Often entrepreneurs are seen as extremist individuals who are constantly fighting for a certain cause which is neither social nor political. Most people think entrepreneurs are taught and only come into business when they retire as company CEOs. This is not the case with the subject in question, he has clarified the meaning of entrepreneurship and put all prior business misconceptions to shame.
Cow market place
Makamba Online had the opportunity to meet a true entrepreneur, a man who has changed the face of the Kenyan cow market, Victor Sylvester Otieno. Victor exercised initiative by creating a website-based cow market for Kenya. His company is Cowsoko, the name derived from ‘cow’ and ‘soko’ which is a Swahili name for market.
Cowsoko offers quality dairy cattle, feeds and other livestock inputs for private sale. Cows are bred by quality cattle vendors from their own recorded pedigree and non-pedigree herds, providing buyers with invaluable detailed information. Buyers are able to see what stock is available across Kenya, and then deal directly with the vendor. “Cowsoko is dedicated to empowering dairy farmers to connect with buyers, sellers and service providers anytime anywhere across the world. We exclusively use search, browse data to connect more than 10 000 users. Cowsoko leverages on invaluable user’s data, to deliver more engaging, targeted solutions for dairy farmers, input suppliers and service providers. Advertisers benefit too, from personalised ads that speak directly to their needs and inspiring them to take action,” Victor told Makamba Online.
Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science, and a Diploma in dairy Science and technology from Egerton University, Victor is also one of 11 to be certified as a Cow signals master trainer in Africa. Equipped with his industry knowledge, he has set out to give Kenyan farmers more choice and access to the market in the country. “Dairy farming in Kenya has distinct winners and losers. Farmers had no formal market for heifers whilst the sale of cows is an important revenue stream for dairy farms. Cowsoko enables all farmers whether small scale or large scale, to push the boundaries of dairying and ranching with more and unselective access and choice,” he explained.
On his role at Cowsoko, Victor Otieno said: “As the founder of Cowsoko, I lead Cowsoko’s organisational development providing the team and clients with leadership during inception to critical transition phase from pilot to growth stage. Now I manage strategic planning, coordination of teams, and implementation of plans. I also direct the design of a user-friendly and responsive platform that meets clients’ expectations.”
Giving back to the community
Farmers across Kenya need help in their day-to-day activities, Victor, through the various organisations and initiatives he is involved in, ploughs back his knowlage and resources to the community. “In have conducted a training need assessment for smallholder farmers in Kenya, which offered a guide for designing practical training programmes for farmers. I also support setting up Practical Dairy Training farms and design of practical training curricula for smallholder farmers. I was also responsible for setting up sustainable training and extension models in 5 dairy societies. Recently I was part of the technical committee of Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA) for the African dairy conference held in September 2015. I also train farmers on good husbandry practices,” he says.
Victor also shared with Makamba Online the challenges he faced as a start-up entrepreneur. Normally, these challenges present themselves before every entrepreneur. The difference between success and failure is made by overcoming them.
“The major challenge has been the cost of payment integration on the digital platform. Most service providers charge 3-4 % of the sales and this delayed our plans to accept large payments in the platform. Another challenge is that more people are looking for products online than the people selling. This means that normally we have more orders than we can handle at any given time.
“The third challenge is that there are no criteria of valuation of dairy cows. This means people determine the prices of cows and since most farmers don’t keep record and even if they do, it can be manipulated, the buyers can only guess the quality of the cow they buy.”
Victor also talked about money and technology issues as setbacks in business development.
“Another big challenge is capital. The challenge is mainly in accessing the loans in Kenya as most are for groups or companies can access them for expansion only, nothing for startups. People also don’t trust online sales and would prefer going to see products before they pay for it,” he said.
Age and entrepreneurship
Victor Otieno discussed the age myth in entrepreneurship. As a 27-year-old, many people believe young people cannot be successful entrepreneurs.
He said: “I believe that if you have a product that serves the need, people are generally not concerned about age. On the contrary, I receive a lot of support from people who feel are proud that young people are engaging more and more in agriculture.”
Growing across borders
Victor finally commented on growing business in Africa. He said: “Cowsoko already serve farmers from Uganda and Rwanda. The fact that we have our platform online have reduced the distance and farmers from all over east Africa can place the orders for products, contact experts or book farm tours in Kenya.”
Prospective entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs across Africa should have the zeal to grow and strive for growth in size and financially. Victor Otieno is now a celebrated African entrepreneur at a young age.
Watch how Victor has made a success of his business:
Author: Gesture Chidhanguro