When Robert Lang'at started his technology business with Sh50,000, in a shared office space, he knew it will grow one day, but not to the levels that it has now.
However, as the number of mobile phone users increases and big companies seek small entrepreneurs to manage their electronic messaging services, helping them to close the communication gap with customers, so has his bulk SMS company.
“With the little resources I had at the time, personal savings and contributions from friends, I started Mobitech Technologies from home. Then I moved to a shared office after getting a few clients. Later, I secured the required business permits and moved to our own office,” says Mr Langat.
Gaining the trust of his customers was his first hurdle.
“But once we got our first clients, we got referrals and it became easier to expand the business after one year,” he says at the company’s offices in Nairobi’s Westlands.
“We established Mobitech Technologies in 2012. It is a licensed content service provider with the Communications Authority of Kenya. We provide a range of value-added services to telcos including Safaricom and Airtel,” he says.
Mr Lang’at, a telecommunications engineer by profession, says his business mainly majors in bulk SMS services and premium short codes.
“I was in the IT and telecommunications field creating mobile applications. Then I saw the gap in the market to offer bulk SMS solutions and other IT-related services to businesses and institutions,” he says.
His company partners with telco companies that provide mobile network services like Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya. So, how did he bag the big clients like Safaricom and Airtel?
“We started by creating a great product and building good customer relations. We have a web-based portal that we create accounts for their customers that they have full control over.
They simply log in, upload their customer contacts and send them SMS,” he says, adding that their bulk SMS "run on a robust, efficient and secure system that connects to various telcos.”
Learning institutions, saccos, casinos and supermarkets make up a bulk of their big clients.
“We also have churches, internet service providers, government institutions, real estate companies, welfare groups, hospitals, and sports betting firms among many others,” says Mr Lang’at.
From a solo tech-preneur, Mr Lang’at now has five employees and serves more than 1,000 clients.
“Our products are easy to use, and since our services are consumed digitally, customers do use necessarily have to come to our offices,” says Mr Lang’at.
The bulk SMS industry has attracted many entrepreneurs, creating jobs in a thriving ICT industry.
Over the years, many entrants in the bulk SMS service providers market have encountered stiff competition from the likes of Mr Lang’at.
“There is stiff competition from other service providers. The regulatory fee that should be paid to the Communications Authority of Kenya is also a challenge. The pandemic also led to a drop in business as schools, for instance, cut back on spending,” he says.
Kenya’s tech space has been growing, gaining a huge global appeal, meaning that opportunities abound.
He advises those who would like to venture into such a business to believe in themselves, not to give up and give their customers a good service.
“We charge a flat rate of 35 cents per SMS across all networks in Kenya. We don’t charge any monthly maintenance fees or set up fees. There is no expiry period on the SMS purchased. For a sender name, we charge a one-time fee of Sh6,800 per telco,” adds Mr Lang’at.
The tech-preneur is looking to expand to Uganda and Tanzania and possibly the whole of Africa.
“We also intend to expand our network outside Nairobi to other parts of the country where people don’t know us and our products and services yet,” he says.