MPESA for Church please!

Dear Safaricom,

I would like to say thank you very much for providing the MPESA service. You have made my life fantastic in ways words cannot capture as I shop at the supermarket, fuel at the station, pay for electricity, sort out the boda-boda guy and even borrow some cash to sort out an emergency. The cashless life is so great I naturally gravitate towards businesses that have a ‘Lipa na Mpesa’ option.  You have given me convenience and for that I say thank you very much.

I thought to highlight an area that may need your attention; I was in church this past Sunday and was caught off-guard when the preacher man announced it was time for us to give of our tithes and offering. Because your excellent service made me retire my ATM card and MPESA agents are closed early Sunday mornings, It makes it made it impossible for me to respond to the call for giving.

That got me thinking; is it possible for you to tailor an MPESA service for the churches. One that will allow the millions of converted MPESA users to use the service at church. The reason I say tailor-make for church folk is because the giving principle in the bible recommends anonymity when giving of our tithes and offering. For that reason I would not like my number or name not to appear on the Church records when I use the service.

I know you will figure out how to go about. I look forward to the announcement and enjoying the new service.

Kind regards

Benjamin Luta.

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YOU STILL TRUST THE ‘CAR FOR SALE- LADY OWNER’?

lady-owner1When cars came from the showroom and spare parts  bought at the car dealer companies, back then the ‘lady owner’ tag on a ‘car for sale’ advert was something to treasure. The reason for the trust evoking tag was because men being men in those days would go to the ‘jua kali’ garages for parts and service on a shilling or two while the ladies would faithfully go to the car deals for the same.

Our worldview about where to get buy cars changed when second hand cars from Dubai landed at the port in Mombasa in the 1980s.  Same time Raymond, Kikomi, Rivertex, Woolworths, Dash, Bata and  Tiger shoes  and other fashion stores  saw the arrival of  second hand clothes aka ‘mitumbas’ and never thought ‘mitumba’s were a game-changer.  The consumers stood at the periphery looking down on all who bought second-hand clothes and cars but it was only a matter of time before they all jumped in and scrambled for the spoils. The rise in demand for world class second hand brands created room for growth in the industry so now the zero mileage car dealers are in the shadows of conversations among‘wananchi’ looking to purchase automobiles.

This change in the market has a direct effect on our ‘lady car owner’ concept in this way. Today, the average lady or man owner will make their way to a ‘trusted’ mechanic at a garage and accompany them to with them to ‘Baricho road’ in Nairobi or  some other dealers online or in the local area to buy new or second-hand parts.

I have a lady friend who has switched mechanics many times over through referrals in the hope that she will find a ‘trusted’ one but has had no luck. She and many other lady owner drivers place the service and repair of their cars in the care of mechanics who some times require close supervision.

This new dynamic has placed responsibility on the prospective buyer to do due diligence in inspecting the vehicle of interest  irrespective of whether the seller is a ‘lady car owner’ or not.

The Womans Guild: Time for Change

If you wguildere raised Presbyterian in East Africa or have been around friends who belong to the flock then you must have stumbled on the Woman’s Guild. I just came from a funeral service at St. Andrews church which I watch the members of the Woman’s guild  all in their symbolic  blue headscarf honour one of their own for her great service and sacrifice, for friendship and sisterhood.

According to the St Andrews website Woman’s Guild was founded in 1922 for girls, first dedication in 1923 and called GIRL’S GUILD. The second dedication was in 1926 and between 1930 – 1943 the Guild lapsed but was revived.  The girls who started were already grown up women and so the name changed to WOMAN’S GUILD,open  to both girls and married women today.

This is a 92 year old brand that deserves uttermost respect for empowering millions of families through their faith based philosophy and practical application of the principles  in addressing drug abuse,  Gender-Based Violence,  poverty, disease, insecurity and climate change. The family institution is under threat from all forces and broken homes are on the increase. Indeed, the list is endless.

The things that caught my attention during the funeral service were the  headscarf, card and badge, a standard issue to the Guild member during the dedication as a sign of membership and a reminder of the fellowship she belongs to and  a reminder of vows and promises. Today the items that belonged to the dearly departed member were presented to her family by the National Chair-lady of the PCEA Woman’s guild in a short ceremony during the funeral service after the chair gave a moving speech.

The logo, the head scarf, the badge and the membership card are powerful brand signals that collectively give deep meaning to members of the guild and all who come into contact with them. The Scouts movement, Salvation Army, Red Cross and other brands use symbols to create connection and collectively give meaning.

My mom had head-scarfs, plenty of beautiful head-scarfs that she she wore to any and every occasion. They were a symbol of pride, fashion and respect as a woman in the nineteen eighties but as the years progressed the less they featured in her dressing.  She like many other women have drifted away from them over time to wearing their hair open, braided or weaved.

