Thursday, September 29, 2016

The pursuit of the Xibra dream


As, 2013 came to a close, I realized that, though I had achieved some level of success in my advertising career, there was still something missing.

2014 got off an a high note and as it slowly rolled on, the conviction of pursuing an independent path became stronger, so much so that sometimes the wee hours of the night would find me at office surfing the web, planning an exit strategy.

As this was happening, I got reconnected to an old university lady friend I had not seen in a while and we hit it off pretty well. It was the worst time for me to consider being in a relationship and I thought of all the things that could possibly go wrong and it was petrifying but what made all the difference was her constantly reminding me that everything was going to be okay when I was tempted to freak out.

Similarly, in my work life, I shared the same reservations for following my dreams. Staying with my corporate job and getting by seemed like a more logical step. A bird in the hand was better than two in the bush, I thought. But the conviction to branch out was undeniably powerful.

Then on one Monday evening as I browsed the newspaper, I came across a call for bids for AAR's advertising business. I saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate pro activeness with my superiors, who at around that same time were considering retaining me permanently with the agency. Sadly they turned down the bid citing that it was a small account to purse and besides our agency was in the running for Air Uganda business to which I had already contributed a significant amount of creative towards. I had this idea of serving rolex's (eggs rolled in a chapati) as a tactical to celebrate independence day since a rolex was the one single most unifying snack in the country that did not have cultural ties. To bring this to life, I placed a large order of the delicacy with the sound cup that was serving a classy version. The restaurant was owned by the famous musician Maurice Kirya and in exchange for the large purchase, he accepted to make a brief appearance during our pitch as a mock up air attendant serving a sample.

I was upset when the bid was turned down because AAR seemed like an easy catch so I started shopping around for another agency that would be willing to partner with Carlos and Patrick, a company I had started with my university buddy Carlos, straight out of school. Prior to getting a job, I had spent a year as an entrepreneur which had also seen me setting up Butterfly tech, with the coder - hacker Frank Odongakra. Things were great the first couple of months and I envisioned myself as the next Steve jobs, a pixar studio of sorts in one hand and a tech firm in the other. However after a year, everything had gone wrong which forced me to shine my shoes, wear a tie and get a job like all the other adults I knew. I remember Stella who would become my immediate boss, looking at my well designed resume and having reservations about hiring me; not because I was not qualified but rather the opposite. On paper, I looked like a successful entrepreneur well on his way of making a fortune but the reality was far from it and the truth stung. Somehow, she too saw it that I really needed the job and gave it to me. The truth is, I wanted to work at a creative agency so bad that I would have taken the position without a pay. Reading David Ogilvy's book on advertising and watching Mad Men had animated my mind about advertising. I was hired.

Nine months down the road and there I was, at a cross road. Deciding between doing the whole 9-5 thing or venturing out on my own. As I had explained, by this time, I was in the market looking for an agency that met AAR's bid guidelines to partner with. Even though my company Carlos and Patrick had the creative, we didn't have a client portfolio which would put us at a disadvantage had we decided to go solo. One of my work mates, introduced me to his previous agency and just like that I had a partner. It was kind of an awkward situation for a rookie to talk another agency into partnering on a bid. I talked big game. Luckily the other agency needed the business just as bad so they accepted, letting Carlos and I run the show. All they had to do was to act as the front   company pitching but in truth it was really Carlos and I.

The two pitches were put on the same day, Air Uganda and AAR. The days leading to it, I felt like a double agent because I would work my 9-5 at my regular job and after head to the other agency to work till late on the creative. The irony of the whole situation was the MD's of both companies were friends, so this guy I was partnering with could screw me anytime by sending an email to my boss, but I had done well to keep the AAR client communication strictly between I and them; this new agency needed me for the pitch and for a time that is how I kept them at bay.

That morning of the pitch, I head over to the other agency to link up with everyone else and we headed out. Half way our pitch, my boss at my regular job was calling frantically, possibly to find out if the app was ready. The other creative idea I had contributed to the air Uganda pitch was a mobile app to which they requested to see a live demonstration during the next round of pitching. We were expected to make the presentation at midday and last I had spoken to Frank, my buddy the coder, he was having trouble with a few lines of code. There was a lot at stake. I decided to stop thinking about it so that I could focus on the AAR pitch which was going marvelously well.

I was dropped a block away from my regular job and I jogged the rest of the way. luckily Frank was at the reception already waiting for me and thank God he had good news. We headed over to the boardroom to test the app. Across the room, I caught my boss giving me that eye of  "you better got this shit."
A selfie before the Air Uganda pitch. 

Air Uganda office was located a few blocks from our offices so we decided to walk. As we sat in the boardroom, all setup and waiting for the CEO, I noticed that I was the only intern in a room filled with executives from both sides of the table. The pitch went well and fast. I was proud of what I had achieved. I was the man of the hour. I felt on top of the world.

A month later, May 2014, we had received feedback from the airline and we had lost the account to another firm but on the bright side, my company had made it to second round of pitching for AAR, and soon I had to make the decision of whether to continue with my job or follow the dreams that kept me up late every night.

