How Ntozi a Ugandan Business Traveler Grew His Based Internet business
While in Senior Five (S.5) he led peers in building one of the first school websites in Uganda. This was at King’s College Budo where he was Vice President of the Computer Club.
That was in 1998, a time when internet or computer usage was still low. Even then Arthur Ntozi knew that the future lay in both internet and computer so he went on to look for opportunities that would enable him acquire more computer skills.
Dr. Ham Muliira was doing his Masters in Applied Economics at the Institute of Statistics at Makerere University and he was willing
to share his skills to teach young Ntozi some computer skills.
“Then before Senior Four (S.4) ‘vac’ I bumped into a gentleman called Charles Musisi who, at the time, was in charge at the computer science faculty at Makerere University and running ugandaonline.com. He offered me internship during which I learnt a lot about internet,” Ntozi recollects.
How he nurtured the dream
At the faculty he met more computer enthusiasts and when he was done with High school, his mind was set on pursuing a degree in computer engineering.
“Makerere University didn’t have the course so my parents dug into their savings to send me to University of Concordia in Canada where
I enrolled for a course in computer engineering,” he recounts.
The multi-cultural environment and competition and high levels of competition exposed Ntozi to a world where many things could happen.
He got an opportunity to work for the help desk of the engineering department at the university during which he enrolled for research in
telecommunication setting him on a good path.
“During my third year, one of our professors introduced us to the business world and encouraged us to read business literature.
This got me thinking of how engineering solutions could be translated into money-making ventures. I did research on web service and used bits and pieces of the knowledge for my innovation,” he says.
He started a company through which the Uganda community in the diaspora would purchase airtime of all local networks for their friends and relatives back in Uganda, over his website.
“We registered as sub-dealers with each of these companies. We would then buy airtime in bulk and load it onto our website. I had a partner, Olavi Ndaula, at home who would buy the airtime as I managed the website in Montreal,” Ntozi explains about his beginnings.
From his savings as a student he managed to register the company at Shs960,000 ($400) and an initial capital of about Shs1,440,000 ($600) to buy the airtime to start with.
“We got an opportunity to speak at a Banyakigezi conference organised by Dr. Munini Mulera in Toronto were we marketed our young brand. I got a free ride from Montreal to Toronto so didn’t incur too many costs,” he adds.
Persevering through tough times
But the good start was almost brought to a halt. “We were defrauded by some Ugandan based in South Africa who used stolen credit cards to purchase airtime. This was in our third month of operation and we were set back by a 50 per cent loss,” the young entrepreneur says.
But as luck would have it, Ntozi was approached by a client who was interested in partnering with him. “He wanted to carry out what we were doing to Ghana and our role was to provide him an online shop and platform. It was an encouraging entry after the big losses,” Ntozi who has grown a multi-dollar company, recounts.
He knew better now and went on to tighten his online business. “The beginnings were slow and I would encourage anyone going into business to keep their daytime job,” he advises from experience.
Many Ugandans received his idea with cynicism thinking he was just another crook out to steal their money but this did not stop Ntozi from convincing them, by word of mouth, and asking them to give him a chance by trying out his services.
Today he has a five-man team, and since 2005 the company has grown from Shs2,400,000 ($1,000) to a multi-million company that
earned him Shs24,000,000 ($10,000) in the first year. “From then on our earnings have been doubling for the last five years,” he adds.
“I wouldn’t say I have reached where I want to be because I have only achieved five per cent. I would encourage young people to work on projects they are enthusiastic about,” he says.
By Egdar R. Batte: The Daily Monitor Newspaper