Charles Ivia, 21, a Third Year student of Economics at Kenyatta University, is the brain behind an online platform called Titan Market Place that was officially launched in August this year.
“The platform has two sides. The Titan Business App which caters for business owners, and the Titan Marketplace which is tailor made for consumers. It serves to connect entrepreneurs to their consumers, thereby improving efficiency for both parties, and increasing revenue.
“We create a virtual pool where consumers and business owners meet each other and transact. On Titan Market Place, a consumer can communicate with a business owner and even make an order for a product or service. We provide the phone number and emails of the business owners who are on the platform. The consumers’ side of the app has filters which can help them know which products and services are near them, and there are several categories for them to choose from such as hospitals, general stores and cosmetic shops.
Additionally, consumers can search the name of a particular business and it will immediately come up.
Users of the app also have access to reviews done by the public about all the organisations that are registered there. And to increase their visibility, users can include their image and company logo, images and details of the products, updates and so on. Once a consumer makes an order, the business manager instantly gets a notification.
“The best way to understand how the app works is to imagine yourself in an open air market such as Muthurwa Market where you meet and interact with many sellers and buyers. The Titan Marketplace just brings the market experience to your phone, which guarantees you more safety, convenience, reliability, and accessibility.
With the app, you can significantly reduce the amount of time you would otherwise have spent shopping at Muthurwa.
It also enables one to compare the prices of different sellers without moving from their homes.
So, what motivated Charles to create the app?
“Since I was a child I’ve always been fascinated by technology and one day, I came across an article on Jumia magazine that pegged Kenya’s internet penetration level at 84 per cent.
“I thought the figure was very impressive. A few weeks after that, I was working on a term paper for school when I came across research findings on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises done by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics which stated that the main challenge faced by local SMEs was lack of markets where business owners can sell their products. The journey to creating Titan Marketplace began that day,” he says.
Charles works with two friends who are pursuing undergraduate degrees in different technological courses. The two are in charge of the mechanical part of the app such as coding.
“I have come to learn that when starting a business, one needs to collect as much information as possible. The knowledge I had gathered from my class work and my experience running our family’s business came in handy when I was starting out.
“When setting up a business, you should seek to know everything about those who are around you, especially their capabilities and skills. Purpose to work only with those who understand your motives for doing business, and those who are as committed in seeing your project succeed as you are,” he says.
To create the app, Charles spent about Sh200,000 but before that, he had conducted extensive research to find ways of making the endeavour more impactful.
For capital, his parents and sister became the company’s first shareholders, and gave him the seed money to get started. This money, together with the little he had saved over the years, was enough to help him get the app up and running.
“So many people log on to social media every day. The internet is so easy to use. I wanted to create something that could provide the masses with a lot more than just entertainment.
“I believe that my app can grow to be a continental giant but first, I want to create a micro market. For a company that is still in its formative years, it is better to have 100 clients located within a specific area, than to have 1,000 customers distributed across East Africa because this would significantly raise operation costs.
“Although we have one business signed up in Mombasa, we encourage business owners from Nairobi to register with us. We have more than 35 business signed up and over 100 downloads for each side of the platform, and we charge a monthly fee of Sh249 to business owners every two months,” he says.
The greatest challenge for Charles and his team has been getting enough businesses on the platform to ensure that all their customer’s needs are met.
“We want every customer who comes to the platform to find what they are looking for because if they don’t, they usually exit the app within 30 seconds and that way we end up losing them,” he says.
His key marketing strategy so far has been to approach business owners and talk to them directly about the app. Together with his team, Charles usually prepares a proposal before booking an appointment with the potential business owner. Occasionally, he employs social media influencers to help him popularise the app.