BY DAVID ONJILI
There was a problem in coding computerized systems that was projected to create havoc in computers worldwide at the beginning of the year 2000. But the coming years left more and more people scratching the back of their heads after the transition from December 31 1999 to January 1 2000 that was thought would be rough just ended up being smooth.
Alarms and anxiety that included programming corrections were the order of the day. It was all of the Millennium Bug, which should be fresh in our minds.
How are Kenya’s small and medium sized companies taking the advantage of such powerful digital shifts to create successful businesses? Can you really make money especially during these days when more and more people believe that with technology, disruptions are inevitable?
While it may seem weird to see such a complex tech scenario as a money making business idea, one company saw a gold mine. Lori Systems, a logistics tech optimization platform that helps connect cargo owners to transporters, is seeing a big market thanks to its tech platform that’s transforming logistics business in the region. The high growth company is rewriting the rules, currently creating a disruption in the logistics business not only in Kenya but the East African region. Theirs is unique in the sense that they do not own physical trucks but have real time data necessary for truck owners thanks to a mix of technology, efficient processes, and systems.
Actually, the firm’s core business is to help investors in the logistics business increase utilization of their trucks. Efficient systems not only enable clients to maximize on profit but also transporters who enjoy consistent cargo from the platform. Lori does the due diligence to ensure that drivers on their platform have licenses and the trucks have transit and goods insurance. They also do tracking of the movement of the trucks to ensure the cargo is safe and also eliminate drivers who become truant in the line of cargo transit by spending transit hours on un-official errands. All this is aimed at lowering the cost of goods on the continent, which will in turn trickle down to consumers in affordable pricing of goods.
The firm’s head of sales and marketing, Andrew Musoke, is confident about the market outlook acknowledging that despite being a tech startup their core value is to offer a platform. Although a number of their satisfied clients are pushing them to also venture into clearing and forwarding, Musoke says that such a diversification will distract them from their vision.
Alumni of Harvard University and a former employee of JP Morgan Chase, Mr Musoke believes these are good times to delve into a business like theirs. Lori Systems has no app but a digital dashboard that their clients log onto from a computer and they use it to meet client’s specific needs. This may include knowing your loading and offloading times, showing you the whereabouts of your trucks, alerting clients of delays of their trucks while on transit and also knowing whenever the trucks have stopped and why since they are tracked through GPS.
“There is pretty much talent out there, being a startup we have to hire right and work on having strong systems that will outlast the current crop of leadership. Guided by the motto of patience to listen, Lori Systems is not celebrating the milestones but patiently listening to clients’ needs as we continue to address needs in the African logistics space, which is challenging but has not been fully exploited,” Musoke says.
Lori is unique in the sense that “customer is king” so much that it bets on push notifications for their clients through a Whatsapp group. The motivation is to offer real time information of cargo and truck movement, a hands-on view approach at cargo tracking.
According to a 2017 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, more than 17 million SMEs registered in Kenya contribute a quarter of the country’s GDP. In addition, it was in 2015 when the value of MSMEs output was estimated at Sh3.4 billion of Kenya’s output of Sh10 billion, an indication that things are looking up not only to the smaller companies but also to the big ones.
Mr Musoke says the port of Mombasa is a hub for business and currently it is not yet fully utilized, this has seen Lori employ several clerks at both the ports and borders for ease of cargo handling by their clients. To be able to get cargo, Lori Systems pitches itself to potential cargo owners as a logistics tech platform and they have an aggressive marketing team. They have millers on their platform and whose satisfaction from their efficiency has spread the good word and brought them additional clients. When a miller increases the number of trips made by a single truck by some 30%, it surely gets their rivals anxious as their market dominance is checked and this attracts many clients to Lori.
At the just concluded All African Business Awards, the company’s co-founder Josh Sandler was a finalist under the East African category and on 13th July this year Lori was rated as the fastest growing company in Africa at the Global Africa Business Award (GABA) held in Addis Ababa. These awards show an appreciation to the business model and impact that Lori not only has in Kenya but the region and continent.
As with any business under the sky, without specific plans of making things happen and even growing in the near future, a lot is left to chance. It is at the back of this great focus that Lori Systems continues to grow spreading its tentacles to Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.
“The collaboration between Kenya and Uganda at the Malaba border has greatly eased truck movement. Such regional understanding and peace will continue to positively impact business in the country opening markets and enabling free goods movements,” Musoke says.