The cost of mobile phones has decreased steadily, and what was once considered a luxury good is now a necessity for many Kenyans.
In order to understand mobile phone usage at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) in Kenya, iHub Research and Research Solutions Africa conducted a 6-month study, funded by infoDev (World Bank).
The study covered urban and rural areas of 6 districts in Kenya. Its findings are not nationally representative, but comparisons with representative surveys show no significant differences for key indicators, such as phone possession. The advanced draft report is available athttps://blogs.worldbank.org/ic4d/files/ic4d/mobile_phone_usage_kenyan_base_pyramid.pdf.
The final report will be released to the public by the end of 2012.
The following are some initial findings from the study:
- 1 in 4 Kenyans at the BoP browse Internet on their mobile phone
- Low awareness of other existing mobile applications
So, what does this mean? Creative marketing of your product is critical. It is not enough to have a beautiful product that meets everyone’s needs. You need to get the word out there! We found that TV advertising and word of mouth were the most often cited ways the BoP received information about new products.
Keep in mind that just because someone knows about your product does NOT necessarily mean they will use it; but if someone doesn’t know about your product, they DEFINITELY will not use it.Thus, rather than simply having no marketing strategy whatsoever, it would be very beneficial for start-ups to thoughtfully develop a feasible marketing plan for their business and to actively work towards implementing it. As a start-up, you are well placed to develop innovative, on-the-ground-based approaches to marketing. For example, partnering with community radio stations to host a Q&A session about the technological product could help you toreach new users much faster, or in urban communities, small fliers and posters could be equally effective. Consider building strategic partnerships with media outlets that might benefit from your product or data as well.
- Health and education Information most desired
- 1 in 5 forgo an expenditure to buy credit
This illustrates that, if the value of making the call or SMS is perceived to be great enough, the BoP will spend for it, even if it means they have to forgo other expenditures. If the value is not seen as great enough, the BoP will not spend their money on it. In short, the BoP can be your customers, but you need to prove to them that your service/product is worth it! What will they gain in return and how certain can they be of that outcome? Make sure your marketing campaign addresses these questions about your product’s value-add.
- Calling, SMS, Mobile Money Transfer are the major uses
- No difference in mobile phone usage between men and women other than mobile Internet usage, which is dominated by educated male youth
- Higher likelihood of technology usage by those educated past primary level
It will be very interesting to see how the recent switch off of approximately 2 million “fake phones” by CCK and MNOs will affect the BoP, as it is anticipated that most of the owners of “fake” phones were those at the lower economic strata. It is likely that many of the phones being used by the BoP to access Internet-based applications (like Facebook) were switched off. If former owners of such phones cannot afford to purchase similar Internet-enabled genuine phone replacements, we may find more genuine, but basic phones being used in Kenya in the short-term.
Based on these key facts and other insights gained from the research, we advise mobile application developers focused on BoP to develop for their users’ specific needs, and carefully ponder their technological platform choice. We believe that due to the difficulties faced by mobile application start-ups for scaling, collaboration amongst the stakeholders in the mobile telephony industry is critical for relevant mobile applications to reach the BoP.
If Government, MNOs, Donors and Investors, and Local Content Developers can form meaningful partnerships, the applications being developed locally may be able to scale further and faster, thereby hopefully helping to alleviate some of the poverty at the base of the pyramid in Kenya.
Essar Yu launched free browsing on Facebook 24/7 in December 2011 in an attempt to expand its subscriber base.