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Nyom Planet

An online supermarket for SME services and products.

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Nyom planet is a digitally enhanced wedding planning business in Uganda. It has provided a platform (website) that links wedding service providers to couples intending to wed.

Currently over 80% of service providers provide catering services, baking services (cakes), hairdressing, venue hire, transport and hotel services to intending couples. The idea is that couples planning to wed will visit the site to browse through different service providers and the costs of their services. When satisfied, they either contact them directly or use us (Nyom planet) as intermediates or even ask us to plan their wedding. The website has a number of high-end service providers but 65% are SMES (generally informal) who usually join the site by word of mouth.

During this COVID-19 pandemic (lockdown) period, we have discovered that customers have been increasingly using service providers not for wedding services but for meeting their essential and other needs. For example, it became increasingly evident that customers were contacting our sound and music providers for music selections, bakers were being contacted to either deliver cake or receive recipes for different confectionery. The hairdressers were being contacted on how to take care of hair in this period and so on.

We have therefore thought it wise to open up this platform to SMES in different service businesses to be able to reach their customers. COVID-19 lockdown has proved that it’s going to be increasingly important to have specific service providers that a customer can trust to provide them the needed but also personalized quality services.

On the other hand, it’s also becoming evident that government is pushing towards import substitution so as to boost local production. In addition, businesses will need to get out of their premises and get on to the streets because there are no guarantees anymore (after COVID-19 lockdowns) that the customers will walk into the shops or offices the same way they did before. And because most of our service providers are generally informal, this platform will provide a way for them not only to market their products and increase their visibility but to access clients that could ideally not find them on their own.

We also believe that this platform will kickstart most of their journeys to formalizing businesses and accessing the necessary support to further grow their businesses towards resilience.

We currently only have a website and social media handles but were, at the point of lockdown in our country, having discussions on what the core elements for an application linked to this platform would look like.

Eventually mobile money payments which are much widespread in this part of the world will be made a part of the application allowing the informal sector into the formal economy or at least bringing them closer.  

What is the need are you focusing on?

Market access for informal businesses:

Businesses operating after covid-19 will face a number of challenges from market access to distorted supply chains, reduced sales arising from both loss of jobs and low purchasing power as well as behavioural changes arising out of social distancing, suspicion or even post COVID-19 trauma. Informal businesses will be hit hardest.

For informal businesses to navigate through this challenging terrain it will be important to offer solutions that are acclimatized to such behavioural change. In-house hair dressing for example may replace visiting the hairdresser.

To facilitate this, technology may need to be leveraged to enable informal businesses reach customers, manage deliveries/ appointments and receive visibility and support for  growth. Nyom Planet seeks to create a platform to this effect.

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Sharing a pivot idea your organization is considering or could consider

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

The pivot the team envisions is an IT application (an app) which can be downloaded by both client and service provider. For the customer (primary user), it will allow them to view the clients services (or products) and be able to make an online booking or online purchase of the service. On the service provider end (secondary user), they will receive and manage bookings, make appointments, monitor inventory, manage logistics as well as their income and expenditure using the application. The interaction and user experiences will be a major part of the pivoting journey.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

There are three ways this innovation will impact people; by people I mean a chunk of the 80% of working population (about 15 million people) employed in informal sector that run the Ugandan economy and contribute an estimated 50% of GDP. i) It will provide them much needed market access after this pandemic which from what analysts have written spells mostly economic hard times ii) It will get the informal sector (estimated at 50% of SMES) to formalize their businesses. Also, coming together will in turn draw them closer to accessing professional and financial services. iii) It will kickstart the process of SMEs embracing the digital revolution (through use of mobile technology) which as this lockdown period has shown us is no longer merely preferable but a necessity.

What is the name of your business or organization?

Sabzo Investments Limited is the parent company which currently has two subsidiary businesses: a) Nyom Planet (the wedding planning business pitched above) b) Thryve Lab (Enterprise Development consultancy firm focusing on innovation, strategy and sustainability for SMES)

What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

It focuses on building sustainable enterprises through innovation, strategy and leadership support.

What is your profession?

Professional accountant now doing Entrepreneurship development after acquiring Msc. Innovation Management& Entrepreneurship from Manchester B. Sch, UK

Where are you located (country)?

Uganda

Where are you located (region)?

  • Eastern Africa

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Business/Consulting

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 0-10

How old is your business/company?

  • 1-2 years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Business

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Funding- Loans
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- NGOs
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government
  • For funding loans, I prefer convertible loans at this stage.

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

The specific need the team wants is technical support on how to create a profitable multi-sided platform in the informal sector where the revenues for those who will use it are low but also are themselves harder to reach.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

We envision three major barriers as listed below: a) Quality assurance; One of the bigger challenges will be to achieve minimum service standards for all the service providers. b) Low uptake of smart phone technology; Ugandans in the informal sector generally have phones but smart phone usage evidenced by internet penetration is still below 50%. c) The embedding of payment mechanisms into the application may also prove a hurdle because the process is bedeviled by regulatory bureaucracy.

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

A number of things our team has learned but will state just four here; a) Marketing should make a significant part of the budget for digital products especially those targeted towards the informal sector b) Platforms built for services businesses are significantly harder to manage because of quality control issues. c) Getting the right people to work on developing a product of this nature is very expensive for start-ups like Nyom Planet. Skill limitations remains a major challenge and where they are available, they cost dearly. d) Stable internet connection remains a key driver of this kind of business. In this part of the world, there's still need for investment in fiber cable connections to make this possible.

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

Yes, just two weeks before the lockdown a team member attended one of many breakfast meetings working towards building a sustainable entrepreneur eco-system for Uganda. We have been part of the virtual research team working towards this since 2019. We are generally part of many SMES business platform discussions accessible to us.

Website URL

www.nyomplanet.com is the website but unfortunately it went off recently when we changed website hosts ( Start-up IT mishaps). Plans are underway to get it back on by end of the first week of May though the process has been interrupted by the COVID lockdowns in both countries.

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