Turning ideas into reality

Anthony Munthali was getting frustrated with the hustles he was enduring to find suitable customers each time he had products he no longer needed and wanted to make money out of it.

While he could at times use existing social media business groups on WhatsApp and Facebook such as Let’s Do Business Malawi, he was not satisfied with the aptness of such platforms to connect buyers and sellers.

Back then, Munthali knew about the existence of international E-Commerce platforms like e-Bay and Amazon, which some Malawians use to do business. However, he did not use them as he felt they were more of western platforms and not ideal for Malawians.

This made him wonder, why no one in Malawi tried to do anything similar to simplify trade. He desired to see business platforms, tailor made to the needs of Malawian purchasers and traders.

Then, he stopped wondering and started doing. After finishing his Diploma level 4 and 5 studies in Computing and Information Systems at the Malawi Polytechnic under the Continuing Education Center, he hatched an idea of bringing a solution.

“Earlier in school, we had a module specifically on E-Commerce and that is the first thing that sparked my interest. I realized that the fact that I have heard of E-Commerce platforms in other countries such as the US, no one tried anything similar here in Malawi,” Munthali, a soft-spoken Software Developer explained.

“With the knowledge I got from school and my desire to have something similar to e-Bay and Amazon, I came up with an idea of developing an application with similar functions, but specific for Malawians,” he said.

However, Munthali needed support to make this idea a reality. At the time he came up with the idea, he was living in Blantyre, but he soon moved to Mzuzu.

“When I relocated to Mzuzu last year, several people suggested that I give Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub a visit and see what sort of opportunities are available for someone like me who had all these various ideas,” Munthali said.

He added; “The very first time I went there, an employee at the hub explained to me that there was a call for application for a six-month incubation program. I immediately applied as soon as I went home and I was shortlisted and I began the training shortly afterwards.”

The training proved more useful to making Munthali’s dreams come true. Apart from equipping him with business skills, it offered him a chance to enter into a pitching competition, where his idea won second position, and secured him a MK400, 000 funding for the creation of his mobile application.

The application known as Tiguliskane is a brainchild of his Software Development Company, Code-It, which he recently founded and registered with the help of Mzuzu Entrepreneur Hub.

Tiguliskane is an E-commerce platform where Malawian buyers and sellers can meet and do business. It is currently available on Google Play store and is compatible with all phones operating on the Android Software.

The application is open to all kinds of businesses, be it established businesses, individuals selling products they no longer need as well as those offering various services.

“Almost every Malawian has something to sell whether it is a fully-fledged or casual business but there is always a trouble of not being able to find a customer. It is not that customers are not there, you are not just able to find them. We see a lot of people trying with Facebook groups but it is not ideal for business as it has a finite number of users,” Munthali said.

“Having an application like mine, we can transfer what we are trying to force Facebook to do on a common platform where every Malawian can be. We finally have a common market as Malawians where everyone’s products can appear and have an equal standing,” he said.

About a month and half since its launch, the application has already attracted a good number of installations and Munthali is impressed with the response it has received, thus he plans to make it as affordable as it could be to attract more users.

“The response has been very good as the application has received 85 installations so far. The application has been available for about a month and half, so to have received these installations is a good response and I hope that more people will install the application as time progresses,” Munthali said.

“Currently, it is as cheap as MK200 for displaying an item on the platform, which is rather affordable but as time progresses it might even become cheaper than that,” he added.

Presently, Munthali is rolling the application in phases. For now, he is the only one who can post items on the platform. To make the application more user friendly, he is working on adding an update for him not to be involved in posting items.

“I am planning on adding an update to the application that would allow users to post products for themselves and rolling out a subscription service instead of charging per item,” he said.

Additionally, he is working on increasing the number of users as he eyes expanding to Africa and the rest of the world in the distant future.

“We have an aggressive strategy trying to meet many people as possible on different social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as I would like to see at least 80 percent of Malawians on the platform before I consider expanding. In the distant future, the natural expansion would be Africa, then the whole world.

As he relishes the successful development of his first application, more than ever Munthali is currently dreaming big. He envisions creating more applications to help solve challenges in the country’s different sectors.

“A parent company that owns the application, which is Code-It, plans to release more applications in the future. I will be tackling problems that are specific to Malawi whether in health or agriculture, and any other need even social media applications specific to Malawians,” he said.