Tina Byaruhanga and HotKyana.com – pioneering Ugandan e-commerce.
I was in Kampala, Uganda just over a week ago on a work related trip. The trip lasted close to a week so I had quite a bit of time on myÂ to get a feel of how things are looking there in terms of technology. The last time I was in Uganda was approximately one year ago and at the time I did not really get to move around much since I was attending a conference. However, one thing is for sure, all the on-going construction and infrastructural investments in Kampala show that the country is on the move.
In terms of technology, what is very apparent in Uganda’s telecommunications sector where there are 5 mobile network operators comprised of Warid, MTN, Orange, UTL and Airtel is that the fight for the data market is in full swing. Everyone of these telcos is offering all sorts of consumer and business data propositions as evidenced by the large number of billboards all around the city promoting dongles, bundles, etc. In addition, there is also at least one CDMA player also offering data services there.
I also had a chance to venture into down town Kampala to get a feel of what was happening in the cyber cafes for the masses. Indeed, just like in Kenya, I found many cyber cafes offering incredibly inexpensive Internet access. One thing is for sure, Uganda is riding the broadband wave and its possible that they too will become a major centre for technology innovation in the East African region, in addition to Kenya. I would say that for entrepreneurs and investors now is the time to get a foothold in Uganda lest you miss the train when it leaves the station – there is money to be made.
In-line with this post, I had a chance to meet Tina Byaruhanga who is the Entrepreneur behind a start-up e-commerce business in Uganda called “Hotkyana”. Tina started HotKyana about 8 months ago to offer Ugandan ladies an alternative shopping destination for high-end clothing and accessories.
Tina says that HotKyana is more than an online store – its a high-end consumer lifestyle that she is trying to promote in the marketplace. By the way, “kyana” means “chic” in Luganda which is the widest spoken ethnic language in Uganda – therefore, HotKyana means, quite literally, “Hot Chic”.
HotKyana operates by taking online orders via its web site. It does not yet offer credit card processing online so most of the payments they receive to-date are via cash, mobile money and direct cash deposits to their bank account. According to Tina, the payments space has been a major challenge but mobile money is proving to be a major boon for them. What is interesting to note is that HotKyana also gets orders from as far Rwanda showing that their reach is significant.
HotKyana has grown largely through referrals from happy and satisfied customers as they hardly do any direct marketing. However, social media and especially Facebook has been a big part of their marketing strategy and they have a built a community there that supports HotKyana.
As of this writing Tina says that they get anywhere from 10 to 30 orders per week which has grown significantly over time. Tina is hoping to expand their business and may even consider getting a foothold in larger regional markets such as Kenya. All in all, I was really impressed with Tina and what she is doing with HotKyana in Uganda.