BY CHIEDZA KOWO
ZIMBABWE Ezekiel Guti University (ZEGU) IT student Rufaro Sithole (RS) is dreaming big.
After developing an application for business managers, he dreams of pursuing his dream with more precision into Africa. Zimbabwe may possibly be nurturing its own Elon Musk, the Tesla chief.
Our business reporter Chiedza Kowo (CK) had a discussion with Sithole (RS) to find out if he measures up to his ambition. Here is how their discussion turned out.
CK: Who is Rufaro Sithole?
RS: Rufaro Sithole is a passionate technopreneur based in Harare, Zimbabwe. I was born and raised in Chipinge.
I went to New Year’s Gift Primary School, which is owned by Tanganda Tea Company.
I proceeded to Chibuwe High School and later to Gaza High School in Chipinge.
Currently, I am a second year student at Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, where I am pursuing my BSc in Digital Technology.
I was raised in a Christian family, and I am 23 years old.
CK: Tell us more about your application and how you hope to transform the economy.
RS: The Business Manager (BM) application that I have just launched for android devices is the first product in a suite of products I have been working on lately.
It is an application for entrepreneurs and other individuals who are running a business of any sort on their own and who want to keep all their business information at their fingertips.
The application allows one to manage their business inventory, sales, orders, expenses, customers, creditors, debtors’ information, and more from their phone.
Users can also generate and send professional invoices, quotations, and receipts to their customers.
In addition to this, users can also view reports of their financial performance in a given month, as well as reports on stock, sales, debtors, orders, and more.
The BM application improves the ease of doing business, as well as efficiency in recordkeeping.
An entrepreneur can now easily answer any question about their business wherever they are.
They can now be able to send a quote or an invoice to a customer at any time, as long as they have their android device with them.
Moreover, they can now easily see how their business has been performing in the past, which products or services are performing better than others, therefore, they will be able to make informed decisions on what products to invest more on.
This increased ease of doing business and efficiency in the business processes for entrepreneurs will ultimately result in small businesses generating more revenue and reducing expenses.
CK: What motivated you to develop this software?
RS: The motivation to develop the BM app came as a result of the frustration that I often-times face when I am looking for services.
Many times, I am asked to look for several quotations for services like printing, or some basic, general hardware equipment.
When I contact the people that I know, who offer such services, more often than not, they are either not home, so they cannot remember the actual prices, or they are away from their computer, so they cannot prepare the invoice to send me, and I will have to wait for hours. I saw this as an opportunity that I can utilise.
CK: What did you have in mind when you started Emarss Technologies?
RS: When I started Emarss Technologies, my desire was to develop simple digital solutions that are affordable to the majority of the people in Zimbabwe.
I have always observed how sometimes we struggle with simple things that do not need cutting-edge, multi-million dollar technology to solve.
For example, the majority of people I know who are into buying and selling items still write down their stock and sales on paper, and they end up losing the book and lose records of who owed them, and how much they owed them.
- What do you hope to achieve with your mobile application?
RS: With the BM app, I hope to assist a lot of people who have always been losing money due to improper recordkeeping or no recordkeeping to do business better and maximise profits.
CK: Why did you choose the small business owners as your audience?
RS: My approach was guided by the realisation that there is a huge digital divide between small businesses and big corporations.
Big corporations have a myriad of quality enterprise-level software to choose from, but one can barely find good software tailored towards the needs of small businesses.
The reason for this is that, for software development companies, the costs of developing such software are high, and so are the costs to acquire a customer.
Therefore, software companies would have to charge huge amounts for their software, but then the targeted customer will not be able or willing to incur such absurd costs.
This dilemma creates a gap in the market that has always been there for so long, in almost every country.
CK: What challenges did you face in developing the app, and how did you overcome them?
RS: When developing the BM app, the main challenge I faced was that of finance.
I had left my previous employment in November 2020, and I first worked on an educational app that I called the student Companion App (available at https://sc.emarss.co.zw).
The app was launched in January but it did not do very well in the market.
I had hoped that if the app had done well, it was going to cover the costs I needed to develop the Business Manager software suite, but it did not, therefore I had to depend on friends and family for support at times.
CK: Was it your passion to be a software developer growing up?
RS: Yes, I was always fascinated by computers as I was growing up.
I grew up in a poor neighbourhood where there were no computers, but I heard a lot of myths about them, most of which were superficial.
It was these myths that gave me a desire to work with computers from an early age.
CK: Should we expect a bigger ICT business developing out of this?
RS: Yes, most definitely.
The vision of Emarss Technologies is to be a digital agency that assists small businesses with digital transformation through developing and offering affordable digital solutions in Africa.
CK: What are your short-term goals and your long-term goals?
RS: Our short-term goal is to continue improving the BM sofware suite, that is, the BM Sole Trader Edition, BM Web Edition, and BM Enterprise Edition, and build a strong user base around these products.
Our long-term goal is to continue widening beyond business management software and develop more digital solutions for small businesses in Africa at large.