Making it big in software business

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Joab Mungai, co-founder, Compweb Systems.

BY VICTOR ADAR

Believe it or not, what you study matters. That’s why, in pursuit of your career, it is better to look at the bigger picture. You are educated, not over-the-hill, thus whatever you specialise in has a bearing on what you will become in the near future. In fact, without goals and specific plans after attaining that degree, things might get tough when the time to get a job or delve into a business comes calling.

It is because of this dilemma that Joab Mungai, a graduate Mathematician from Egerton University and Moses Konji, computer science, Moi University, had to out think. Knowing too well that there are lower chances of getting a job immediately after completing higher education, they founded Compweb Systems in 2007 to provide ICT solutions.

Straight from college, their antennas were high, and how to make money landed them into the business of offering integrated management information system. Growing up, when you graduate with a degree in Education you become a teacher, in medicine you become a doctor, after Theology you become a priest but when you graduate with a degree in Mathematics like Mr Mungai, you are not quite sure what you are supposed to be.

“I may say it was inspired by the confusion of the education system,” says Mungai. “The business foundation came about after realising that all these mathematics thing is about data, and is about managing information. That’s where I fit in, for example, as a mathematician graduate. Our aim was to build an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), which is an integrated management of business processes using software and technology.”

Compweb started off at a cosmetic shop along Dubois road. Back then it was all of a tiny business with only one outlet shop. As one of the founders, Mr Mungai says that initially, their aim was to run a training company but now they have much to offer. And probably they have the perfect product offering to the market thanks to a number of modules including accounts and financial reporting, customer relationship management, human resources management and payroll, real estate management, loans management as well as execution of inventory and supply chain.

“We founded it as a training platform targeting the finance and Non-Governmental Organization world because our trainings are focused on data management. We ventured into software because we were inspired by the management of data… data is managed by business applications so we thought that by combining it (training) with selling the software that can manage the data we will provide a solution,” says Mungai.

The shift came at the right time. The two partners realised that by having an in-house software that is localised to market needs, their business territory will expand. That was in 2009 when most of their customers were keen on softwares that can fix local issues, and are adaptable to local situations.

“Building of an ERP does not start from nowhere. You have to start small growing to the big guy who is able to serve the industry. So after doing training for about one year, we decided to come up with a software development division. That’s where EzzyBooks come in.”

EzzyBooks is the software and technology brand the company sells today. “The name Ezzy comes from people who say they want something easy, something adaptable to the local scenario of business,” Mungai explains.

Today, the co-founder of Compweb is proof that people who have knowledge of the business they have invested in are the ones who would most likely be successful. After a lot of intensive development of software from the year 2009 up to now, it has been a smooth ride with response and uptake of the software remaining exciting. Over the years, the company has been able to build a portfolio with a bout 250 institutions on board as well as some 10,000 individual users within East Africa using EzzyBooks.

What they do to separate their venture from the 90% of other providers in the market is ensuring that a customer is satisfied. For example, when you talk about the point of sale, developers stop at that guy managing a sale. But Compwebs goes to the level of building a platform that’s able to do very robust financial accounting regardless of the size of a company. There is a business application that’s able to take care of any sector. This means that a small guy running spare parts shop along Kirinyaga road will ride on the same accounting platform that big players like financial institutions are using.

Like any Small and Medium Enterprise, Mr Mungai agrees that as the number of people who use innovative products grow so are the risks. But can they really make money amidst a market that’s full of competition? He says, “One of our strengths is the affordability of the software. We sell one point outlet at Sh30, 000, and that’s a one off fee with a minimal support of around Sh3, 000 a year, which is a licence for one year.”

He says that those figures are different for bigger chains, and not off the shelf costing. So prices could be Sh30, 000 and even get to over Sh1 million depending on the scope of work. If it is a bigger retail shop with more than five branches across the country, for instance, it will not cost the same. Some projects are bigger than others.

In terms of employees, the company is in love with a model popular as channel management, they have six resident engineers and four administrators including marketers and sales people. Compwebs work with partners so much that even the business that they get directly is shoved to the business partners for implementation and support to help them build a lean in-house team. Their strength is in the partner network where they recruit people, build their capacity to be able to sell and implement. With six resident engineers and four administrators, which include marketers and sales people, the company is able to feed the big market.

Mr Mungai says that the company depend highly on in-house engineers for development purposes – to help improve the development of software adding, “We get resellers who would sell the software, and take 100% of the amount. We only take license fee. We are a generous company and that has built our client base.”

A business that started without capital – just the knowledge from university, building up the idea on research – is spreading its tentacles. They have launched their services in Rwanda and aim to enter other East African countries like Tanzania and Uganda.

Locally, the firm’s network has grown more through referrals. Word of mouth has worked a lot of magic especially in the micro finance industry where by one person finds something working and brings another.

Mungai says, “We are really entrenched so much that you mention the firm’s name or visit any firm, they’ll tell you they are on EzzyBooks. In five years we should be listed if I am not too ambitious, because software business is very incremental in model once people are comfortable in the product that you are offering then the funnel becomes wider.”