by Stanley Minda
Greetings people of Kenya! My name is Stanley Minda. I am doing an internship in the marketing sector of Soko Janja in the UBRICA. On the 16th of July 2018, the marketing team and I visited Ngong Road to see street sellers who sell their products on the road due to poverty which leads to an inability of getting proper premises to sell their equipment. We went there to pitch the idea of Soko Janja to them to help them market and sell their products with greater ease. When we were there I saw the good, the bad, the ugly and the opportunities of recruiting these people and being a street vendor. In this article, I will be explaining to you, the reader, what I saw and learnt.
The first thing I learnt and observed was that a lot of the workers were willing to listen to our pitch which, to be honest. That, I did not expect; the workers were very friendly and seemed intent on listening to our idea. They also knew each other and were willing to point us in the direction of other sellers who they thought may be willing to listen to us and use our online marketing platform.
Out of the 12 people we explained our idea to, 9 of them agreed to let us help them through Soko Janja. They also agreed to let us take photos. Some even wanted to take the photo themselves to ensure their products are well represented in our online market. Another positive thing I saw was that there were a lot of original products which, if advertised to the right market, would be very quick to sell due to their originality and high quality. It would also help Soko Janja which is lacking variety, attract more diverse customers and will help spread its reach.
Some of the street sellers were not willing to be filmed for our UBRICA channel. They thought we were journalists and would not be told otherwise. This is obviously bad for us because we want to tell the whole story of our journey and do not want to leave any stone unturned.
A lot of the businesses on the roadside had managers who were not there. The sellers who were there listened to us but told us we had to wait for their managers in order to seek permission from them to take pictures for and register them for Soko Janja. This process was very tedious and wasted a lot of precious time as we were hoping to talk to as many sellers as possible.
Some of the sellers were absent minded and didn’t seem interested in talking to us at first. If that is how they behave towards all their potential customers it may be a factor in why their products are not selling even though they are well made, original and of high quality.
It was also difficult to find some of the sellers as they were sitting far away from their products and did not check if customers were coming to view their products which means they may miss some customers who do not bother to wait or search for them.
A major disadvantage to the street sellers in Ngong Road is that they sell their products right next to sewage drainage. There is also a lot of dust in and around where they sell and, in the air, due to dust being kicked up by cars as they drive on the road. This means that their area of business is dirty, has a terrible smell of sewage. It is extremely unsanitary. I believe it is one of the major factors they don’t get a lot of customers. The unsanitary state of their business premises is unattractive to customers who lose interest as soon as they see where these products are being sold. The dust also gets on products like furniture which makes them unattractive to potential customers and causes them to lose interest in these products which, usually, are of very high quality.
It is also extremely dangerous for people walking as the products take almost all the space and people are forced to walk incredibly close to the road which highly increases their chances of getting hit by a car. As these cars are driving through, the sellers are exposed to a lot of exhaust fumes which could cause pulmonary complications in the future. Since the sellers work and sell on the roadside with no shelter they are exposed to all types of weather (e.g., extreme heat/cold, and heavy rain which also affects their products).
When we were there, I witnessed someone trying to sell products that were not his. The impostor, even had knowledge about the products that a customer would think only the owner of the products would know. He was caught and beaten thoroughly by the other sellers when they discovered what he was attempting to do. When we asked the sellers, they told us that that was a common occurrence in the street selling business. It had happened to some of them as well. Theft of products when operating on the roadside is a huge risk and the workers must be extremely careful with their products.
With as many problems as these street sellers face, it is easier for us to get them on board Soko Janja. They know their businesses won’t be on the road for a long time. They know they would get the opportunity to get more marketing and sales of their products through Soko Janja.
There is a wider variety of products for Soko Janja to market and sell which is sure to attract more customers that are diverse and increase Soko Janja’s brand awareness. One of the goals of UBRICA as a whole is to help the Kenyan citizens improve their lives and by helping these street sellers sell their products through Soko Janja we can help them improve their lives in multiple ways (e.g. provide better for their families, move their businesses to better premises etc.). Since we will be helping the government by helping these people get off the roadside our company could collaborate with them and they could help us fund our various projects through grants and subsidies.
The more I work in UBRICA, specifically Soko Janja, the more I learn about the true state and suffering of the poor in Kenya and learn how, through Soko Janja, we can help them improve their standards of living.