By this time, in my personal life, I had madly fallen in love my lady friend I mentioned earlier and even though settling down didn't seem like something I wanted to do, all signs would indicate I was heading towards that direction. It was a hard decision to make on both ends, following my dreams and heart at the same time because with it carried the predicament of heart break. At one moment I would be all pumped up about quiting my job and falling in love and the very next I’d feel my stomach turn because I was petrified of the consequences of both actions.

It’s at the MTN media party, the very last I hosted when I made up my mind to let myself go and purse that which was closest to my heart. I knew that there was a likelihood a year later people might be saying "I told you so" but non the less, I closed my eyes and decided to take the plunge. 
My last weekend at my regular job. I was always at office that the guards became my personal friends

That Tuesday, I wrote my resignation letter and I was out. I had 24 hours left for the final pitch of AAR business. The creative was coming along great however my partnership with the other agency was falling apart. They had given me an ultimatum to put them directly in touch with the client or else the partnership was off. With few options, I agreed to their demands with the faint hope I would not get screwed. I was taking a lot of risk. First quiting my job and the next partnering with a risky agency.

The other complication I was facing was Frank was not answering his phone like he usually did  when he could not solve an equation. Choosing to focus on the creative, I asked my lady friend to make a last plea on my behalf and to ensure he had everything ready by morning for the Health app we had promised to deliver during our presentation.

Morning came, and Frank was there. Carlos, Frank and I made an interesting team and as we rode for the presentation, I was overwhelmed by gratefulness to be able to be pursing my dreams with people who were also my friends. In that exact moment, I realized that is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life; to sell ideas.

That evening, when I got back home, my lady friend showed up with a bottle of wine to congratulate me on my bold step and to wish me luck on the new journey that I was about to embark on. I acted tough about it, downplaying my fears but I was shitting my pants on the thought that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

The following day, I had a lunch meeting with my dad. Burgers and coffee was our thing; code for things are bad in my life and I need to talk. He listened on as I narrated my current unemployment situation. The take away from our conversation was, I needed a place to stay since my rent was running out, as I figured out what to do next. I can imagine it was a tough call to allow me to shack up with them since it had been a while since I had left home and from experience he emphasized adult staying with their parents didn't work. But he could tell I needed the favor so he allowed, with a lot of reservations.

Next thing I knew, I was back home, in my childhood bedroom. The reality of being unemployed started to feel just about right. I was completely broke and in debt from all the previous ventures . I started taking one step at a time and two years down the road I can say that I am happy that I followed my heart and had the bravery to lose sight of the shore in order to discover these new lands.
I spent that whole summer (June - September 2014) working on my start up Xibra out of my parents servants quaters. The hustle was starting to feel real

We, all have dreams we want to realize but many of us never do because we do nothing about them. We think about them and even share them with friends and family but when it comes down to putting in the work and taking the tough decisions to see yourself where you imagine you can be, we allow ourselves to hide behind excuses and the comfort of where we are.

My greatest take away from this experience is that, it can be scary to pursue that which you love and sometimes you might fail the first time or a couple more after before you get it right but I assure that if you keep at it, at the right moment, all the ingredients you need to achieve your goal will come together and before you know it, you will be living the life you once only dreamed of. Keep dreaming and keep moving.

-Patrick

C.E.O Xibra Group

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What going broke taught me about money and life


I have gone broke twice in my career so far, it’s something that happens quit often to entrepreneurs because we have a bad habit of taking on huge risks that usually involve investing all we have into something and even sometimes borrowing a little more on the side.

My real first experience of living on almost nothing was right after university when I left home to pursue my dreams. At that time, I was by no means ready to be on my own and a couple of months at home would have been the best play but for some reason I was too excited about the idea of going out in the world to find my place. With only a laptop and $5 I bid my parents farewell and set off on my way.

I spent the following three months sleeping on a friends couch as I worked my ass off to establish my first media company Carlos & Patrick. During this period, I religiously lived on a simple diet of Kikomado (chapatti & beans) with a glass of water. Breakfast, lunch and supper. I remember one time having only ugx 1000 (20 cents) and I had to choose between purchasing a jerry can of water for ugx 200 but then that would leave me  short of buying a meal. I thought about it for two hours until I decided that I really needed that shower.

When I look back at these experiences, I realize that, dreadful though they were, they taught me invaluable lessons about money and life and if I had to, I’d do it all over again. These are some of the lessons I learnt.

Money makes money
Cash is king and if you do not have it, you cannot make more of it, which is why the richer get richer, because they have the money to invest. Establish different sources of cash flows, that way there is always money coming in from somewhere. Also be smart with your money, learn to save. 

Pursue wealth not just riches
Being rich is great but being wealthier is better because it’s a more holistic approach to building an empire. Wealth emphases monetary value, social capital (people) and assets.
The second time I experienced a period of being broke was when I quit my job in 2014. The reason was twofold; jump back into self-employment and to reconnect with my parents with whom I hoped to smooth things over with (things hadn’t ended well when I left home after college).
Soon after moving back home, it did not take long for my savings to start drying up while the clients I had hoped to work with stood me up. My projections where in the gutter. That December 2014, I was hit with more bad news; my kidneys were failing. I was unemployed so I didn’t have medical coverage. Spending the last of my savings, I saw specialists, run tests as the condition accelerated.

