The First Classified Website in Rwanda
Kigali — "Knowledge is power and by simply getting connected to the global network through ICT, development is at your fingertips Methode Ramba.
Methode Ramba is the 31-year-old proprietor of the first ever and only classified website in Rwanda-imali.biz. Online classified websites are one of the best ways of advertising for businessmen, individuals and big or small companies who want to sell or expand their products and services.
In 2006, when Ramba completed his Telecommunications studies in Luxemburg, Western Europe, he wanted to do something that both benefited his country and his personal life as well.
Two years later, while on vacation in Brussels, Belgium, he took heed the call for the Rwandan Diaspora to participate in the development of their motherland.
Ramba said this was his chance to get involved back home. He returned to Rwanda at the beginning of 2009, and trying to acquire things was difficult,he recalls.
"I searched the internet for classifieds and there was nothing of the sort; yet using brokers and commissioners to find a car or house was equally devastating, let alone finding job classifieds," Ramba said.
This, he said, is what sparked the idea to startup a classified website business. Of course this was after conducting a market research on the demand for certain services, linking it to his field of study and comparing his findings to the time it took to register his business.
"I discovered that there was a very big demand in Rwanda's service sector, unlike in Europe where service was easily within reach. I knew that someone had to do something about this gap and, that is when I started," Ramba said.
At the beginning of 2010, in a matter of 24 hours, Ramba speedily registered his company at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) under the names imali.biz.
However, it was not until September 2010, that he found a classified ad script for his website and got imali.biz up and running: Ramba calls it, 'Your King of Classifieds'-it is first and only classified website in Rwanda.
Classified ads are among the most effective tools used by many companies in the recruitment of available job opportunities besides making sales. The trend today is to create multi-category classified ad websites to advertise several types of services and goods.
For imali.biz, Ramba decided to focus on the various features of advertising that were in demand such as real estate, job vacancies, auto, industrial equipment, trucks, computers, furniture, personal classifieds and even small companies.
Ramba said: "I realized that many people found it very frustrating to buy or rent houses and cars. People have to entirely depend on commissioners to direct them to a possible seller or landlord and, in most cases, these turn out to be disappointing as the products or the environment are not exactly what a customer is looking for."
"But with a classified website, everything is simplified and made easier since direct contact can be made between a buyer and seller."
Speaking of costs, Ramba does not charge a dime for placing products on his website. He says, "there is opportunity for the business to grow even with free classifieds, right now it's a way of creating awareness about the existence of my company."
In the classified business world, it is recommended that if someone intends to place a cost per ad, sellers should be allowed free ads posting for a period of time, until there are enough ads posted.
However, Ramba does not shy away from making money on imali.biz.
"I post classified ads free, but charge other companies for placing their logo and banner on the site," he said.
Nonetheless, the challenges that come with running a classified website in Rwanda are not to be overlooked.
"In Rwanda, most people don't appreciate the pulling power of classified ads because they either do not understand the dynamics of the field or in the case of those who do know, they only think that classified ads are only for selling cars, houses or finding jobs," he explained.
While it's true that a classified ad is a good way to sell a car, or find a job, it is also true that classified ads can be used to launch and operate multi-million businesses within a given time.
Additionally, Rwanda is under an intensive programme of achieving economic prosperity by the year 2020-and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is part of the equation.
Rwanda intends to become the region's ICT hub. However, awareness on the possibilities is still on the low.
"The possibilities of the Internet and ICT are endless, yet not many businesses have exploited the numerous advantages of ICT or even considered expanding their business, both locally and internationally, to the Diaspora through classifieds," the classifieds proprietor adds.
With more awareness, many businesses will have the ability to exclusively rely on these low cost ads to generate all their sales and get new customers. When effectively used, classifieds can be one of the quickest and inexpensive ways to generate high profits in sales, given the low cost of maintenance.
"Time is money and by logging into an online classified website, people can save a lot of time and money when looking for products and services," Ramba said.
Given the necessity to build and create awareness of the possibilities that could come with building more classified websites and actually using them, many Rwandans will be unplugged from the vicious cycle of poverty just by having a little knowledge of ICT and the infinite use of the internet.
"Knowledge is power and by simply getting connected to the global network through ICT, development is at your fingertips, that is why awareness is necessary," Ramba said.