Modules.

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Who would you say is your major competition in this space at the moment?
There are a lot of NGOs and institutions in Rwanda working with youth development, but none of them is an attractive option for the current students in the country. BAG Innovation is a space for the young people to come and develop their skills on their own terms and compete with other like-minded talents. There are several recruitment agencies, but none of them can measure with our social impact (or prices). There are also many management consulting firms in Kigali, but we as BAG don’t see that as competition. We know what we can deliver and the clients know why they are coming to us, and it’s not for “advanced consulting”, eg Youth Consulting.

What is your vision for the company in the next 5 years? What is your plan for expansion?
BAG is striving to become the leading Youth Consultancy Agency in East Africa. We are developing our web and mobile platforms to accommodate more people and function just as well in our neighboring countries. After we have perfected our model here in Rwanda, we will be able to take our challenges we use here, to another context and another country. We know that many of the countries are facing the same challenges and we know that students in the region are in desperate need for a model like ours. Our goal is to have a digital platform that enables African students to solve challenges for each others countries, and eventually solve challenges on other continents. This will revolutionize the way companies approach students and enable SMEs to grow affordably.

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At the moment, how do you measure your own success? What are your metrics?
We are a self-funded company that has invested the last 2 years in building this model. We have had support from various business clients in the launch and now we are an operational business in Kigali. We started making money right after our pilot project in August 2017 and have since then worked with over 60 businesses/institutions with our 3 main services. We have won the “Best Innovation” award at the PSF expo 2017 for our product Coach Cards Rwanda (Team building game) which is now sold all over the country. In our first year, we have trained over 1600 students in our business development methods and 600 graduates in the country have become “BAG Innovators” and worked with our partner clients. We have also recruited 50+ youth into companies in Rwanda which is one of our most important measurements of success.

What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?
Dip your toes! Many people ask me how I dared to move to a country on the other side of the planet and start a company. My answer is: “Why not? I don’t know that it doesn’t work until I’ve failed….which it hasn’t yet”