Mid December found me admitted in the run down Mulago hospital, helplessly fighting for my life. It was a dark time and at that point, even though I did not have a penny to my name, family and friends stood by my side through it all. It was a humbling experience to witness first hand how other people pour love and happiness into our lives making us a much richer version of ourselves. However this was only possible because with my free time earlier that year, I had spent it reconnecting with the people in my life and actually building bonds, that way when I was in need, they were there for me, not so much because they owed me anything but rather because I took the time to invest in these relationships. Build wealth not just riches.

Money should move forward not backwards
The question is not whether the money you currently have will be spent or not because it will but rather, what it is spent on will make the world of difference. Spend your money in such a way that it will pay returns in future also known as investment. For example, if you have $50 in your wallet and you happen to be hungry yet at the same time you need to make business cards. From an investment point of view, making business cards is a better expenditure because it is likely to yield returns in form of business while eating might satisfy a preexisting need, it does not send your money into the future where it will yield returns.

Manage the debt burden/risk
Every decent human being at some point accumulate debts and if you are broke, there is a 90% chance you owe some people money. At first, the thought that you do not have the money to pay your debts will drive you insane which might force you to make promises you cannot keep. Take time off to access your situation and during this period, do not take on any new debts as you think of a plan to pay back those you owe. The other amateur mistake is trying to pay back all your debts at once, leaving you broke once again. It’s important to come up with a payment plan to reduce your debts and whatever money you get, decide the percentage that will go towards paying arrears and that which is for investment. Remember money makes money and it should always be moving forward.

Monday, June 22, 2015

10 things every man should do in his twenties (advice to my younger self)




About four years ago when I started this blog, I was a sophomore at University pursuing a degree in mass communication. At the time of my first post, I was taking a class in creative writing and thought that starting a blog would be a good way to get better at writing. When I scroll through the fifty four posts I have written since then, I must say that I have done well to get better at expressing my ideas.
When I take a closer look at the content, I realize that it represents a journey of sorts that I have taken. In truth, I am little overwhelmed by how much I have evolved as a person and yet remained the exact same in; my purists, definitions of happiness and values.

On that note, I also realize that I am two years away from my thirties which means am about to go through another learning curve. Growing into another decade of your life is much like being promoted to another class.

Yes, I will look back at my twenties  with a smile but it is becoming more imperative to plan for the future than it is to decipher the past. But before I head off to get busy inventing the future, here is some advice that I would pass along to the twenty something Patrick if I could go back in time.

1.Move out of Home

It will be one of the scariest thoughts you will have to entertain but sooner rather than later, you should leave your parents’ house and venture out into the world on your own and stand on your own two feet. And there is a likelihood that your first apartment will not be the ideal place which might make you miss home for a minute but in order to grow and to be taken seriously, you will have to be on your own at some point in your twenties.

And yes, there will be days where you might go without a meal but that should not deter your focus for moving forward. And related to that, learn to cook a meal or two. Not only will this score you some nice chicks in the process but will save you tons of money on food, which you will come to realize is the most expensive thing about being a bachelor.

2.Fall in love

Another scary thought you will have to entertain which carries with it, the predicament of a heart break. Scary, I know and even worse, it does not get any easier. Falling in love is a scary thing for anyone of any age. So, for what it is worth, you might as well fall in love and see what happens. Of course, only do so with a girl that is worth your time so that even at the end of it, you will be grateful for the time you spent with one another.

And when you do, go all in. Do all that romantic shit you watch on T.V. Write her poetry, cook her a good meal, take her to the movies, pay for her salon session or go for a picnic (women love that shit). But in whatever you do, have the purest of intentions and genuinely love and care for her. It will teach you a lot about women.

3.Fall out of love

Do not hate yourself for falling in love with the wrong girl. It’s okay for things not to work out between you and the girl you thought was the one. Happens to the best of us. And sometimes it might not even be your fault. Some people are just naturally really shitty people and you just might not notice at first. But the most important rule is not what the other person is doing or what they want but rather, what you want! And should you ever find yourself in love with someone but still feel something is missing, then there is a likelihood that you are with the wrong mate, and never hesitate, even for a moment to walk away if something does not add up.

It might take meeting a few people before you realize what you want out of your love life but when you do, purse that direction. If you are still not sure of what I mean, rent a copy of “How I met your mother.” You’ll get the drift.

That way, when you do decide to settle, you will do so without a speck of doubt and for some reason you will always know when you have found her. So don’t give up if you haven’t found her yet, its worth every minute of your wait. Trust me on this one bro.

4.Make money

Freedom is great but it comes with the responsibility of bills, gas for the car and dinner dates. To enjoy your twenties, you will need to have a little cash in your pocket so learn how to make money in any way you can learn how. You will soon realize that money solves a lot of problems and like many things in life, its better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it. There is nothing glamorous about being broke and I reckon you will experience this for yourself and hopefully you will come to the same conclusion.

