How small service businesses are seeking to remain relevant

A wall showing several services offered by one small business in Kacyiru Sector. Simon Peter Kaliisa.

A business is an entity that provides a particular solution to the needs of a category of people within society. However, the changing environment fuelled by advancing technology, coupled with dropping prices of several devices, is increasingly disrupting the mandate.

With the new frontiers in technology taking centre stage, small businesses, specifically those in the service sector, are struggling to absorb the pressure dictated from the business environment that is changing at a disorienting pace.

The businesses include printing, internet cafes, and photo-studios, among others.

Given the fragile financial muscle of such businesses, it makes it even harder for them to revolutionise because they can’t invest in research and development, and the immediate solution may be to relocate to areas considered to be intact.

Theophile Nshimiyumuremyi, who started his printing business in 2008 in Kacyiru, says during that time, printing was one of the most profitable business options one could venture in, but things took a detour in 2014 as revenue was slumping.

Nshimiyumuremyi, like other small service business owners, is struggling to make a living.

But he has been able to maintain his business location and also provide jobs to three people.

The kind of innovation Nshimiyumuremyi has brought to his business is moderate; there is the printing and being a mediator for bolstering services like ‘Agent Banking’ and other online payments, where he earns a commission.

With these services, Nshimiyumuremyi has been able to turn his small shop into a one-stop centre providing services like mobile money, express passport photos, Mobicash services, Irembo payments and printing, and Rwanda Revenue Authority, Equity Bank Agent and photocopying.

Nshimiyumuremyi admits that providing such services has increased his revenue.

“We are next to Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration; people come for passport photos, or photocopies or to print other documents, and we help them make payments for the passport using Irembo and Mobicash, this has increased business revenue,” he says.

Dunda Iradukunda is another small service owner, who started an Internet Café business in 2010, and that time, given the limited access to the internet, Iradukunda made good business, charging Rwf 500 for 30 minutes and Rwf 200 for 15 minutes’ access to the internet.

Iradukunda says that the advancing technology, especially the introduction of smartphones and ever falling cost of internet, has cast a strong cloud on his business, it has given at least everyone access to the internet, plummeting the major revenue source to his business.

Like Nshimiyumuremyi, Iradukunda was not prepared to let it go, instead of closing the business, he went for other options, like scanning, becoming an internet service provider and also selling technology devices like flash disks, power banks, earphones and USB cables.

Iradukunda says that this prolonged his business’ lifespan, as he no longer relies heavily on the internet as the main source of revenue.

Iradukunda, also to increase his income, started to design brochures, birthday cards and wedding invitations, given the demand in society.

Nshimiyumuremyi and Iradukunda both agree that small businesses will continue to face hard times because change is inevitable, but what’s important lies in their ability to realise opportunities that change comes with.

“Change is inevitable, the solution can never be closing the business or relocating, but to remain innovative and try to look out for opportunities that can enable one to build their business,” Iradukunda says.


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