Lawrence Munezero is one of the seven Burundians chosen as Tony Elumely Entrepreneurship Program Fellows-TEEP2015 -2016. His project to create an online market has seduced the selection committee and the young Burundian was offered a sum of 10 000 USD (half of it is to be refunded) to support his project, in addition to a mentoring program. His ambition is to create the largest online market in East-Africa. His project, Isokoo is already operational in Burundi and Tanzania.
Akeza.net has met the young man.
Akeza.net: – Where did the idea/project of Isokoo originate from?
Lawrence: The Idea of Isokoo came when I was looking for information about how much tons of rice we produce in Burundi, a study I was doing for work. After meeting the problem of the lack of information about products, details about quantity and quality available, I had an idea of creating an informative platform that can provide adequate and relevant information about products available. I shared the idea with some friends and looked at the possibility of approaching people with products to provide information. I with 3 more friends started working on the Idea in 2013, but Isokoo got registered first in Burundi in 2014.The Isokoo idea has been there for the last 2 years.
Akeza.net: -What make you think this can work?
Lawrence: What makes me think it can work is that the world is moving very fast technologically and we need to create African platforms that can help improve African lives. East Africa only has a population of more than 140 million, which is a big market for anyone who is willing to work and improve that market. More and more people are now connected to the Internet. Isokoo provides free information about businesses operating in that market, Small and Medium Enterprises, Agribusinesses and any other information needed to help improve the quality of our products. With the right resources we will accomplish our goals.
Akeza.net: Why did you start by Burundi and Tanzania?
Lawrence: I started in Burundi, because I am Burundian and I live in Burundi. I want to help my people be updated to Global activity business. I want to bring Knowledge economy to communities in Burundi and in the region. Burundi has many products it can offer the region and world. For example, we have fresh and good vegetables and fruits that we can share with other partner states and get some profits. Burundi has some of the best craft arts that it can share with anyone in the world interested with Arts.
We are in the opening phase in Tanzania now, this is our second month, and we are based in Arusha.
Akeza.net: How are the transactions currently going? Are you selling? Are people using your ”online marketplace’’?
Lawrence: Transactions are going slow especially in Burundi due to the crisis the country is going through. Our Agents cannot approach business people to convince them to join the platform. And in Tanzania, we are still in the process to teaching our business owners the benefits of dealing online.
I would like to mention that Isokoo can help Business owners operating in Burundi by providing them a platform where clients can access their products, prices, pictures and other details at any time of the day without having to be in their SHOPS. Because of the lack of security in the country, a business that wishes to work virtually can contact us, and we send an Isokoo agent to your shop/business to get an inventory and pictures of your products and post them online for anyone to access them.
Isokoo gives the Business owner 1 free month to test the service and after 1 month, Isokoo monthly charge is 5000 FBU only per Business. I encourage business people in Burundi not to give up because of the tough times, but to embrace this Isokoo opportunity and display their products on the online platform. They have nothing to lose but only to gain more visitors and clients accessing your shops and products.
Akeza.net: How is this Teep fellowship going to help you get even better with your business?
Lawrence: The TEEP Entrepreneurship has equipped us with knowledge material that helps us in our daily activities. TEEP has been a very useful tool in the management of the resources that we have. We also learned how to look for investments, which is very important in Business. Apart from the knowledge we gained,Tony Elumelu has also supported us with 10.000 USD in funds, which is a big support to anyone starting up a Business. Mr.Tony Elumelu is an angel living in Africa. He is a blessing to Africa. Those funds have helped us grow in the region, where after receiving the funds, we opened www.isokoo.co.tz the Isokoo Tanzania branch. We will continue to grow in our region and be the largest online marketplace with relevant and adequate information.
Akeza.net: How does Isokoo work actually? The products, the payment, the delivery…
Lawrence: A Business owner/shop/agribusiness contacts Isokoo to collect and display products details such as photos, prices, location, Shop Name, Shop contacts and After collecting those informations, we display them on the platform. Visitors on Isokoo platfom by typing any products such as “Rice” will see all the shops and businesses dealing with Rice. A client can choose to be delivered the products and Isokoo will deliver in 12 hours. It is on the website.
Payment method in Burundi: Cash on delivery
– Delivery time : Ordered in the morning, delivered between 9am and 12am
-Orders from the afternoon: delivered between 2pm and 5pm
Payment method outside Burundi
-Wire transfer, Western Union, Money Gram, RIA, Rapid Transfer.
Same hours for Tanzania but with different payment methods, Mobile money : AirtelMoney and TigoPesa
Akeza.net: What is your ambition with this project?
Lawrence : My Ambition with this project is to create an online and mobile market platform with relevant and adequate information about products available. A platform where all the products details can be accessed and help improve the trade system in our region. I want to help businesses grow the volume of their sales by helping more people access to their products at a very reasonable price. Isokoo intends to start a marketing campaign that will grow the number of its services and the number of visitors on the website.
Isokoo project intends to create more jobs for the youth using the technology and businesses around us. Isokoo will be connecting an avocado grower in Gitega and a buyer in Nairobi. All the logistics from Gitega to Nairobi is to be done by the Isokoo Agents which is the young people we plan to give jobs.
Interview by Landry MUGISHA