Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Simon Mathenge: Why saving in Sacco did not work for me

Simon Mathenge is the founder of Insurance Agency Technology (INAT Insuretech). He is a software service provider dealing in POS systems for shops, restaurants and supermarkets, and a digital insurance services provider for Insurance agents and policy holders.

In our early days, the revenue we got was used to grow the business. Back then, our operations were not formalized. The biggest challenge was skepticism and lack of trust in our potential customers in software and digitization. This is because the majority had been conned by unscrupulous developers, or sold substandard products. There was also a lack of customer support once the developers sold the products. We changed this by promising our customers guaranteed support, constant innovation and updating the software to meet the changing needs. Nonetheless, capital is always a recurrent challenge.

I had a brief three-year stint in formal employment at an Insurance company before I started my own business. During this time, I observed how corporate structures are developed, chains of command and setting up of formal accountability channels. My business started as a hobby. I started coding software in the company of some friends. We got a few customers who then referred us to more customers and the business grew from there.

I used to assume that income will always be constant and guaranteed. However, this rarely happens in business. For example, I would earn a good amount of money from a single client and spend all the money assuming that I would get other similar clients. Then the other prospective clients would either delay in buying our products or delay in paying the amounts due. This would cause me serious financial constraints.

My greatest business moment came last year. We approached several insurance companies and they agreed to interlink our systems. This would ensure that our customers would also get the convenience of buying insurance policies from the on-boarded underwriters through a digital channel at their own convenience. We did this by cold calling and cold emailing insurance managers from contacts given to us by our existing customers.

If I could start all over again, I would develop software products based on customer needs and specifications. Not based on the ideas in my head. Customers are dynamic and have diverse needs that need to be taken care of but developing through my own imagination would at times give us a product that is over-engineered, too detailed and complicated or at times, a product that does not meet the customer needs due to missing features.

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Most of the money I make is ploughed back to grow the business. However, I have a personal bank account that I use to save and cater for my personal expenses. Previously, I used a Sacco but the method does not work for everybody as a loan needs at least three guarantors which is not easy to get. Again, Saccos need purchase of shares and the shares are not easy to liquidate if you want to quit. This is an issue that Sacco managers need to address. The loan interest rates are more favorable though.

If you have an idea that you believe in, do enough research and once comfortable with the knowledge you have acquired, go ahead and implement it. There will never be ideal conditions or the best time to start a business or make a career move. You have to make do with what you have in your hands at this moment. Start, continue being a lifelong learner and adapt to the ever-changing environment.

A version of this profile feature on Simon Mathenge was published in the Saturday Magazine. The Saturday Magazine is a publication of the Nation Media Group.

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