This seemingly petite issue of the much celebrated blue PCEA Woman’s Guild headscarf may be the reason for some women and girls not joining the movement. I believe its about time the leaders of this most important woman and family empowerment movement updated its brand assets: head-scarfs, membership card, badge to something that today’s women and girls will adorn with pride and style, something timeless like the scouts scarf and beret.

Any fashion guru with a solution to the  PCEA Woman’s Guild brand signal? Your market will have 62,000 members only 🙂 and many other thousands who will come in because you made it possible through your genius creation.

More than just a National Flag

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I am always reminded of how ignorant I am when I watch the athletes fly their national flags at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. They walk with so much pride sure that we all know who they are and where they are from. I smile with pride whenever I see the celebrity nations like Great Britain, United States, Japan, Jamaica and other nations closer to my own like Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa.

Whenever someone adorns the national flag, its symbols and/ or colours, they evoke pride in the patriots,  curiosity to the  ingnorant onlooker  and mixed emotions to the friends and enemies of the State.  The football fan, the athlete, the traveler, army officer and/ or protester all create a platform for the people around him to make inquiries, pass on the good, bad and ugly things about a nation and its people.

The sum total of these perceptions evoke positive or negative emotions towards the individual and/ or the nation he is representing. This in many ways contribute to the national brand contrary to what people say. Think about words that jump into your mind when you walk into a space and it occupied by a Jamaican, Nigerian, French, Italian, Mexican, Chinese or Kenyan?

The trigger of this piece was my reflection on the images on the internet and the local dailies of Kenyan leaders and their followers in the Netherlands dressed in prominent national flag colours, ready to send a message to the International Criminal Court (ICC). I am concerned about the many hundreds of domestic and foreign onlookers and viewers across the globe who stumbled on the strange flag like I do when I watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. What was the sum total of perception after they got know the country and the reasons for the protests on foreign soil.

There is a team set up by the Kenya government to manage the country brand domestically and internationally. I curious what they have to say about this and to give us a guide going forward on what we can do as a nation to enjoy a favourable Kenyan country brand

Photo courtesy of wakilishi.com

Get over your ASK Show Hangups and go make some money at the Nairobi International Trade Fair

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H.E. the President Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, admires the Champion milk goat at the livestock parade, moments after he declared the Nairobi International Trade Fair officially open in 2013. Photo courtesy of ask.co.ke

Yes I said, get off that road that is filled will warm memories of ice-cream, shades, paper caps, dusty paths, loosing track of your parents, the cows and goats, jam sessions and all the other things come out of your mouth year after year when you see the Nairobi International Trade Fair (NITF) billboards, adverts or when someone explains to you why there is loads of traffic jam on the roads this week.

I happened to be the Nairobi International Trade Fair (NITF) this past Monday after many years of postponement and I must say it was worth the time. It was a whole new  experience walking into a stall as an adult and listening to the exhibitors put up their best act so I could buy into their brand promise. Every other representative I met blew me away by the innovation, relevance and contribution to the the country’s growth and development in whatever small or big way. I noted down opportunities that right down my isle for business and consultancy and picked contacts of individuals both in public and private sector who are normally tucked away in some offices far out of reach. The best of the best in the region, in Kenya, in Nairobi and Foreign countries with some to offer Kenya were all assembled in one concentrated area and all you have to do is enter the space. All industry leaders a walking distance from each other and ready with information about anything and everything you want to know.

It is no mistake that the organizers changed the name from Nairobi Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK)  Show to Nairobi International Trade Fair. This year the fair has attracted participants from Kenya, Uganda, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, China, Ghana, Israel, and many more. This are are the best of the best in the respective industries under the them ‘enhancing Technology in Agriculture and Industry for Food Security and National Growth. It emphasizes the need to focus on hardwork by farmers, industrialists, the business community, investors and developers so as to create wealth, stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty in line with the government policy.

The above sounds very well thought through because it is lifted of the introduction document I received from the 2014 Trade Judges Briefing this past Saturday. I was privileged to be appointed as a trade judge this and I must say is the second best thing that happened to me in the third quarter of this year :-). I was glad to join the other 130 volunteer judges on a mission to find the best exhibitors in 47 Trade classes this past Monday.

Some of the Stands that interested me on Monday are:

  1. Kenya Defense Forces (KDF)- look out for their revolutionary Diesel cooker and the upcoming dry foods factory in Gigil all courtesy of Kenya Ordnance Factories
  2. Kenya Prisons have some headway in food production and saved the  government round about Ksh 4 billion out of the 6 billion budgeted expense.
  3. Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is the home of inventions and innovations. They left me proud of being in Kenya because of the endless opportunities that the land offer.They are worth a second visit
  4. Equity Bank fitted very well a caring and listening partners as the representative expounded on what the members have been able to do with a boost from the Equity agents and branches. They future of banking is mobile and this guys seem to be on the right path.

