The Innovation forum at the KICC presented an interesting forum for startups to showcase their products to the forum attendees. I met Manuel Watindi, a sociology graduate out to leverage the power of ICT in education through his startup Boresha. Boresha is a learning aid, currently on the web and was developed some 8 months back although this is after 16 months of research to get the product right. Boresha was incubated at Makini group of schools who came in handy in assisting the team develop a viable product they can go to market with.
Boresha Limited seeks to bring the 8-4-4 primary school curriculum on digital platform for all students. Manuel Watindi of Boresha Limited says that since they launched the startups things have been looking up. “Work for us has been overwhelming. We launched the product at the beginning of the term and we were awed at the reception. Our product is majorly in the form of a disc and on the web. The web platform has received significant hits.” Said Manuel
Currently Boresha is developed and available as a download from their website and in the form of a disc. This was developed in partnership with Microsoft and thus the initial product is a Windows product. The startup has plans to widen their reach by developing Android and iOS apps and these will be available soon. Their current business model is one-off sale of a course that they sell at Kshs 500 per subject for a class.
This however is not final and they have plans to break it down further to smaller bits like for example a Chemistry project for between Kshs 50 to 100. These can be sold directly to the teacher (B2B) or to the child (B2C) where students can get more content to interact with on their devices as opposed to what they are exposed to, content like Angry Birds and the likes.
Manuel says that the average pupil in primary school has an attention span of slightly over 45 minutes and after that there is less than 20% of the class concentrating. The idea is to increase the concentration span to 90%, thus effectively raising the learning levels.
They have a plan to add a subscription model via platforms available to Kenyans like Kytabu app.
Boresha’s unique selling point is that they align to the current curriculum, thus get embraced by existing learning institutions and to that effect they are working with Text Book Centre and Kenya Private School Association to distribute their product. The latter carry out visits every month to schools and the target by end of this year they will be in at least every school in the country. The other unique selling point is diversity in the product; they not only sell education curriculum, they also sell IT solutions, so their customers in the schools also buy IT solutions from them. Their product is in the form of video, audio, interactive learning and games which make learning fun for the students.
Their main marketing plan is word of mouth and they have not sought to go out of that. It works so far and they have quite a lot of interest. “We already have interest from the Rwandese government to develop a similar product tailor made for their market. We also hope to ultimately land the tender once the Laptop project comes alive. There are also plans to focus on other curriculum such as the IGCSE and the American System,” said Manuel.
They do have challenges as well. Government has been slow with the laptop project which would have come in quite handy in availing a wider userbase for their product. Distribution of their content is also a challenge as selling their product requires sales people to be IT savvy on top of the sales skills. This is not that easy to find. Manuel says there is also the risk of large IT companies coming across their idea and implementing it in a huge way by learning their model. He quotes a time when he had to cut short negotiations with one Kenyan telco when he was told the said company would take their idea if they found out during the pitching that they could replicate it. Intel is said to have been interested in working with them, only that they wanted to pay too little for a whole year of exclusivity. He says they wanted USD 16,000 for the deal which he calls peanuts.
Digital Migration Is Meat And Poison To Them
Onto Digital Migration, Manuel says it does favour them in one way and doesn’t in the other. They wanted to partner with one of the major media houses, but by virtue of the said media house being off-air due to the digital migration fiasco between three media houses and Communications Authority, they aren’t selling yet. Bad timing. But he also adds that digital migration also adds opportunity to sell content to more channels and competition to get your content aired is reduced with more options. For example, a TV station, Schools TV requires content for education, this is good for them. “The digital sweep is really large in Kenya, and there is a challenge to the private sector to provide innovative ideas,” he said in conclusion.