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FROM WHATSAPP STATUS TO ONLINE APPLICATION, HERE’S THE INSPIRING STORY OF MINUTE5, MTN 2019 APP CHALLENGE WINNER

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By Joel Mugabi

Young and ambitious are two words you would use to define Jonathan Katumba. At only 18 years of age, he and his co-founders, Abdallah Kambugu and Sharif Kasujja, set up Minute5, an online fresh groceries delivery service company. The decision to set up the company stemmed from the quest to assist his friend and co-founder, Kambugu, in his venture to sell tomatoes and passion fruits.

“One of the co-founders is a farmer, so we were trying to help him sell off his produce and that’s how we came up with Minute5.  Initially he only grew tomatoes and passion fruits which we sold to people in offices through a Whatsapp number advertising in groups and on our statuses,” ,” Katumba recounts the genesis of Minute5.

“Then people started requesting for other produce that were not part of what we were offering. We saw that as an opportunity for us to become a one stop shop for produce and that’s how Minute5 was born.” At the time, the business received payments through mobile money using the Whatsapp number, a process which Katumba says was strenuous for their customers.

“Customers would ask to pay the company and many would get discouraged whenever they paid to an individual’s account. They assumed we were not professional because of the lack of a recognized payment system. As a result, we had very few customers, only about five,” he explained.

Jonathan Katumba, Minute5 CEO making a presentation.

MTN APP CHALLENGE

It was during their quest for a payment system that the entrepreneurs behind Minute5 chanced on an advert of the MTN App challenge in 2019.

“In 2019, we were learning how to implement payments and we were looking at different payment gateways. That is how we found the MTN app challenge online. There we saw the challenge that MTN had and it was about open application program interface (API) which spoke to what we were searching for,” he narrates.

Determined to attain skills, and desperate for a payment system to run a successful company, Katumba and his co-founders applied to take part in the challenge. The challenge was segmented in four categories: fast-moving consumable goods, transportation and hotels, restaurants and cafes.

Minute5 joined the app challenge through the fast-moving consumable goods (FMCG) category. At the time, the lads knew close to nothing about running a business. “The MTN app challenge experience was interesting because we had never been part of that kind of challenge. We met new people, attained helpful networks and learnt a lot of things. There were trainings on business and IT every Monday for four months and they were enriched with incentives for best performers,” Katumba says.

Katumba also learnt how to draft financial models, attract and retain customers. At only 19 years, Katumba and his Minute5 emerged victorious in the FMCG category, taking home a Shs10m cash prize.

Gordian Kyomukama, then acting CEO, MTN Uganda awards Jonathan Katumba, Minute5 CEO and his co-founder with the UGX10million cash prize during the MTN App Challenge(file photo)

“I believe we won because of our ambition. We pitched with a lot of passion and ambition to the judges during the competition. We displayed a lot of eagerness to the judges and that’s why I think we were chosen. To be the youngest people there and emerge winner was very fascinating and encouraging for my co-founders and me,” he said.

A happy customer receives his order from Minute5

APP CHALLENGE BOLSTERS STARTUP

Owing to the cocktail of business skills attained from the challenge, the entrepreneurs were also inspired to transform Minute5 from a website to a mobile application. This has since smoothened operations of the company, especially for the customers.

In addition, Minute5 was connected to MTN’s mobile money system at no charge, allowing the startup’s customers to make payments through a recognized mobile payment gateway. As a result, Minute5 currently boasts of thousands of customers from an initial five that it served then.

“Most of the people and the orders we have today are online, actually mobile money customers. They don’t want to pay cash,” he explains.

“Having the mobile payment system has been very helpful to our business. It has also given our business flexibility in payments such as a subscription based model. These aspects have helped exponentially accelerate our customer base during this period. It has also enabled us keep track of our sales and streamline our record keeping.”

Katumba has lauded MTN for its efforts in supporting Ugandan startups to prosper adding that the initiatives have far-reaching impact in the lives of multitudes of Ugandans beyond the direct beneficiaries.

MINUTE5 IMPACT

As a digital grocery delivery platform, Minute5 has been very instrumental in safeguarding customer’s health during this pandemic. When lockdown persevered for months, limiting movement and transport fees hiked, Minute5 handled deliveries to its customers who could not travel due to travel restrictions.

Furthermore, Minute5 has employed close to 50 people, both directly and indirectly. The service also extends market to farmers whose produce is sold on the platform. “When we grew our product offering, we incorporated other farmers in order to get more supply to customers conveniently while getting market for the farmers at the same time,” says Katumba.

Currently aged 21, Katumba, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in software engineering at Makerere University as well as his Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) certification, says he hopes to scale Minute5 even further in future. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

 

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