Ms Rosemary Akello has been running a hotel in downtown Kampala for about five years now. Over the years though, her customers have had to endure torrid times as they access her hidden restaurant. She told Smart money in an interview recently that she has time and again painfully lost potential customers who find it difficult to access with ease the location of her cosy restaurant as it is overshadowed by several other buildings in the middle of the town.
In a similar predicament is Mr Ivan Bwambale, who runs a supermarket and a hotel on the outskirts of Kampala. In an attempt to turn his fortunes around, he decided to offer a discount every Wednesday, ranging from between 7 and 10 per cent on every item bought in his store while every Friday his restaurant makes more offers just to lure that extra client.
Despite the attractive offers, Mr Bwambale fortunes remain crest fallen as customers are still hard to come by. The two are now considering massive investment in advertising, a move experts object to, saying that the two - businesses will have to ‘break the bank’, something that will instead open up what the experts call a “Pandora box”.
In plain terms, this means that they will need a lot of money to finance their business and this could get them into trouble as their capacity to sustain that kind of financing is unsustainable. “To sort out challenges like that, we have developed an online portal service for businesses to market their services,” the founder of Maswali Limited Mr Christopher Kanabi-Mulinde told Smart Money in an interview recently.
According to Mr Kanabi, the online portal services which operates pretty much like an online business directory, provides instant searches for all kinds of services and locations in a given distance. He says: “If you want to find suppliers of products and services in your local area Maswali.com comes in handy, you don’t need to physically move to look for anything anymore, save your time and just click the mouse and you will be sorted out.”
With Maswali.com buyers and sellers are brought together through an integrated collection of simple but cost effective tools, an innovation, which if well embraced by SMEs will certainly make a difference in their businesses.
The Maswali.com services or other related services are important for an SME because the world is increasingly turning away from the conventional way of doing business to the use of Information Technology. Analysts now fear that local SMEs, which do not have the capacity to use modern methods of doing business, could be left out as the world increasingly becomes a global village.
According to Mr Kanabi, Maswali.com gives more than a business name, including postal address, and a telephone Number. It provides useful business information about what the business does, its Website and e-mail contacts, price lists, special offers or coupons, opening times, maps and locations, parking information, business calendar or events schedule, photo galleries, video adverts, and a business network for sourcing excellence and competitive tender opportunities for products and services. He says Maswali.com the services portfolio includes, without limitation, classified listing, enhanced listing, super listing, and banner advertising services.
A list of items in each service offer is provided on the ’advertisers’ page. From time to time other Services may be added, and others removed when neccessary. He says: “Our listings include category tags, which may describe your business, products and/or services, which enables your business details to be displayed on the Maswali.com website to users who perform a search using these category tags.”
Its important to note that Maswali.com reserve the right to refuse or remove any category tags from your business listing or banner that it believes does not in any way describe one’s business, products and/or services and/or may mislead users of the maswali.com website.
In terms of cost, he says it is not only affordable but negotiable too, given that they offer a wide range of services, including special arrangement for schools and SMEs among others. However the price range is between Shs50,000 and Shs250, 000, depending on services one needs to access. He says each client is given an own account with a confidential security code. For those who can’t create their own accounts one in relation to their business can be created.