There is a saying: ‘’if you don’t change, then change will change you.’’ This saying is relevant to some businesses in Uganda that failed to adapt to changing times. As such, they have either vanished or their demise is in the pipeline. We take a look at some that vanished plus those in the pipeline.
Post office/ Fax.
There was a time when it was inconceivable to open or operate a business without a fax number or post office box. In fact there was someone whose job it was to drop and pick letters from post office. Indeed post office (Posta Uganda) was making a killing. Not anymore.
The advent of Email and social media sites like Instagram, Google+, face book etc. have made post office services ceremonial and almost irrelevant. All you see when you move across the country are large, derelict structures of post offices.
The company has tried several measures to match the changing times in vain, including the launch of Post Bus and Posta Cash, but poor marketing and implementation have failed these moves. That is the reason many Ugandans don’t use, let alone know about Posta Cash. With mobile money in free raise, given lots of convenience and flexibility it brings, makes Posta Cash a no- go- area at least for many people.
These were goldmine. The early birds charged exceedingly high rates and typical of Ugandans who like anything new, everyone flocked to them. Fast forward today and internet cafes are now almost a thing of the past. The entry of internet enabled phones and smart phones (especially the cheap ones from China) coupled with the stiff competition in the telecoms sector, which has brought down data prices, have drastically reduced the need for internet cafes. Today you can load as low as 10MB for Ugx 300. Airtel goes an extra mile to lend you data. Today you would be hard pressed to find an internet café – you may need to ask several people for directions in order to find one.
Back then, mobile phones were very expensive and thus the reserve of the few. You had to part with Ugx 2m to buy the same mobile phone that costs Ugx 30,000 today. Call boxes became handy. They were everywhere and ‘investors’ made daily bumper harvests. However, the emergence of cheap Chinese mobile phones that sell for as low as Ugx 20,000 saw exit of all call boxes. Again, the competitive rivalry among the telecoms pushed down call costs. Life is so easy that you can even borrow airtime and pay later.
New innovations and offers have reduced the cost of voice calls. Thanks to the emergence of closed caller group (CUG) from companies like MTN, it is easy for staff to make free calls among themselves or enlist their close relatives within the CUG.
This makes pay phones a no – go area. Add to this the free calls at the office, where unethical staff use their offices to make private calls, the demand for pay phones is very low and will continue reducing. Ugandans love class, and few, if any, are bold enough to get out of their car to make phone calls on the public booth. If you are still in this pay phone business, start exiting!
A few years ago, cameramen were the darlings of everyone. You had to book them in advance and make a deposit if you had a function. Not anymore. Welcome to the era of smart phones, tabs and small portable cameras. With your 4X phone camera, you can take high quality digital photos which you can edit, share with friends or store on a computer or flash disk or Google+.
Not to be left out, Kodak ventured into portable cameras. Locally, Fotogenix Ltd, the once mighty suppliers of Kodak films evolved into event management. Way to Go!
The few surviving businesses are due to the high demand for printed photo albums and passport size photo for travelers. However, with new digital printers starting to arrive, better get warned. Such digital printers connect seamlessly with your smart phone and print easily.
There is section of Ugandans (Generation Y) particularly those living in towns that have never seen retail shops. But for ages, these served our grandpas and grandmas.
The supermarkets have taken over their place.
The changing times have continued to wipe out retail shops. Those that still survive in the suburbs hardly make any meaningful revenue. Some enterprising Ugandans have had to upgrade their retail shops to mini supermarkets and the customers are responding.
In the early days of telecoms in Uganda, telecoms employed the franchise model. They allocated zones and set targets. You could not sell airtime in a zone that was not yours. The model proved effective. The rise and success of mobile money meant the model could not match the changing trends. The telecoms had relied on airtime sales for revenue. Today you can open up a mobile money business across the country without worrying that you’re interfering in someone’s zone. How times change. Forward looking Ugandans had to sell off their franchise rights and they made money. Now it is survival for the fittest. Mobile money has removed the ‘’zoning’’ of franchise and only those with high production/ total revenue have the ear of the franchiser. That is the kind of disruption we are talking about.
If you don’t change, change will change you. The direction you will find change taking you may not be the desired one.
Those of you in 40’s and 50’s have perhaps only known a few bread brands: Tip Top, Hot Loaf and maybe Ntake. The rise of supermarkets and home bakeries offered consumers access to fresh bread. To borrow phrase of one of the car dealers in Uganda: ‘’why buy enkadde, when you can afford empya’’ meaning why buy yesterday’s bread, when you can access fresh bread in the supermarket? While some of the once mighty bread brands still exist today, they are not popular and not making as much as they used to make the previous century.
As survival strategy, Hot loaf has since opened several outlets in the suburbs and major towns to match the changing times.
And those in the waiting list.
When is the last time you met you bank branch manager? To put it better, when did you last visit a banking hall?
Advances in technology is making it so easy to access your money anywhere, anytime. You can withdraw, deposit, and request a statement via the internet. For example with Pride Mobile App, you can use your mobile phone to deposit and withdraw money, buy airtime, pay for goods and services via the internet. Now MTN Uganda has revolutionized banking where you can check your bank balances on- line via your mobile phone. These changes are a real threat to your career as a bank teller and you better start improving your skills.
To my beautiful girls behind counters you have reason to worry. We told you so!
They are everywhere and handy. They help link sellers to potential buyers and earn so much without making any serious investment. Take it or leave it, advances in technology is gradually making their services less needed. With OLX, Lumia, and other Apps who still needs their services? It’s a matter of time are fraudsters. Besides, they are gossipers they tell everyone who cares to listen how so and so bought property worth x billions.
Websites like lamudi, and other on- line property business, is making the role of the broker redundant.
In nearly every corner of Uganda, there is a mobile money agent. This has provided employment for hundreds of Ugandans. Many of the girls you see operating those kiosks are university graduates. However, as we move towards a cashless economy- Mobile money might be wiped out in the future. Luckily, this may not be soon. Ezee Money came early, and it ‘went’ just like that, or it is still going? Uganda is still banana republic with lots of opportunities in the informal sector.
Public relations officers/ managers.
The rise of marketing agencies is slowly and gradually making the work of public relations almost officers almost irrelevant. Professional marketing agencies are doing nearly everything that PRO’s used to do. In fact some organizations have since scrapped this position. The challenge is that you may expose your company. It is said some agencies leak company information (their clients) with view of clearing their name after the damage has been done…