5.Pay your debts

There are two things that can drive a man insane, women and debts. Have both handled and the cardinal rule in your twenties is only acquire business debts and only from family and friends. Not banks, loan sharks or shady characters. For a simple reason that, it is very difficult for legal institutions to give out credit to a young, inexperienced chap like you and seeking alternative sources like the sharks is just a stupid idea because should you fail to pay the debt, you are likely to lose far more than you borrowed.
But before you take any investment from whatever source, ensure you can deliver on paying it back plus interest. Even family and friends want to make some money on the side which means, if you have a legit plan to make people richer, then go ahead and take the risk. This is what your twenties are for.

6.Be open minded

It is f^ckin* retarded to be closed minded and when you get to university, your values, perspectives and theories will be challenged by other intellectuals, whom you might at first consider, cocky, arrogant or even perhaps a little pompous. But through this, teach yourself to listen and entertain ideas from other people however radical. You will notice that by doing so, you will have significantly more friends who think nothing like you and with a bit of luck, this will get you to meet some pretty awesome people, whom otherwise you might never have met if you took people who clashed with your own notions seriously. Chill a little bro. Your friends are equally as confused as you are. They too are trying to discover themselves. Cut them some slack.

7.Travel

One day, you might receive a call from Brian Aine at midnight inviting you to travel with him to Mbarara at six in the morning for his introduction. And even though, you might not have money on you, if he is willing to take care of your expenses, there is no reason why you should not be on the next taxi to Kampala from Mukono.

Yes, traveling will take you out of your comfort zone and there are many justifiable reasons that will fly into your mind as to why you should not travel when an opportunity presents itself but brash all the negative energy aside and get packing.

For what it is worth, you will realize that the journey is always the reward and a camper that breaks off from camp will always have a story to tell. Be that guy. Not only will you learn a lot about the world but it is a great moment to learn certain things about yourself you didn't even know you should know.

8.Stop putting up with shit from anyone 

Well, not entirely. I read something that I think you will find helpful. “A scientist hired an actor who was put in an isolated room. In the observation room, he invited regular people whom he gave a device with a dial that increased the amount of current electrocuting the paid actor. The scientist then asked the civilians to keep increasing the dial. When the current was increased to certain levels, the civilians would express concern about the safety of the person being electrocuted. But the scientist would then encourage them to increase it anyway, that it was perfectly safe. With this assurance from the scientist, the civilians, against their better judgment carried on.

 Luckily, it wasn't actual current being transmitted to the paid actor but imagine if it was.”

9.Mend fences

Knowing you, I am sure you are going to get into a few fights with people when you are in your twenties. It’s perfectly normal to fight with partners, family or friends but this does not mean that you are a bad person. The important thing isn't about who was right or wrong but rather, whether the relationships can be fixed.

Every once in a while, you will get a second chance at fixing things with people in your life. When this opportunity comes, take it and sometime it might come at a point where you do not even need the other person, but always remember, if a relationship is worth having, it’s worth fixing.

But sometimes you will mess things up so bad that no matter what you do, it won’t help and in some isolated incidences make matters even worse. In these rear cases, remember something’s cannot be fixed. Move on and do you best next time not to f*ck things up so bad.

10.Throw epic parties


Call it a rite of passage to bachelorhood but you have to throw an epic party which you will look back at with fond memories. Yes, you possibly could get into a whole lot of trouble and there are probably better ways to spend your money but nothing can replace the memories you will create with your friends.

And if this is not convincing enough, remember that this will make you look awesome which in turn will make you more popular among your peers and this comes with loads of associated advantages.

You only need three things for an epic party; drinks, hotties and lots of meaty delicacies.
You’re smart enough so I guess you’ll figure out the rest out on your own.

But before I head off, remember old friend, that above all things, have fun, worry less and meet as many people as you can because when you grow older, you will not have the same luxuries as you do now.


Responsibility, commitment and all the other boring adult stuff can wait a little while longer. Your twenties only come once; you might as well enjoy your very own fifty shades of awesomeness.

I am glad I had a chance to talk to you and hopefully you will turn out to be the man I know you can be. Take all the chances that life throws at you because you know what, you sure as hell deserve it and even when life feels as lonely as walking all by yourself on a rainy day, it will get better someday. That I can promise.

For now, do all the shit I have mentioned above and get it out of your system because you might not have a chance to do them again.

Yours truly

Future (awesome) Patrick


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to fall in love



I have not written a mushy piece for a while so I thought, why not. Its not been an easy task to play two demanding roles, one as a shrewd businessman and the other, a loving boyfriend (who knew about the latter). But for the most of this and last year, I have been working on growing in this area of my life.

I will admit that it has been quit a hectic learning curve which has forced me to painfully re-write the plays out of my playbook. By extension I am giving away a good chunk of my freedom to settle down with one woman that I love and that is a pretty scary thought. (%#*@, I'm actually doing it).