I will be back at the NITF tomorrow in the capacity of a normal mwananchi this time around. I look forward to making new acquaintances, getting enlightened by the exhibitors and using the information to be of service to the organisations present in the future in exchange for some fat cheques 🙂

A big YES! to Nyeri County Spending Two Million Shillings on MCAs Social Media Training

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I got a call a few minutes to 5.00pm from a friend who also happens to be my client requesting that I tune into 96.3 Nation FM. I got tail-end of a discussion about Nyeri County spending two Million Kenya Shillings (USD. 22560) for a five day training for the Members of the County Assembly popularly referred to as MCAs. The reason I am writing this is because unfortunately I did not chance to voice my thoughts on air. The station presenters and the callers thought it was  expensive and a waste of resources. I believe that this is the opinion of many Kenyans, social media is a no brainier, it should be self taught therefore that expenditure  by Nyeri County is misappropriation of tax payer money.

I beg to differ with the presenters and many of their listeners out there that share their opinion on the following grounds:

  1. The total sum of Two Million Kenya Shillings if broken down to cost per MCA is Ksh. 8,510 per day and 42,550 for the week. Which in my opinion is not expensive if there was value add through the training
  2. I would have loved to see the five day training curriculum before pointing a finger at the County. I would give it a green-light if  it includes practical knowledge and skill transfer that will enable MCAs to navigate the internet for information, management of information relevant to the county and create an online presence on various platforms.
  3. Over 70% of Kenya’s and Africa’s population is under the age of 35. This means that a big portion of the population will have a connection social media in one way or another, the millennials and generation Y call it home and work- since they practically live there, generation X call it ‘shags’–  secondary home where they go to when they need to kick back and relax, wherease baby boomers arrive on the space on visitor Visas to witness what they have heard or read. A profile and average age of the MCAs in Nyeri will tell you why that training was necessary and it justifies a need for learning how to set agendas and run barazas on the online platforms since that is where the people read gen Y, millennials and gen X communities are. 
  4. It is cheaper to help the 47 MCAs to understand the social media for five days for Two Million Kenya shillings than hire 47 social media ‘interpreters’ to manage facebook and twitter for a monthly salary of Ksh.42,550 for next four years which comes to about Ksh. 8,000,200
  5. Baby boomers and some gen X must be conditioned through training- knowledge and skill so they are able to fuse their wealth of knowledge and resources with the youth (gen Y and millennials) who are found on the social media forums. If they dont offer leadership in these virtual spaces then they future of this nation is at risk because the young and energetic will be vulnerable to whoever has a voice in Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google plus and other meeting points
  6. Lastly,  the use of alternative media is as challenging as traditional media. It requires great understanding and masterful skill to build an audience and manage a community beyond ones family and friends. It is therefore my opinion that any county, organisation or group of people find the time, resources and able practitioners to guide in building competence in this area.

So I say yes to Nyeri County spending Two million kenya shillings if all of the above were put into consideration when procuring the service and I recommend that the other counties follow suit. Oh, I am still waiting for Nation FM presenter to call me back as she had promised on a call I made after 5.00pm

Who Said Mercedes Benz is overrated?

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Think about Intel,  Apple Computers, M-PESA, Adidas, Equity Bank,  Mercedes Benz and the many other brands that distinguish themselves from others by placing a symbol of quality on their products or places where you access their services.  These symbols are a mark of quality, a guarantee that you will receive the promise they made to you. If the brand were a person then the symbol would be their signature.

Consumers like you and I look out for these signatures when shopping and willing to by-pass others, even when they are offering the same or better quality at a cheaper price. I would panic if didn’t find Kiwi shoe polish at the Supermarket and ready to disagree with anyone who said they had bad service at Java Coffee House or that a Mercedes Benz is overrated.

Mercedes sign on a car is a symbol of precision in design both in performance and beauty, its the best thing one can spend their hard earned money in exchange for speed, safety, luxury, timeless value and great class. It is without doubt one of the world’s greatest car brands. Anyone that points a finger at a Mercedes and says Mercedes is overrated has an uphill task to prove it.

I put my trust in these brands enough to purchase them without the need to verify over and over again that they are the real deal, brands save me both time and in some cases money. It is the reason why some unscrupulous individuals manufacture counterfeit products to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers who have trust in the signatures.

Great signatures also referred to as logos embody the heart and soul of the brand, they connect and win the hearts of the masses because they symbolize quality service or product that is served without fail. The symbols are a combined effort of time and visualization skills of a talented graphic design team and a good brief fronted by the owner of the brand.

A decent logo cost as low as Ksh. 50,000 (USD 600) or as much as ksh.1,000,000 (USD. 11,500) in the case of one of the telecom companies in Kenya or Ksh. 56 million (USD. 644,000) for 2012 London Olympics logo. Go Creations have a standard logo package that includes a guide for application on various platforms for Ksh 87,000 (USD. 1,000). They will be having discounted ‘ Identity Open Season’ between September 15th – October 15th and January 15th – February 15th for startup brands 🙂