In 2016, a team of three students from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) came together to set up a Sacco and Microfinance Banking System called Jisort.
They wanted the banking system to be accessible by different clients all over the world.
Having designed the platform, they started to market the product through word of mouth and referrals. Although their product received positive reception, they soon realized that their reach was limited by geographical factors, and that is how they came up with different ideas to address the marketing challenges they faced.
William Mwai, the Head of Engineering at Jisort Systems, says that they had thought of dropping the product as they were unable to reach their targeted leads, but changed their minds.
They continued researching, and one day they came across an advert about domain and hosting services in the United States. Curiosity took the better of them, and they decided to give it a shot and registered a domain name, jisort.com, with a company based in the US. They also leased a server with the same company, designed their website, and, voila!, they were now selling their banking system online with potential to reach millions of clients globally.
“This was the silver bullet that we needed for our product to survive in the market. We are now able to sell our product to clients in Taiwan, India, South Africa, United States, Nigeria, Kenya among other markets. It works like magic!” Mr Mwai quips.
They did not stop there. They realized that inability to reach out to new clients by small businesses was, and still is, a major hindrance to their growth and survival. They started exploring how to take other businesses online.
“We registered a company, Truehost Cloud Ltd, and partnered with Kenya Network Information Center (KeNIC)-a government agency under the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)- to offer domain name registration services in Kenya. Through this partnership, we register .ke (dot ke) domain names with extensions like: .co.ke, .ke, .me.ke, .or.ke, .ac.ke, .sc.ke, .ne.ke, .info.ke, .go.ke,” says Mr David Murimi, the Head of Projects at Truehost Cloud.
According to Joel Karubiu, KeNIC Chief Executive Officer, there has been an upshot in the number of domains registered recently in Kenya.
“Kenya is third in Africa in terms of domain names registration with slightly over 100,000 names, Nigeria is second with over 200,000 domain names and South Africa leads with 1.2 million domain names,” said Mr. Karubiu during the recent awards ceremony held at Maverick Hotel where Truehost Cloud emerged as the 1st runners up in domain registrations for the year 2020.
Mr. Karubiu advises individuals, businesses, and institutions to take advantage of a .ke domain name to market their businesses, ideas, and products better locally and globally online, and also get customized email addresses for their brands.
To enable their clients to be able to register and transact through international domain names, Jisort has partnered with other global companies. This way, they also register other domain name extensions like: .com, .net, .org, .info, .cloud, .us, .co.za, .africa, .me, .mobi, .church, .lawyer, .accountant among others.
They are now able to register any domain name across the globe, provided the name is available for registration.
For a domain to be accessible online, they needed to provide reliable and secure hosting services as well. This was necessitated by the realization that there were unreliable hosting service providers locally, and their clients were relying on hosting companies outside the country which came with a myriad of challenges like high pricing, poor support, and latency (delays in data transfer), among others.
They resolved to solve the problem by engineering an innovative managed cloud service platform, that would ensure their clients are always online. This was the inspiration behind their setting up Truehost Cloud.
Truehost Cloud, offers reliable, powerful, and innovative managed cloud hosting with a 99.999% uptime guarantee; military-grade online security, round the clock support via phone, email, chat, tickets; and affordable services through a fair pricing model.
So, what does one need to ‘get to the cloud’?
According to Mr Murimi, one needs to register a domain name (which may be your business name), get a hosting plan, and set up a website. You do not need any technical skills to do this. Within a few hours, your business or idea will be available online.
Once you set up your website, it is advisable that you undertake Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so that the site ranks higher on search engines like Google, Baidu, Bing among others.
In 2017, Truehost Cloud ventured into Nigeria and subsequently, South Africa and United States. It continues to explore other markets.
With dedicated servers, virtual private servers (VPS) and other types of servers located in different countries including Kenya, Egypt, Germany, France, Poland, and United Kingdom among others, Truehost Cloud offers a global experience to their clients at par with international competitors.
Mr. Murimi says that it is also important to ensure that one secures their emails and websites through Security Socket Layer (SSL), commonly known as SSL certificates, which ensure a secure connection and trust from their website visitors.
“Cyber Security is very important when operating online. Hackers may penetrate your website if not well secured and steal your data, or install malicious content”, says Mr. Murimi.
Another challenge that businesses wanting to go online face is website design. Most business owners are not tech-savvy and they outsource web design services from developers and web development companies who overcharge them, fail to deliver, or deliver poorly designed websites.
In 2020, Truehost Cloud launched a free website builder platform called olitt.com to address those challenges. Olitt is a free drag-and-drop website builder that hands you the tools you need to succeed online. It compares favorably with other site-builders like Wix, Shopify, Sitepad, etc. Anyone can build their website for free, and only needs a domain name.
“We continue to explore new ideas to help Kenyan businesses get online to meet their clients, who spend most of their time on the internet. Our single-most desire is to get any business, idea, and institution online”, Mr. Murimi says, as he shows us some websites built on the olitt.com platform.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an even greater imperative to go online. The world is going digital, so should you. The size of your business or idea does not matter, take it to the cloud. With an online presence, businesses are able to sell globally and compete with other businesses from other markets.