In earnest truth, falling in love is by no means an easy ordeal. Much like the other things we aspire for in life like happiness and wealth, it can be equally as illusive and unpredictable.

So, when you do reach the point where you feel like you are ready to fall in love, this is what you should do to get the most out of the experience.

Bet big or go home

Speaking from a guys perspective, sometimes we think that it is better to "settle down" with a woman who is of average inclination because we some how think that they are easier to maintain. Here is what I have found, if you are to settle down, you might as well get the girl of your dreams because when you think about it, expensive though it might be to maintain a Benz, somehow when you own one, you will find a way to look after it.

Temperamental, sensitive and demanding though it might be, the driving experience will always make up for the frustrations it costs to look after something as delicate as a flower.

A happy and mutually respectful relationship starts with two individuals who both believe that by being together, they are by extension admitting that they are much better people with their partners. You have to fall in love with someone who will always inspire the best in you and encourage you to reach for the best because they too believe the same for themselves and in turn want the same for you. Don't settle "down."
Settle "up."

Get your head in the game or get off the court

Many people fall in love with caution, often afraid that the current relationship they are settling into might just as well end with a broken heart like the previous ones. And because life is lived forward and understood backwards, its easy to constantly see a relationship or partner through the eyes of previous experiences. If there is an express ticket to unhappy-ville, this is your best bet.

If you still have thoughts about your ex, then clearly you should not be in a relationship, doing so will always come at the cost of your partner who might not be pleased to learn that the reason you are not fully committed is because you might have feelings for your ex.

To enjoy the full experience of falling in love, you have to embrace it whole hardheartedly, holding nothing back. Basically you have to love until it possibly cannot hurt any further. The more you put into a relationship, the more you will get out. Same laws of investment.

If patience killed the cow, then hesitation surely shares the same predicament.

Grow up

You will realize that when you meet someone worth spending your time with, things are going to start to change (real fast). At some point of getting to know each other, two adults have to conscientiously decide where they see the prospective relationship heading which makes it imperative to constantly communicate expectations to each other to ensure that they both see the relationship the same way. You definitely do not want to find yourself in a situation where you are all in for someone but the other person does not see you the same way.

The thing with a relationship is that it is constant work and both partners should never slack off otherwise the partnership will cease to be as romantic and exciting as it was when the two initially madly fell in love. It is very important to keep your partner engaged and excited about you and about life.

Doing so might mean having to grow in certain respects like financially to be able to give more into the relationship. You do not want to be the couple that plans vacations but never goes because the "money" is quit never there for it. If your happiness and that of your partner is important, you will find away to put in extra effort to deliver on your end of the partnership.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why MTN can afford not to give a hoot (*if it wanted to)

Promoting MTN marathon 2013 with former CMO Ernst Fonternel


Every now and then, customers of MTN Uganda take to social media their complaints of the bad service that the company provides. The last social media field day happened towards the end of last year under the hash tag #occupyMTN. The complaints touched a wide spectrum of short comings in its service delivery like customers being charged double for transactions and of course slow internet. 

As usual, the company issued a statement in which it claimed to have fixed the problem and reimbursed customers who had erroneously been double charged while processing a transaction. Believable though it seemed, I suspected it was nothing more than a PR stunt intended to calm people down.

Indeed in the weeks that followed, customers were at it again. I personally was neither able to withdraw mobile money nor purchase data bundles or get through to customer care for that matter(I am sure you can relate with my frustration). 

I made a funny tweet about it and that's about all I could do about the situation. If it was in the cards for me, I would gladly go with the other guys but I need my phone number and the other telecos are probably just as bad or even worse to a certain degree. 

But despite the ‘questionable’ service and negative publicity, figures indicated strong numbers for MTN last year. Which begs the question of why people are still so loyal to a network they claim to hate so much, in turn has given the network a competitive edge over its customers and competition.

Hopefully this article will paint a picture of why, 'big business' can afford to sit back, relax and provide a shitty service (*if it really wanted to).


Uganda Telecom's costly fumble

In 1977, Uganda moved away from the regional shared services model in which Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania collectively provided communication services, to establishing the Uganda Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (UPTC), a state-owned monopoly providing telecommunications.

After the passage of the communications act in 1997, UPTCL was divided into four entities among them; Uganda Telecom. By this time Celtel was the only other telecommunications operator that had received an operating license by 1993 and started operations in 1995. At the time, Celtel had already attracted close to 5,000 customers in the urban corridors of Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja.

