Young brains with big ideas; using IT to promote business

Students and young graduates are always advised to strive to be job-creators and not job-seekers.  While most graduates do not follow this advice and spend years searching for jobs, there are a few who use what they learnt in college to start successful businesses.
Small businesses like this one can use ICT to attract customers.
Small businesses like this one can use ICT to attract customers.

Students and young graduates are always advised to strive to be job-creators and not job-seekers.  While most graduates do not follow this advice and spend years searching for jobs, there are a few who use what they learnt in college to start successful businesses.

One such graduate is Emile Niyonzima, 30, who, with a group of friends, started an IT firm, Brain Technology, after graduating with degrees in Business Information Technology five years ago. The firm which is transforming the way of doing business with ICT in Rwanda. Business Times’ Joseph Ondiek caught up with Niyonzima at the recently-concluded Rwanda Expo:

Question: How did you come up with the idea of Brain Technology?

Answer:
Brain Technology was birthed and hatched while we were still in our second year at the National University of Rwanda. Together with three friends, Rodrique Ishimwe, Samson Niyigena and J.M.V Habyarimana, we realised that many students had problems accessing IT services because there were few computers at the university.

Therefore, we used to help do their tasks, including printing and typesetting and graphic design. Soon, we discovered that we were a quartet of entrepreneurs in the making because we had what our clients didn’t.

What did you do after graduation?

Immediately after graduation, we registered Brain Technology, but we had to assign it new objectives and goals. We came up with the Duhange Project that aimed at nurturing entrepreneurship. The project was intended to mainly expand, and serve as a bridge between entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas and venture capitalists.
   
Tell us more about the Duhange Project?

Duhange Project is a business-oriented idea. We realised Rwanda was becoming a regional giant as far as IT is concerned and wanted to take advantage of that. Already, technological innovations are affecting every facet of life in the country from health and education to banking services.

Rwanda is currently distributing free mobile phones to thousands of community health workers. However, there is a large segment of the population, especially in the rural areas and illiterate businesspeople, being left behind. They are yet to embrace the power of IT to develop their businesses.

So what is Duhange Project doing to address the issue?

Remember, the world’s biggest brands like Coca-Cola are popular because they took their products to the people. We follow a similar template; we take our IT products to the people.

Today, businesses are registered online, therefore, there is no need for someone to come from upcountry to register their enterprise in Kigali. We come to you and register your business at your doorstep.

We offer entrepreneurship skills based on our professional competence and experience. We help you set up your business by designing for you a viable plan that suits your business.

We are also fully involved in the initial steps of setting up your business.

What major projects are you involved in now?

Presently, we use the Internet to promote businesses in rural areas. While it takes Rwf15,000 to register business online with the Rwanda Development Board, we do it at Rwf10,000.

We also serve as an intermediary between clients and banks since we design their business plans.

When people want to request for bank loans, they also contact us for guidance.

We have also realised that social media is a powerful tool in marketing business, so, we also advertise the enterprises of our upcountry clients on Facebook.

The social media use English, but since most people here use Kinyarwanda as their medium of communication, therefore, we design the adverts in Kinyarwanda.

What has been your progress so far? Where do you see the firm in two to three years from now?

After registering the company, we faced a lot of problems, including lack of manpower and office space, but we pulled through.

Later, after acquiring a room in Nyabugogo, we grew from a skeleton staff to over 20 employees, as well as freelance staff.

We will expand to areas we have not spread our tentacles, and then in three years time, we will expand into regional EAC market.

What has the business achieved so far?

We have managed to expand in terms of the capital base and have already broken even. Right now, we are employers to over 20 people in different parts of the country and we are seeking to expand.

We have the requisite skills to transform businesses using IT. So far the response from the public has been tremendous and we hope to consolidate our future development from past experiences.

We have taken part in many entrepreneurship competitions and our most prized achievement is coming second in an entrepreneurship competition organised by the Rwanda Education Board two years ago.

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