SMEs digest: Taking digital technology by the horns

Friday September 24 2021
Digital pic
By Gadiosa Lamtey

Dar es Salaam. Fear of stiff competition from big players established in the market was one of the things that made Michael Mallya, 30, and Kennedy Mmari, 29, at first hesitate to start own business company.

But as technology advanced, they gathered the courage and took full advantage of digital technologies to grab their share of the fast-growing market.

The two young men embraced digital technologies and are urging the government and sectoral stakeholders to invest more in this industry as it is increasingly becoming a basic need in the world – creating jobs for millions of youth across the world.

Mr Mallya and Mr Mmari tell the SMEs Digest of The Citizen that they currently own ‘Serengeti Bytes,’ a public relations, marketing and technology company that was established two years ago – and, as it is, fellow youth have begun to benefit from its services.

“To build a more inclusive digital society and the future of youth overall, we urge leaders in government, the private sector, academia, and other key stakeholders to ensure that young people are equipped with the necessary digital skills to succeed in the job market,” says Mr Mallya who is the company’s chief operations officer (COO).

According to them, tens of millions of future jobs are projected to demand significantly better digital skills such as software and app development, and although young people frequently see themselves as ‘digital natives’, most do not have adequate digital skills.

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When the two met during their days at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) about eight years ago, little did they know that their meeting was the beginning of a venture that would not only be their career, but would create jobs for many other, and contribute to tackling unemployment in the country.

With an initial capital of around Sh50 million – money which both had saved in more than two years after they graduated – they were able to incorporate Serengeti Bytes. But, although they say they are happy with the stage they have already reached so far, they stress that they have not realised even five percent of their broad vision.


How they started

They told The Citizen’s SMEs Digest: “I remember we were three in the second year at the University – Kennedy, Nancy, and I – when we thought of establishing an integrated communications agency. We even devised a name for the company, MINAKE,representing the first two letters of our names,” they explain.

“Unfortunately, we could not pull out everything we needed to start the business back then but the idea stuck in our minds. Now we know that we needed so many things, we needed experience, capital, and business skills to start a business but at that particular time, a dream was all we needed,” they say.

“We both embarked on employment. I worked as a public relations and communications specialist for one of the leading human rights organization where I honed my skills in public relations and communications for advocacy. Kennedy worked with various companies and organizations as well as consulting government institutions on various areas of public relations, digital, and strategic communications,” says Mallya.

“Serengeti Bytes was officially incorporated and started operations in 2018 and by mid-2019 we had a well-furnished office and everything in place ready to compete in the market,” he says.


Business and success

“Our business focus is on service provision in areas of communications, technology and innovation, marketing, advertising, public relations, and digital services such as systems and software development,” says Kennedy, who is the chief executive officer.

Mallya says the Serengeti Bytes – whereby ‘Serengeti’ was drawn from the world’s famous Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and ‘Bytes’ is a digital data term.

“We believe that the world is limitless when our creative efforts are combined with digital technologies, and our broader vision is to build Serengeti Bytes to become a Global Technology Company with a pan-African outlook,” Kennedy says.

He adds: “We are striving to ensure that communication is conducted strategically and for impact. We have successfully made an impact on our clients and partners in various assignments and we have continued to be trusted by many others.”

According to them, even after having invested some Sh50 million, they are nowhere near 5 percent of their vision but are glad they started and keep on going strong by each passing day.

Currently, the company employs eight people and plans are underway to increase the number. They also work with consultants who are especially youth, which translates to sharing broader opportunities for mutual growth.

In 2020, they came up with a unique initiative that is the ‘Tanzania Digital Awards’ to shine a spotlight on digital initiatives in the country.

That initiative helped boost their visibility and earn acceptance in the market.

“We take pride in being creative, innovative, and for impact agency, something that we have assessed to be a missing puzzle in the strategic communication sector.”

Another secret to success is the ability to deliver results and the desired impact to clients.

“Our solutions are tailored to specifically respond to the specific needs of our clients, we always avoid a one size fits all approach which is a common practice in the market. We also try our level best to integrate digital technologies and traditional strategies to produce the best mix,” says Kennedy.


Why the youth need to embrace digitalisation in full

Although young people frequently see themselves as ‘digital natives’, most lack adequate digital skills to fill vacancies.

“To build a more inclusive digital society and the future of youth overall, we would personally urge leaders in governments, the private sector, academia, and other key stakeholders to act to ensure that young people are equipped with the necessary digital skills to succeed in the job market,” reiterates Kennedy.

“This includes the enacting of policy and legal frameworks that are friendly for learning, employment, and ease of doing business through digital. We believe that it is through the digital transformation that Tanzania can truly bring the best out of its human resource and stand a chance of making sustainable advancements in all aspects,” observes Michael.


Challenges and future plans

“We focus on understanding dynamics across the ecosystem among stakeholders. We collaborate with stakeholders – end-users or service providers – to build solutions and strategies that address issues and generate value and impact possibilities,” notes Michael.

The two are envisioned to grow not just in Tanzania, but across the continent and global at large.

“It is still too early to disclose; but we currently have a presence in Ghana and a representative in London, in the United Kingdom as part of expansion vision. In three years, we believe that we will have built more solutions across the region,” Mallya tells SMEs Digest.

Speaking on the competition, Mmari says it is indeed stiff when it comes to the integrated communications business. Fear of big players and competition are among the things that made them hesitant at first.

“It’s tough for anyone to start as an entrepreneur, building a new business from the ground up. There are many challenges we face as young entrepreneurs, sometimes being financial, age stereotypes, or sometimes social rejection of sorts.

“But, as we are still young, we have the wildest ideas and solutions that can really work, if they receive the support they need… And they can have considerable impact on our country’s development,” Kennedy elaborates wearing a broad smile.