The minister of Works, Housing and Communications at the time went further to sign a 15-year long none competitive close for the fixed line business to protect Uganda telecom’s monopoly. But that was the fumble itself.
Uganda Telecom did not realize that the future of communication was not in fixed lines but rather mobile. It was not until after MTN set up shop to give Celtel a run for it’s money that Uganda Telelcom finally realized its mistake but, it was already too  late, the two foreign companies had already dominated the mobile market and the rest is history.

it is arguable that, had Uganda Telecom moved fast enough to introduce mobile services to attract an initial critical mass, it is possible that a widely used state telecom service would translate into more value for money for customers and a wider tax base for government coffers.
But because Uganda Telecom failed to capture a sizable market share, customers prefer to stay on MTN to avoid the exorbitant inter-network connection tariffs. Which explains why, despite recent out rage over the 

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Ugandans cannot afford to boycott South African 

products because our home grown brands do not have the skill and financial muscle to go 

go against foreign 'big business'

The MTN brand is in a good position

MTN is leading in subscriber base with 10 million customers. A search through my phone book will reveal that 90% of my local contacts are on the network, which makes calls in the long run cheaper. Switching networks will not only cost me my phone number that I have had for the past 10 years, but my mobile expenditure will increase as well as a result of inter-network tariffs.

MTN interim financial results for the six months ended 30 June 2014, revealed that the company's year-on-year revenue growth stood at 6.8% and data revenue grew by 54.7%! In Telecommunication revenue mathematics, one data user is equivalent to 8 voice subscribers. Which means contrary to what peeps on Twitter think, MTN is growing it's data uptake.
MTN also recorded 28.5 million Mobile Money transactions per month.

Airtel is disadvantaged financially due to the acquisition of Warid last year and I suspect it spent a good chuck of ad revenue promoting Trace Music star which I imagine did not yield much in return of investment . Acquisitions can be messy business.

Orange was acquired by Africel, indicating its operations were not as profitable.

Lap Green, Uganda telecom’s holding company has been going through major restructuring to make up for the lost time incurred during the Libyan civil war in 2012, which saw temporary seizure of their 69% stake by the government of Uganda as part of sanctions against the regime of former leader, Muammar al-Qadhafi.

New kids on the block, Smart telecom and now Vodacom do not stand a chance against MTN’s total investment over the past 16 years into infrastructure, people and marketing.

In the end, it becomes apparent that even though we hate to admit it, that MTN did its home work. Touche.

The Celtel Paradox and the two of the less evils

When Celtel had a monopoly in the mobile cellular business, the service was considered a luxury and for the affluent class because of the exorbitant initial costs of buying a phone and the monthly service fee. It was considered elitist.

I remember watching an old MTN ad when the company had just launched, where an office man stopped by his usual shoe shiner station. As the shoe shiner worked to make the boss’ shoes spotless, the boss was busy bragging about his conquests in the corporate world. When all of a sudden a phone rung. Delighted as ever, the boss reached into his brief case to take the call. To his surprise, it wasn't his phone ringing. The shoe shiner, almost as though having forgotten he owned a phone, opened his equipment box to pick up his call. Which stunned the boss, seeing that his shoe shiner owned a phone.

Through lucrative advertising, MTN was able to position itself as the people’s network of choice, as opposed to Celtel that was perceived as oppressive. MTN was the first network to drop the service fee charge, which made the maintenance of a phone line on their network possible for many people who were not able to afford owning a phone line prior to this due to the monthly service charges.

Many years later, it’s ironic that now MTN is seen as the oppressive and elitist network that Celtel once was. It further does not help the situation that Celtel was later acquired by Zain which sold out to Airtel who in turn bought out Warid telecom.

Airtel’s inconsistent brand history has had serious implications on the network’s reputation and brand image which has translated into more leverage of brand equity for MTN. As proof every year MTN attracts 20,000 runners to its Kampala marathon that it has been running for the past decade, indicating its popularity, thus giving it an upper hand in the Telco business.

So in the end you can see why I am stuck on the MTN network. Thanks UTL.

Monday, May 4, 2015

How to be profoundly sad (or happy) - A users guide



Growing up, I had a wonderful childhood. Loving family, cool friends and a reasonably good 
standard of living. However over the years, different things have happened in my life that naturally left me feeling sad and sometimes down right depressed.

Looking at my life, I can say with a certain level of certainty that I understand what it means to be profoundly sad, which in turn has made me a happier person because I am now more aware of what to and not to do or think about, in order to avoid the viscous cycle of unhappiness that can become a plague.

Placing a higher focus on family and friends over work

The older I grow, the more I realize the harsh reality that people really like us for what we can offer. So, contrary to common belief, family and friends do not come first, our work does. You see, our work sets us apart from every body else and the change that we are able to bring into this world is what we will ultimately be remembered for.

I have noticed that during the low points in my life when I have either lost someone in the family or a friend, work has consistently been the consoling factor for my existence, because after all is said and done, no one can take away what you have achieved and the lives you have touched.

Family and friends are of intangible value but their role is limited to providing context to our existence but the rest of what we get out life essentially depends on our endless dedication in pursuing a higher purpose of existence than merely living life itself.

Holding a grudge

In this TED talk, a Buddhist monk had this to say about inner peace, "very often while looking for happiness, we look outside, we think that if we can gather all the conditions that would constitute happiness (we are good). That very sentence bares the very doom of happiness; to have everything. If we miss something, it all collapses. And when things go wrong (like they often do), we try very hard to fix whats outside so much but our control in the outer world is limited, temporary and often illusive. But looking inside, isn't it the mind that translates the outer conditions into happiness or suffering and isn't that stronger?"

