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Local solutions give TechnoBrain a fighting chance against giants

Manoj Shanker
Manoj Shanker, CEO of TechnoBrain Group. PHOTO | COURTESY 

For the last 21 years, TechnoBrain has been providing digital business solutions such as imports tracking, e-passport, mobile-based healthcare applications as well as e-visa to both governments and private firms.

For instance, by using machine learning, the company has made it possible for banks to trace related transactions in real time, even when they are executed in different branches across the country.

The Kenya-based global custom software development firm has a footprint in several African countries. It has also buit partnerships with global tech giants such as Microsoft, and hosts the US company's only testing centre in Africa.

Last month, it won a multi-million shilling tender to develop an integrated electronic visa platform for the government of Malawi. The firm’s chief executive officer, Manoj Shanker, spoke to the Business Daily.

TECHNOBRAIN STARTED OFF WITH ONLY SIX EMPLOYEES IN A SMALL OFFICE BUT TODAY, YOU HAVE BUILT A LARGE TEAM OF OVER 1,300 WORKING IN VARIOUS CITIES ACROSS THE WORLD. HOW DID YOU GET HERE?

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Listen to your customers and formulate secure digital solutions that your customers not only manage but have control over. We make software solutions from scratch as per our customers’ local needs, which gives us the leeway to re-invent every solution.We are not resellers of products made by IT software companies but makers of homegrown solutions. We compete against global giants.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE KENYA AS YOUR HEADQUARTERS AND NOT OTHER KNOWN SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT HUBS?

We benefit from a highly skilled manpower with a good command of English that we retrain to suit individual client needs. This has seen our company impact the lives of many young people who have advanced coding skills that enable them to develop secure mobile and web-based solutions. From our Nairobi office, we have provided governments with transformational mobile apps and web-based portals for tax management, budgeting, project management, electronic border control, electronic visas, biometric solutions, driving licence and healthcare management systems.

DO YOU SEND WORKERS TO THESE OTHER COUNTRIES WHERE YOU HAVE OPERATIONS?

We establish the platforms that we then hand over to local teams that we train to operate the platforms. We always make software upgrades to ensure the products evolve with time, thereby protecting customers against fraud or theft of client information. Locally, we have handled several projects for the Kenyan government as well as private companies but there is room for Kenya to do more to seal loopholes where money is lost through badly executed projects. We have tech solutions through which authorising officers can use one-time passwords (OTP) to disburse cash. Once a payment has been made, the next disbursement will only be done upon provision of proof that work has been done and the same documented through a project management chain. Every player along the chain logs in to verify details and will be held accountable in case evidence is found that nothing happened on the ground.

HOW ARE YOUR PRODUCTS DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS MADE ELSEWHERE BUT SOLD LOCALLY?

Organisations buying imported products do not know what exactly they are buying and lack proper control of their platforms. Our products are locally built according to a client’s needs, with locals trained to use the products. Ours are affordable as we directly engage governments and private companies instead of using intermediaries that expect a commission for their work.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR CLIENTS IN KENYA AND ACROSS AFRICA?

Banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, tourism boards, retail centres, airlines and governments.

DO YOU ALSO DEVELOP PRODUCTS FOR SALE?

Yes, we have local software engineers handling such product developments. Our revenue management system is being used by 100 county governments in four African countries and here in Kenya, by the Kwale county government. Everything we have built can be used to digitise various processes in government and in the private sector.

For every product we sell locally, we employ more Kenyans to oversee the systems on behalf of individual companies. We need to buy locally to benefit more Kenyans and the Kenyan economy.

We have three training centres and are already in talks with the government to create a new curriculum that addresses the needs of industry on a tech platform.

We also host the fourth-largest product testing centre for global IT giant Microsoft. Our centre, the only one in Africa and manned by Kenyans, has exclusive access to Windows Insider software products that are yet to be released in the global market.

WHERE DO YOU SEE TECHNOBRAIN GOING FROM HERE?

We are a digital company that solves problems for companies and governments. We are entrenching our capabilities in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and innovations that will enable governments and businesses take advantage of a digital world.

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