HUSTLES, NETWORKS & KENYA’S LAST MILE: how young entrepreneurs now bring Shujaaz right to the people [ARCHIVE]

  • 4 Aug 2016

Sammy Murimi’s kiosk is his hustle. His hustle is art – he’s a sign writer, a painter for hire, and a boda-boda motorcycle taxi rider among other things (the sign above his shop also offers company seals, T-shirt printing, door plates and graphic design). He is a young Kenyan making a living out of his talents. And since early in 2016 his kiosk is also a Shujaaz comic book Distribution Point.

For the last few years, every month Sammy would get a copy of Shujaaz from a nearby M-PESA kiosk. He was an eager reader. He often sent texts to Shujaaz’s own DJB on the subjects that grabbed him, he tuned into Shujaaz on radio and he followed DJB’s Facebook page: DJ Boyie. He used his art skills to paint DJB on the mud-flab of his Boda-Boda, and the Shujaaz logo across the rear light, so it lit up. He realized that a lot of youth would come to hang around his kiosk to chat and pass time and he therefore thought it was an ideal place to distribute Shujaaz from – and it turned out to be just that. A few months ago, he requested to become a Shujaaz Distributor.

In January 2016 Well Told Story had a network of about 800 distribution points countrywide about half of which were Safaricom’s M-PESA outlets. Throughout last year we started getting messages from fans saying it was hard to lay their hands on a copy of Shujaaz. To remedy that and ensure that the 750,000 copies we print every month were accessible with reasonable ease to all our target audience, our Knowledge and Learning Team went on a ‘Last Mile’ research mission. This entailed going to the ground across Kenya and mingling with our target audience to find out what their favorite hangout joints are.

The findings showed that while M-PESA is popular and widespread and therefore a powerful channel of distribution for Shujaaz it still has limits as a way to reach Kenyan youth. The majority of Shujaaz fans (15-24yr olds) are too broke for frequent M-PESA use, and for the lucky few, it’s a quick in-and-out just for the transaction. The places where Shujaaz’s target audience hang out are cyber cafes, football watching joints, movie/video dens and places like Sammy’s Kiosk, where young people come to linger and chat and share ideas and inspirations. So by early 2016 we launched a set of quarterly drives to build a deeper distributor network that would close the last mile and empower more young people in the process. The Shujaaz team reached out to DJB’s on-line community of SuperFans, like Sammy, to recruit other Fans and distributors who could close that final gap and bring Shujaaz right to our target youth – while benefitting from new networks and goodwill in the process.

The recruitment strategy was to supplement the existing network of 800 distribution points with new youth-friendly distributors – 2 new venues for every existing distribution point. The initial 800 would serve Shujaaz fans who already knew them as the place they get their copy while 1600 new outlets would target new fans. Shujaaz would go to the audience instead of our audience coming to us.

By August 2016 we have so far recruited 1200 new distribution points and we are on target to end the year with 2400 Shujaaz venues, Kenya-wide, by year end.

The profile of these distribution points, as you can see in the picture of Sammy’s Kiosk, is very simple: a youth-friendly point in the village or in a small town or shopping centre. Most of these points are small businesses dealing in more than one product or service e.g. an electronics shop which also sells movies. They are run by people who range from 18-35 years old and who know that having and distributing Shujaaz not only gives them social value as ‘DJB’s ambassador’ in their locality (see our recent Shujaaz360 research report for more on the importance of Social Capital) but also gives them commercial value since more young people come to their business. All these new distributors are in direct touch with Shujaaz and have a dedicated line to the Shujaaz team listen to them and attend to any issues and feedback they raise.

If you happen to be in Kerugoya and you require some of Sammy’s services or a copy of Shujaaz (get there early in the month, they move fast) his business goes by the name SAMZ ARTLINE SIGNS and is located behind the Kukena Matatu Sacco offices at the Kerugoya Matatu Stage in Kerugoya Town.