It’s no secret that commercial event organisers make their money from ticket sales. Instead, what could be termed secret, or even mysterious, is why these events that usually attract large crowds only manage to bring in a pittance from gate collections.
After immersing himself in some research to unlock this puzzle, Audifax Byiringiro came to the conclusion that there was a problem: “I believe that solving any problem begins with statement of the problem,” he starts.
“What is the problem?” I ask him and he responds almost immediately: “The problem is that event organisers in Rwanda are still relying on the human eye to verify tickets at the entrance.”
I ask him what’s wrong with that and he explains: “With all the pressure and crowds of impatient people to deal with at the ticketing points, it becomes hard to differentiate the fake from genuine tickets.”
After knowing the problem, his next step was to find a solution using his best weapon–Information Technology, a field of which he speaks quite proudly: “For me when I get any problem, I start to think of how IT can change the situation. Every problem for me presents a tech opportunity.”
Byiringiro is talking about a bigger problem here: that of counterfeit tickets that city fraudsters duplicate and sell on the black market whenever there is a big show in town. He is saying that unknowingly, organisers share their profits with these unscrupulous people, who duplicate tickets and sell them to unsuspecting members of the public.
And the practice is so wide-spread that it has come to be accepted as a necessary evil at music concerts, sports matches, exclusive parties –think of any event where one has to present a ticket to gain entry.
It is at this point that Byiringiro started to seriously think about what could be done to remedy the situation:
Finding a remedy
He was convinced that with the right application of Information Technology on the part of events organizers, the issue of counterfeit tickets would easily be stamped out–for good.
“I talked to a few organisers of events about the way forward, but many could not believe that anything could be done to change the situation.”
However early this year, he went a step further and approached organisers of Miss Rwanda 2015 beauty pageant, armed with an IT proposal with practical solutions to the stated problem. This was followed by a brief presentation. During this presentation he demonstrated how with the use of IT, tickets to the event could be sold in a way that is completely counterfeit-proof.
What Byiringiro presented and used at Miss Rwanda is actually a computer software – an Events ticketing application that protects purchased tickets with serial numbers known as bar codes. Using his own database and software, he can check each ticket to verify if it’s genuine.
He explains that the application’s core function is to mitigate losses arising from the sale of counterfeit tickets on the part of organizers of such events.
The bar codes come by way of a set of numbers printed on the tickets, and that are only visible through a special gadget known as a bar code scanner.
Being the first such proposal they had received, the Miss Rwanda establishment gave him a try–contracting him to design and print tickets for the pageant’s pre-selection phase. Three days to the gala, Byiringiro and his team went to work, selling tickets for Rwf1,000 (ordinary), and Rwf5,000 for VIP.
“At the pre-selection stage we managed to detect 53 people with fake tickets, yet we had only started selling the tickets three hours to the event,” he explains. “We handed over these cases to the police, who later helped to trace the fake tickets back to the seller. We discovered that most buyers were just victims of fraudsters. They didn’t have an idea that what they were carrying were fake tickets.”
The tricksters also seemed more interested in lower income groups as all the duplicated tickets fell under the cheapest category.
For the grand finale, the cheapest ticket went for Rwf15,000 (ordinary), while the VIP tickets went for Rwf25,000. The most expensive ticket went for Rwf200,000, for a table of eight.
This time, there was no single case of counterfeit reported.
Byiringiro’s application could deal a mortal blow to the ever-present problem of counterfeit tickets, if you know the workings of both. Fraudsters operate by buying a genuine ticket, scanning and printing it in high resolution, something that is cheap and easy to do even with a good desktop printer.
But however good the quality of the print, it can only evade the scrutiny of a naked eye. Not the bar code scanner. Yet the damage these fraudsters cause to organisers of events goes beyond just that.
To safeguard against this practice, most events handlers hold onto their tickets and only begin to sell them days or hours to the event. With this relatively safe option in our midst, we may soon be able to enjoy the luxury of buying tickets to our music or comedy events and local soccer matches several months in advance.
Byiringiro explains that his company, Audifax Green Tech offers four different services: “We design and create tickets protected by bar codes; we print the tickets (for safety reasons), we sell the tickets (both through pre-sales and at the gate), and we also track tickets –which is basically checking them for validity.”
He works with a client all through the event. “We get our agents to physically sell tickets, and through our system track how many people are already in an event at any time, in line with standard police and security regulations.
We also give a system report, and a financial report detailing how many tickets were sold, how much money was made, and how many tickets were left-over.
More than just ticketing
From that first contract from Miss Rwanda, his company has moved from just ticketing to providing a whole range of inter-related services. “After what we did for them (Miss Rwanda) at the pre-selection, they renewed our contract to include other things like making invites and badges. We design and print anything an event organiser would want to use and keep track of at their event. We always keep track of the bar code attached to each invite, badge or coupon, so we can track it to know who was in attendance and for how long, and who did not attend.
Our software is able to record the exact time that someone came to and left an event. This service is also applicable to meetings.”
He works with a few part-time hands whenever he gets a contract, and has so far trained three of these in ticket-tracking, one as assistant systems administrator, and another as a designer.
Who is Byiringiro?
Audifax Byiringiro grew up in a family of five boys and one girl. They were raised by their mother, the father having died in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, a year after his birth.
“Before her death last year, my mother was an entrepreneur and self-employed, and I think it’s from her that I fell in love with entrepreneurship. As a young boy growing up, my mother and elder brothers always told me that I was fond of electronics and technology,” he says.
During his S3 vacation he was exposed to a computer for the first time. “A friend who stayed nearby had a computer at his home, and in my vacation I would spend most of my time there, knowing that finally I had got something which I loved fully.”
In S4, he enrolled for Computer Science and Management at Apade SS in Sonatubes.
In his S6, he emerged second-best student in Computer Science and Management countrywide, after scoring 54 out of 60 points.
This excellent performance enabled him to win a scholarship at the National University of Rwanda in Butare (now University of Rwanda, Huye Campus), where he is currently pursuing a bachelors degree in Business Information Technology.
Byiringiro’s other passions lie in the sport of cricket, which he has played at various levels.
He was Captain of the U-19 national cricket team that finished runner-up at the Africa U-19 Cricket Championship in Swaziland in 2010. He has also played for the U-15 and U-17 national cricket teams, and as opening Batsman for the national cricket team. Today, he still offers his cricket skills by way of coaching to a dozen schools around Butare (primary and secondary), and also at his university.
“With an entrepreneurial spirit, any problem can be turned into an opportunity.”