I have realized that we often do not have control over what other people do and in turn what happens to us, but our inner state of mind will determine how we handle it. I have fallen victim of harboring anger, rage, envy and grudges and I can say that nothing good comes of it. When I find myself deeply unhappy, I like to examine my inner feelings to determine if I am harboring any hate towards someone or something and the moment I let it go, I often feel much better like a load has been taken off my back.

Working at a job you hate

If you find yourself having drinks with co-workers after work and you are complaining about your jobs, its a clear sign that you should purse something else. Around this time last year, I was working in advertising at a top agency and I remember this one instance, as I walked home from work at 4:00 am after a fourteen hour brain storm to image the brand identity for a new product, I was struck with the fact that I was no longer enjoying what I was doing. And it had made my life very sad, because I thought of all the things I could have been doing but couldn't and the predicament of living life like that seemed stifle.

A month later, when my documentary film came in second at a film festival in Washington D.C, as I shared the exciting news with my immediate supervisor, she could tell how lit up I was about it. She then bluntly advised me to ditch advertising to purse my passion because she could clearly notice that advertising was sucking the life out of me.

A year later, I realize that she was very right and even though at the beginning of this journey it was difficult, primarily because I did not have a plan, I now see that waking up every morning to work on exactly what I want to work on beats a corporate job, ten fold.


Having a poor self image of yourself

How we treat others is really a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and when you have a poor  image of yourself, you will find settling for less in all aspects of life natural. From the jobs you apply for, to the friends you make and even how you treat your children. 
This is one of the surest ways to find yourself constantly under a dark cloud.
You might wake up one day and wonder why good things are happening to everybody else but you.  and the answer might be that you hold yourself in low regard. You cant attract good things your way until you start holding yourself in higher regard. 

Staying in an unhappy relationship

"Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage(relationship), teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce." -Jennifer Weiner (That pretty much sums it up)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Smart money: 4 places to invest your money this year



The second quarter has officially began and I am already feeling the economy speeding up. Around this time of year, I like to take time off to think of where to invest my money for that year. I am sure you can appreciate that amassing wealth happens over time and you have to continuously make the 'right moves' in order to witness an incremental growth every 12 months. By all means I could be wrong about some things because there are scenarios that we cannot foresee however when you analyse the current trends, you can also extract insights that can give you an image of what is likely to happen the following year on the money market. Below is where I am investing my money in 2015.

Real estate

In the previous article 'my top three predictions for 2016' I mentioned that next year is going to see a lot of change in structural distribution of wealth which hinges on the rise of the Y generation or millennials as the baby boomers (above 50 year old) will be looking to retire. Many baby boomers have empty nests because chances are, all their children have grown up and moved out of home. With some baby boomers deciding to migrate out of the city to the quitter parts of the country, this creates a good opportunity to buy their real estate because they will be looking to sell. A real estate boom is not only experienced when people's incomes increase but also when numerous homes are suddenly available on the market simultaneously.

Delivery services

This year, we are likely to see an incremental growth in smartphone usages which can only translate into abundant availability of internet based services, like Hello foods - where you can order food online for delivered to your address. What each of these companies will realize is that Uganda property is not well documented and available online. The only way to offer someone direction is by giving details of land marks, not addresses since we are still using the postal system. This increasingly makes finding places and people difficult. The company that will invest in digitally land marking areas, to offer definite directions will reap big by selling the information to the highest bidder.

Export business

The Uganda market is saturated with similar products or services and companies will start realizing the need to trade in other markets other than the home land. This also provides the advantage of earning foreign currency which in most cases is far superior to the Uganda shilling that is likely to decline drastically for the period leading up to the election season as a result of increased government spending. Keeping in mind that a  company makes profit when selling a commodity from a low concentrated market to a higher concentrated market. Think China to America.

Automated smart systems, research and development

When I started out as an entrepreneur in 2012, I realized that there was a lot that was going to happen with in the following years. So I started following the paper trails. It soon led me to start Xibra digital which develops mobile applications and smart system mainly for big corporations that are trying to reach the new consumer who has a growing fondness for singular tastes. In other words, individualistic products. This means that companies are realizing too, that they can no longer rely on the old model that preached putting out an Ad with a lucrative proposition for customers which would translate into sales and eventually profit.

This calls for reinvention of company procedures to achieve maximum leverage off technology which is helpful in making delivery of services convenient and more accurate because essentially, a smartphone's essential task, through the many apps installed, is to collect user information and patterns. This raw data is precious to companies that are looking to understand how their customers tick.

By following the money, it also led me to start Xibra capital which will raise seed money to fund some of these projects because I realize that ideas ride on the money train and this is an inescapable fact.

I hope this gives you an idea of where to invest this year. Good luck in your ventures and do give me a call if you have an idea worth embarking on.

-Patrick

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why organizations are going to find it increasingly hard to raise money


Kony 2012 made by the invisible children's charity organization which is advocating for the end of the LRA war, became the most viral video in a short period of time with 100 million views in just a few days. According to their financial records, the organization raised $26 million. However the film was criticized for overly simplifying a complex story and in turn, donations in 2013 amounted to a merger $4 million out of a budget of $15 million.

