Techpreneurs and entrepreneurs in the formal and informal sector had a chance to rub shoulders with executives of various industries in a conference organized by Safaricomand held at the MichaelJosephcenter. The conference which was dubbed Creatives in business forum focussed on the following themes :- Creatives, Community and Network.Showing off it’s local appeal, the event drew a lot of interest and participation from the tech community, music and performing arts industry and internet based entrepreneurs. The sessions addressed the modern day challenges facing startups and demystifying the concepts of e-commerce and Intellectual property rights.
The morning session highlighted the significance of e-commerce in boosting the overall operations of a startup. One of the panellists, Mr. Denis Muthama from Mocalitynoted that the idea of E-commerce is picking up, but it is still hampered from releasing its full potential by these obstacles:-
- A lack of a valid electronic payment system that is nationally accepted.
- Haphazard physical addressing that stymies delivery of goods ordered online.
- and Kenyan consumers not cultivating a culture of purchasing goods and services online.
How to Increase Visibility Online
A dilemma that startups are grappling with is how increase visibility online. The proprietor and CEO of Cakes.co.ke, Murugi Wanjama reiterated the importance of search engine optimization Techniques (SEO) as a process of improving visibility and popularity of a webpage in search engine. Visibility is further improved by having strong preemptive keywords that customers might use to find content online. E.g. Key words can be bought from Google or Mocality at 5220/= for 3 months. Mrs. Wanjama advised budding startups to keep their content free, catchy and relevant.
Another area of concern was web security. The entrepreneur should not be concerned with the hosting of the website whether locally or abroad. They should instead factor in the benefits they derive from the hosting company it terms of connectivity, backup facilities cost and data encryption services.
M-Pesa for E-commerce
A recurring query of the entire session was the role of M pesa as a conduit for E-commerce. To dispel all negative publicity about the money transfer service, the M pesa manager was present to answer any burning questions on this matter. A couple of the audience members required clarification on how best to use M pesa in their informal businesses and collateral potency of the Money transfer services.
The second session was quite interactive. The panel consisted of executives from the copyright and patent board and a local Gospel Artist (Juliani). The audience wanted to know the procedure and implications of applying and acquiring a patent and copyright. Dr. Henry Mutai, the Managing Director KIPI ( Kenya Industrial Copyright Institute), was at hand to clarify any issues regarding patents and patenting process in the country. He promised to make the entire procedure a bit user friendly and switch all operations from paper to digital content.
Moreover, he was quick to stress that Patent application procedure need to show that the innovation is new internationally. The institute has access to international databases for searching (novelty search). The invention must be non-obvious and useful in an industry. Patents are territorial in nature (Applicable in country of registration). The vast majority of patents filed in KIPI are pharmaceutical in nature. Dr. Mutai further reiterated that it was possible to patent a product and a process as well.
Speaking on behalf of artists and individuals in the performing arts, Juliani spoke at length regarding the plight of an artist in the 21st century. He was quick to suggest that the internet is a necessary evil through which artists can promote themselves. On the flip side, the internet is a haven of pirate domain where music and content that took months of crafting can be downloaded illegally. This loss of revenue and goodwill erodes the value of an artists leaving him or her without a steady source of income and uncertainty about the future.
The day’s lesson can be derived from a quote by Professor Nicholas Negroponte, founder and director of the world famous MassachussettsInstituteofTechnology'sMediaLaboratory when he stated that “E-commerce will overtake everything and the e will be dropped. It will be discarded quite soon, and just become commerce”. The predictions that one billion people will be on the internet by the end of 2013 will be proved too conservative. Electronic businesses will be the order of the day and businesses that hope to transition into the 22nd century ought to possess technology in their arsenal as a tool of trade.