If you are running a business in East Africa, you must have hundreds of email in your spam folder from Indian companies offering bulk SMS, supplies, shipping, hardware, software, name it.
If you do not, its either kudos to your software and mailing security IT team/Indian security software running on your computers, or you are not doing your international branding right.
India is in our space, in our face. If you need deeper evidence of the depths and effects of India on the global technology industry, read “The world is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century” by Thomas Friedman.
Some of our service providers have taken to outsourcing work to India in some interesting models:
- The company is fully Kenyan, tenders and bids for technology jobs within the region, prequalified through official and unofficial channels with the procuring entities. The job is sealed, packed wrapped and sent to India, where the developers sitting in a software warehouse devour the task faster than any Kenyan developer can say “Wazi, back to code”. It is then shipped back and deployed as a “local” solution. On implementation, deployment and training, if you have not yet met an Indian who is in the country to deploy SAP,IBM, and other ERP solutions, my friend, you should know people.
- Some Indian companies are offering cloud solutions for management and accounting to businesses in Kenya through cloud portals,e.g Busy Accounting Software.
- BPOS- customer care and customer service outsourcing to India! On a small scale, but yes, its already happening!
- Distribution- Indian software companies are dealing with distributors to push products into retail and consumers, particularly software security solutions. Escan, QuickHeal, to name a few.
- Technical Support- It is still cheaper, in terms of capacity and costs, for American and European organizations to offer product support from India to Africa, as they seek ways to build local capacity.
- A number of Indian companies are in JV’s with Kenyan interests through holding companies.
- Tata consulting is in Kenya. Handling a number of high level high value consulting jobs.
Why is this happening you ask?
Every stakeholder in government or private sector will tell you, “ We lack local capacity”.
We have Government portals, ERP’s, Management information systems, CRM’s, you call it, being deployed NOW. These organizations cannot wait on the fellows still deciding on what technology course to take. So we fly in the talent.
All this is good. We need foreign investment to grow. Free market. In fact, though it would be preferred that the solution is local,in the spirit of building local capacity and economies, however it does not matter whether the product is Russian, Chinese, Taiwanese or Indian, in so far as it serves its purpose.
What do we do next?
- Empower base level digital literacy for the general populace through revision of our core education curriculum, and integrating ICT in both courseware and methodologies. With an increased appetite for solutions and services at the bottom of the pyramid, the market grows.
- Increasing the presence of specialized technology education and lowering the threshold of entry into such institutions. What I am basically saying is revising the Polytechnics and including technology. MIT, Georgia Tech, have you heard of these? They are Technology Colleges.
- Ensure Knowledge and Technology Transfer. Technology transfer programs should be government policy driven. In sectors of greatest interest to us, for example mobile technology, the ICT board must drive technology transfer programs. It was interesting to hear Mike Macharia of Seven Seas state that in implementing a multinational European ERP solution, local resources were kept on the customer facing and form structures of the solution and not at the core. On the one part this is acceptable, Trade Secrets and Economic Advantage… but on the other, we need to increase local capacity. I have noted that a good number of government multinational agreements on similar deployments include clauses of technology transfer to ensure local capacity to maintain the solutions, however more effort and enforcement is needed on this matter.
- Inspiration Victors need to be celebrated. Events in honour, Media splashes,rewards, public pronouncements a mix of ways in which to support,award and reward pioneers and inventors must be in place. This will spur more innovation. Just as most young people want to sing and dance having seen local stars being celebrated in print and prime time media, our inventors,scientists, thought leaders need celebration for emulation, to spur and stir similar minds.
If we are to take this country forward and become a knowledge economy as vision 2030 envisages, we must increase our work skills, and we must build the capacity of our nation.
Our nation MUST log off Facebook and Twitter, and log on to the education portals of Cisco, Microsoft, McAfee, Intel. Our skilled professional workforce must increase to a level where on the basis of our knowledge, young people from Kenya will be zipping across Africa deploying solutions built on the framework of these multinationals, both open source and proprietary.
Similarly, we must figure out that building solutions= building a business. Those in this sphere must consider their interests in this sphere as such. This, in my view is a long term option, as the most successful organizations in Kenya focused on the resale and technical deployment of products developed by other organizations. This is not to hinder innovation, “The Cloud” has changed product cycles completely, however solution production is not the same as solution sales and marketing. Once supply chain dynamics are introduced, you must deliver on every sphere, and to do so you must run a business.