It was not long ago when short messaging service (SMS) was a key mode of communication on cellular mobile phones. Almost all communications was relayed via text messaging.
But then, came the internet, chat and messaging applications.
According to 2018 data from the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), for mobile usage patterns, the SMS revenue recorded the least share at 8 per cent for the 2018/19 financial period.
“Unlike the mobile voice and SMS services that are expected to record slight decline in the next quarter, the data/internet sub-sector has continued exhibiting remarkable growth,” reads the report in part.
This, the report adds, is attributed to the fact that demand for data services in Kenya is driven by increased demand for accessing government services online, e-commerce services and enhanced interest in social media platforms and high definition video streaming.
The growing 3G/4G internet platforms hold the future of the mobile telephony services and the communications sector, causing losses on SMS communication.
This is further catapulted in the growing usage of smartphones in the Kenyan market with the use of platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook or Twitter that majority of the users are exploiting to pass information.
Tech pundits and most people now look at SMS as a dying phenomenon as things are quickly moving to the internet.
But Gabriel Ng’anga, the founder and CEO of Afrinet Telecom disapproves.
“At one point, people said that SMS is dying especially with the entry of social media and other trending ways of communication. The market is still very receptive. We have seen a lot of interest and uptake in regards to Bulk SMS especially from financial institutions that want to automate their processes,” he says.
As opposed to WhatsApp or any other social network, Ng’anga indicates that SMS are reliable because one does not need to be connected to the internet as it covers a wide range of clients in the remotest parts of the world.
He anticipates the demand to grow in the near future, adding that it is a cost-cutting solution to organizations.
Ng’anga, a Bulk SMS solution provider, indicates that peer to peer texting might have reduced but SMS still remains a major channel of providing information to the masses.
He acknowledges that doing business in Kenya has always been expensive noting that bulk SMS techniques are highly beneficial as investment cost is less ensuring smart, direct and immediate solution to businesses looking to drive engagement, revenue and growth.
“Afrinet Telecom Bulk SMS service lets you craft and send targeted texts to tens, hundreds, thousands or even millions of customers with maximum precision and minimal effort.
The communications firm targets corporate clients who would want to communicate with their audiences, whether it is from the customer to the buyer, a company to its suppliers or to any other audience.
Most of their clients, Ng’anga says, are Sacco’s, water and sanitation companies and manufacturing firms.
“We also serve the County Government of Nyeri, where there revenue collection platform called ‘NyeriPay’ which is a service for collecting parking fee, lands on our SMS gateway.”
Afrinet Telecoms revenue model is structured in different tier pricing units which takes two stages; from setting up cost involving the configuration of the sender’s Id to the customer such that they are branded with the name of the organization.
“In this case, we give the organization the login details to our portal and next thing they do is start buying the SMS units,” Ng’anga says.
Afrinet’s pricing for Ksh. 1 a SMS ranging from 1 to 50,000 SMS’s across all networks and the ones ordering above 50,000 to 100,000 SMS’S are charged 90 cents.
With his immense experience in the Telco market, having worked for Liquid Telecom, an Internet service provider, as the regional sales manager, Ng’anga is well equipped to take on the market. “After I left Liquid Telecom I assembled a marketing team, today we have business growth offices in Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Nyeri,” he says.
The firm is growing at a great feat. Since it started, Afrinet was clocking 5000 SMS in a month. Currently, it is clocking at least 810,000 from the 770,000 which it initially did, as it moves towards 1 million SMS per month.
“We are on course to hitting 1 million SMS per month. This is a huge milestone for us, it shows our commitment and it is always something we have always looked forward to,” he says.
Ng’anga, a tech-enthusiast, says Afrinet has signed up new clients who are to come on board soon. And the company could hit a million SMS traffic owing to this.
“We are very reliable and customer focussed. We have a market value, a good reputation and more importantly we are very trustworthy,” he says.
To secure the future of its business, Afrinet telecom is diversifying as it eyes the mobile and web development applications space.
“We have a huge, sharp focus on IOT and big data. With that, we are developing systems internally. We want it integrated with our SMS platform to fuel the growth and uptake of our SMS traffic.”
Ng’anga foresees Afrinet being the leading bulk SMS and development company in Kenya in the next five years.
“We found ourselves in a market that is already tapped and is highly competitive with the growth of internet platforms, but we anticipate Afrinet Telecom to be a huge bulk SMS company as we drive our focus on systems based on big data and IOT. We want to be pioneers in that space,” he says.
Although firms like Afrinet Telecom are stifled by the market shift to native Apps, the entrepreneur says the landscape for growth still looks green.
And as social media and other messaging apps offer Kenyan businesses an attractive way to provide their customers with relatively simple services in a convenient and fast way, legacy SMS technology is yet to be tumbled down, as it still remains the king.
By Brian Yatich,Fortune Media