The organization which was started by Jason Russel and his two college mates announced recently stated that they will be closing down their operation. At their peak, they employed 300 people but now they are down sizing to 5 staff who will mostly work remotely on  advocacy work.

The invisible children is only one of the many organizations that are facing difficulty in raising funds to sustain their programs. Here is why I think organizations are going to find it increasingly hard to raise money.

Everything now has to be quantifiable

In the past, organizations received funding for their projects and in turn submitted a report that appealed to peoples emotions rather than their rationale. Which made sense because sometimes change cannot be quit quantified but the donors were happy as long as they knew their dollars were making somewhat of a difference no matter how vague that might have sounded. However, now days, donors are like investors, they like to see the return on their investment and an organization has got to be deliberately outline what their targets are, so that when they present an accurate report (hopefully), it clearly reflects against how they performed.

Priority in expenditure

About ten years ago when organizational work especially in this part of the world (Uganda) was high, it was a normal thing for an organization to buy cars, pay for high end offices and payout large severance packages to their staff, which made sense at the time because, for an organization to be credible, you must do all the above. However after the recession, it has become increasingly important for organizations to ensure their money goes the extra mile therefore any organization will understand that the only reason people give towards their cause is because it will benefit the end benefactor (usually victims). Therefore, now, organizations need to closely consider their expenditures, focusing most of their resources on their main purpose of existence which is their work because its what will speak volumes. Not the cars or well paid staff. And since donors are more stingy with their money (blame the recession) an organization has got to have its act together if it hopes to keep those dollars coming in.

Reinventing the story

Initially when an organization start out, it has a core cause to which they call upon people to be apart of and for the start it is exciting, however 5 years down the road and countless newsletters, it is not as exciting. Also keeping in mind that the people who would have supported the cause are like every other consumer who are bombarded with tons of information a day. An organization has to take on a business approach to marketing, to cut through the clutter to assure the donor why they should care about their cause, even after a few years. This will require organizations to create captivating and high impact media essentials that will resonate with their target audience.

For what it is worth, Invisible children is the perfect example for reinventing the message. Kony had been talked about for over 20 years so much so that all major world media houses had carried the story at one time or another. However IC was able to reinvent the message to reignite the fight against the war lord, using a modern day approach; social media. Other organizations should pick a leaf from this.

And good luck fund raising.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My Top 3 predictions for 2016



Shift of wealth and power to the millennials (20 - 35 year old's)

This group of people who have steadily be rising in management positions and growing their own businesses, is going to be the new middle class where the wealth is going to be highly concentrated. The explanation is simple. Millenials grew up in the era of technology which makes them the most tech savvy generation. Over time, millnials have been reinventing products in the market like Mobile mobile money to meet the e-commerce objectives. Eventually what is happening is that millenials have made solutions for their own generation and since they are currently make up majority of the working population with a disposable income, they are creating an ecosystem of their own that is going to warrant the rest of the population to leverage off their knowledge. Having the purchase power to propel a product to the top seller list is what's going to empower this generation.

Companies will therefore will need to figure out how to capture this market segment of customers, otherwise, ideas off the mill are going to hit the fan. The rise of the millennials also means that more baby boomers (60 -80 years) will be heading into retirement and this means companies who market products exclusively to this group of people will experience a hit at their revenue because of their clients dwindling disposable income.

On the political front, if the news is anything to go by, the youth are going to run the show. Finding the right message that resonates among them is going to be the key to winning the election. I am currently aware of  four of my friends who have made their political agendas known.

Increased expenditure will augment the incomes of young creative minds who have products that will put candidates ahead of competition. Let the games begin.


This is going to be the most fair election (So far)

Last year, through a partnership with United Nations Populations Fund (UNFP), Uganda finally carried out two major exercises that had been stalling; National ID card issuance and a National census. Which were both done in a space of two months, yet they had previously stalled for as far back as five years. 

But not this time. My assumption is that it is very important to President Museveni for Uganda to hold a free and fair election because it will play a pivotal role in defining our international and donor relations. And being able to account for citizens is the first step in that.
I reckon government workers will have to up their game to get complete pending projects because the president is clearly focused on legacy.

 The gay issue is going to dominate the agenda. The government will use it as a spin tactic and the opposition/independents will use it as the basis of their campain. This election will not be won by the the man with a plan (clearly we now know how that pans out) but rather the man who has a proven track record in being helpful to his community, which is going to pose an uphill battle for incumbents who are going to be put to the test to account for how they spent their term.


Explosion of the app industry

Great strides are going to be made in e-commerce this year which in turn will grow the number of people who opt for online payments. Factoring in the projected exponential growth of smartphone and internet uptake, companies are going to realize that they need apps in order to provide a refreshed online experience for their products and services. And if the app built for president Museveni is anything to go by, politicians are going to look to the tech industry to develop products that will put them ahead of the contestants. 

And since app are a technology mostly used and built by millennials, you can understand why this class of people's income is going to exponentially grow.