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TechCabal Daily

Smart analysis about the business of tech and innovation across Africa.

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TroTro TV.

As I have said before, the most basic building block of an advertising business is a captive audience. That is why this video by TroTro TV, a Ghanaian service that displays content (and advertising) to TroTro (commercial bus) passengers, starts out by highlighting the sheer number of Ghanaians who use bus transport daily. (21m, if you are curious.) It also explains why the video goes on to depict them as bored and hopeless and without entertainment.
TroTro TV's solution is a "unique, on board, digital platform" (they are installing TV sets in TroTros and automatically playing the content during rides), and I have thoughts.

a) Content. TroTro TV's imagination of the present does not *quite* represent reality. In the video, the passengers were all bored and desperately in need of entertainment for the duration of the ride (captive audience, remember?). In reality, a significant % of those people have smartphones with content (music? movies? FB photos? Instagram feed? WhatsApp gossip?) they already like - content that is tailored to suit their tastes perfectly, because they picked/curated it themselves). So, TroTro TV's general interest content is thus not competing against boredom - it competes against the content users care about the most.

b) Advertising. The same mechanism that makes them unable to customize content makes them unable to customize (read: target) ads effectively. Beyond loose demographic profiles, TroTro TV knows nothing about its users beyond the fact that they entered a public bus. Given that advertisers buy advertising because they want to sell "products", building a *better* service means getting better at predicting who will buy what. (Guess who is better than anyone else at predicting who will buy what? Facebook and Google.)

I would be remiss not to note that the addressable market for internet services is still tiny for infrastructural reasons, and that most people *are* offline. That makes me less bearish about TroTro TV than I would have been otherwise. For as long as these infrastructural gaps exist, there is some semblance of a market for them - but those gaps are being closed as we speak.

So, depending on how optimistic you are about the economy, infrastructure and internet startups, TroTro TV's offering is either much too late or right on time.

+ (There was a startup in Ventures Platform's second cohort called VivaXD that has the same thesis, but they are approaching it by loading content onto WiFi hubs on buses and letting people consume them via their mobile phones. Hm.)
CcHUB is launching SafeOnline, a digital security guide for civil society, journalists, web-developers and active citizens that provides easy to understand and extensive knowledge on how to stay safe while using the internet. The guide will launch in Lagos on November 8, 2017, and in Abuja, on November 16, 2017. Click here to register and attend the event(s).


Here is a story on QZ about how the ride-hailing platforms in East Africa are (counter-intuitively) fighting over drivers, instead of just riders. 

Given that most large sub-Saharan African cities are overwhelmed by unemployment and difficult economic environments, the debate over driver wages has become a contentious issue. So while slashing fares for customers has been welcomed, the reduction of revenue for drivers with high commission fees has led to violent protests and strikes.

The trend towards both cheaper rides and lower commission fees for drivers also shows how competition is working with ridesharing apps in East African cities. The top companies are battling to outflank each other and attract more customers—but also drivers.

This is exactly right. Because of the limited supply of drivers and the significant overlap between the drivers who drive for one platform vs. another, ridehailing companies cannot treat drivers as peripherals - as Uber found out in Lagos. 


When TStv announced its launch in Nigeria as the long-awaited DStv killer, offering internet access, a ton of channels, and more for just ₦3,000 (vs. DStv's ₦15,000), I was skeptical of the claim. In that edition of the digest, I said:
Posit: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For the most part, Multichoice/DStv does not charge around ₦15,000 a month because they are evil people who want to steal from the common man - the economics of their business have to work out. Thus, Occam's Razor says that either TStv will air unencrypted free-to-air channels and charge a small fee for them (which really doesn't affect DStv's actual customer base) or they will buy rights to things like the EPL that people actually want to watch and flame out quickly.

But fiction-or-not, it does say something about the state of DStv's business when there is this much jubilation that there is *finally* some competition. (Yay, capitalism.)

+ Is nobody going to laugh at the irony of a monopoly named Multichoice? 😩 

Today, reports have started showing up on Twitter, of TStv subscribers seeing a dark bar across their screens, notifying them that the content they are viewing is being displayed illegally. Welp. This confirms my initial suspicion that they were not paying for the content, which is why they dared offer it for ₦3,000 a month. The owners of the rights to the content (mostly sports, so far) must have noticed they were being tapped and sent the embarrassing message over the same frequency. The result?
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There was one important takeaway from Sim Shagaya's response to my analysis: "Simple = Beautiful". As it turns out, the WhatsApp experiment is much simpler - and in hindsight, a lot more obvious - than I thought. From the Konga merchant forum:
You have asked us to make it easier for new and existing buyers to contact you directly before orders are placed, and ask you questions about your products which can help to avoid returns and failed deliveries.

We are happy to inform you that a WhatsApp contact button will be added to your products and also to your store page within 24 hours.

Please ensure that your store’s current contact number is valid for the WhatsApp account by logging into your SHQ account and updating the number.

Remember, the more contact you have with your existing and potential buyers, the more sales you are likely to make! Conversation builds trust and helps you manage any after-sales issues. With WhatsApp as an additional touch point for you, you can constantly create a positive experience for your customers.

Face, meet palm. It is a customer support play! I have now updated my mental model of Konga, and I encourage you to do the same. (Disintermediation is still a concern, by the way.)

Interesting links.

+ Ideology is the original augmented reality. Link.

+ Jumia Food [Kenya] has a new managing director. Link.

+ Naspers acquires AutoTrader, merges it with OLX. Link.

+ It is MTN vs. Vodacom for Africa's biggest digital bank. Link.

+ Math's beautiful monsters. Link.

+ Facebook launches SME council in Nigeria. Link.
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+ Jumia is hiring a Senior PHP Developer. Link.

+ The Nigerian Stock Exchange is hiring an Information Security Manager. Link.

+ MEST is looking for an incubator fellow in Ghana. Link.

Upcoming events.

Want to get your event featured? Tell us about it here.

Osun: Intellectual Property Masterclass, at OAU, Ile-Ife, on November 3. Link.

Lagos: A Deeper Dive into Rust, on November 4. Link.

Lagos: Imisi 3D AR/VR November Meetup, on November 4. Link.

Aba: #StartupSouth3: Made in Aba Edition, on November 9. Link.

Accra: forLoop is having their first meetup in Ghana on November 11. Link. (If you are based in Ghana and you want to showcase your product, fill this form.)

Lagos: Hardware Lagos v2.4: Navigating China will hold on November 18 at Capital Square, Ikoyi. Link.

Lagos: High Growth Africa Summit, on November 21 - 22. Link.

All done.

Thank you for reading. Next, share the digest. Have a good day.

Read today's TechCabal digest to discover what Ghanaians watch in public buses

With love in my heart, and Utopia Chicken Bombs in my belly,

- Osarumen.
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