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Online business not for the impatient

Unlike their predecessors like Kalahari and Dealfish who gave up on the Kenyan market, online firms like Zetu, Rupu and Olx are going strong.

These firms are exploring the Kenyan market to leverage on the internet penetration and are hopeful that business will catch up as days go by.

So how do you go about investing in an online business?

“Kenya is a peculiar market. While many people are using their phones for internet, it does not necessarily mean that they are making purchases,” said Martin Muli, an online marketing consultant.

When making an investment online, it is important for the investor to study the market carefully before putting his or her resources in advertisement, infrastructure and staffing.

“Online business in Kenya is long term and when setting it up, one should think of the next five to 10 years as it is not possible to reach profitability levels in a short period,” said Muli.

Jefwa Rua, an IT expert, says websites or online portals in Kenya should be a support plan for the real business. He, however, anticipates a change in future.

“Regardless of the uptake, the future looks bright for online business as people are slowly changing their perception. They will adapt to online purchasing behaviour,” said Rua.

To stay relevant in the market, investors need to let the business grow progressively.

“Let it grow one step at a time. Give people time to accept your ideas and to trust your mode of transaction,” advised Muli.

There is also need to research to understand what consumers are looking for and to get a grip of the local market.

Besides, before investing it is important to do your homework by talking to experts.

“Make sure that mobile money is core to your payment channels and take local market factors into consideration because what works for Amazon in North America will probably not work for your business in Kenya. Be willing to fail more than once before things straighten up,” Muli said.

Instead of investing millions of shillings in advertisement through billboards and TV commercials, use the social media to market your services and products.

During the adoption period, one can try to make more money from the main portal by diversifying the products as this could get you more traffic.

Rupu and Zetu, for instance, have included travel, distribution and online shops. This is done to pull  more people to the main portal and boost sales.