Technology

Mr Monitor: What I develop tracks people, transactions

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Robisearch Limited director Robert Manyal at his office in Ngara, Nairobi. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

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Summary

  • Robert Manyala developed a passion for technology from a young age.
  • This passion for technology extended into the university where he chose to study Computer Science at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT).
  • He moved on to create simpler biometric systems targeting schools, companies, and property owners to help them conduct their business in a more accountable manner.

Robert Manyala developed a passion for technology from a young age, knowing the impact it can have on shaping the world.

This gave him an edge early in life, knowing the career direction to take while his peers were still lost in the maze of searching for what to pursue.

Mr Manyala started developing simple software systems such as websites and commercialised them while in secondary school.

This passion for technology extended into the university where he chose to study Computer Science at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT). It is here that he learnt how to create advanced tech systems such as biometric and point-of-sale tools to provide accounting solutions.

Mr Manyala received good feedback from clients who were happy with how they could easily account for stock and sales through the solutions, and this inspired him to legitimise the business.

“With the urge for these innovations to be implemented, I had to form a company and bring on board other individuals because I could not manage the systems alone,” said Mr Manyala in an interview with Digital Business.

So, in 2015, he withdrew his Sh500,000 savings and used this to secure an office space in Nairobi’s Ngara Estate and equip it, recruited a small workforce, and registered Robisearch as a limited company. His first major invention under the company was a biometric land registration system, which he hoped would reduce fraud in land management.

Among others, this system would prevent duplication of title deeds because doing a land transaction would, therefore, require biometric registration.

“I developed the product, then took a big leap of faith and approached some government officials whom I pitched the idea to. They were impressed and moved the proposal to then Lands Minister Charity Ngilu who agreed to fund me to develop a prototype,” said Mr Manyala.

However, the biometric land registration system was resisted by various groups that were benefiting from unscrupulous land transactions. Instead of injuring his feelings, this made Mr Manyala bolder.

He moved on to create simpler biometric systems targeting schools, companies, and property owners to help them conduct their business in a more accountable manner.

One was the point-of-sale system that would enable investors to track the performance of their businesses remotely, and know whether staff were accountable.

“Many businesses don’t know how much they are making and they don’t know which decisions to make because they have no data. Somebody who runs multiple businesses, for instance, could have a tough time tracking their profits and business performance. They could end up losing stock, or money but have no one to account for this, or even if they know this person was not being honest, they are unable to prove it,” said Mr Manyala.

His firm has also developed a school management system for monitoring students through a check-in system. Any time a child is leaving school whether it is because of school fees or because they are going back home, parents can know the time the child has left school and when to expect them.

They have also developed a property management system to help landlords and property owners manage properties from one central place. Someone who owns multiple residential houses is, thus, able to know the vacancies and status of payments instead of relying on agencies and caretakers. Tenants can also use the portal to speak up. Agencies working with multiple landlords can also leverage the tool to simplify work.

Mr Manyala says the biggest challenge the business, which currently registers annual turnovers of more than Sh5 million, faces is “competition from cheap but sub-standard products”.

“You can try selling someone a product at Sh10, but a customer will tell you they can get the same product at Sh2, so for them as long as the name is the same, then they do not see why there should be a difference in value,” said Mr Manyala.

The other challenge is how fast technology keeps changing, where an innovation that seems popular today becomes outdated tomorrow. But with a workforce of 12, the team is relying on the competition to sharpen skills and produce better products.

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