The disruptions brought by COVID-19 compelled companies to rethink their approach to online trading in order to stay afloat.
Caleb Kusienya, director of the Karl Mediation and Arbitration Center in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, is among the many entrepreneurs who have turned to e-commerce in a bid to survive the pandemic.
Kusienya’s company provides dispute resolution services and trains those wanting to become case mediators.
When he made up his mind to expand online, he was equipped only with confidence and passion. And with these assets, he tapped the vast potential of e-commerce.
“The services brought a lot of convenience as people could have their dispute resolved from the comfort of their homes,” he said.
Kusienya said he gets up to five cases a month and the number of trainees has increased from five to 15 per session. He has eliminated marketing costs that ran to around $25 a month.
“E-commerce opened my eyes. I have realized there is a whole new world in terms of the things I can do and how much I can do,” he said. “With the COVID-19 situation, everybody is moving online. Everyone has a gadget and can access social media platforms.”
Kusienya hopes that e-commerce in Kenya and other African countries will be able to grow to the level of countries like China, where almost everything can be conducted online.
Lydia Atambo, the co-founder of Bafunde Academy, which aims to transform learning through technology, is also reaping the benefits of e-commerce.
Bafunde, which means “teach yourself”, supports trainers and educators in settings including organizations, universities and colleges through the delivery of digital content.
“Before COVID-19 pandemic struck, we believed in face-to-face trainings but there has been a culture change. We therefore realized that we can train online and people can still deliver,” Atambo said.
She said the uptake of courses has jumped during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the company’s client base seeing growth of up to 60 percent. The academy has 7,087 students.
Kusienya and Atambo are beneficiaries of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance E-commerce Booster Program, an initiative that helps smaller enterprises move ahead with e-commerce presence and diversify their revenue streams.
Launched in February, the program has trained 2,500 enterprises.
“The program took me from zero in terms of e-commerce to digital marketing knowledge, where I have not only set my business online but I’m also training my friends and helping them to set up their businesses online,” Kusienya said.
“If you get marketing firms to advertise for you and set up your online presence they charge upwards of $300 per month, which is a challenge for startups, so getting the training free from Kenya Private Sector Alliance was the best thing to happen for me this year.”
Kusienya said the opportunities presented by e-commerce can ease the high unemployment in the country.
“Most of the young people have business ideas but are finding it challenging to start off,” he said. “Being able to reach their target clientele is totally another different thing and that’s why many businesses don’t go beyond one year.”
Atambo said the program enabled his company to tailor-make products for the targeted clientele.