“Today, I am glad to announce another product from Ruraara Tech Empire, LLC: Success Stories Africa – an online platform that will tell success stories of people, companies and products that rose from the ground to the top across the African continent,” Moses Ruraara wrote on his Facebook page on 10 April, 2017.
Ruraara is the founder and chief executive officer of Ruraara Tech Empire, a Mukono-based information and communication technology (ICT) company in Uganda. Registered as a limited liability company (LLC) in 2015, his company is one of the several ICT innovators adding to the 6% that the sector currently contributes to Uganda’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the 2014/15 Ministerial Policy Statement.
One of Ruraara’s products is Service Hunt, an online business directory that currently hosts at least 700 profiles of companies, government agencies and individuals. The aim, he told TIA, is to help clients find the services they require with ease.
“Every one of my company’s products is inspired by a challenge I have personally faced. That is why we strive to create solutions and transform people’s lives with every product we create,” he says.
Ruraara has designed, and is hosting, hundreds of websites for various individuals and companies. Besides this, he does ICT consultancy for various institutions and businesses to set up online profiles, digital marketing, software and hardware solutions.
A Self-Made Guru
Unlike his contemporaries in the industry, Ruraara does not possess professional ICT training and certification. He is in the trade because of his personal ingenuity and passion.
The fourth of 11 children of Siraje and Naume Ruraara, he was born and raised in Kyabahesi Village, Bukanga, in the Isingiro district of western Uganda. Like most rural Ugandans, Ruraara, now 28, went through primary and secondary schools without even touching a computer.
It wasn’t until 2008, when he joined Uganda Christian University for his bachelor’s degree, that he interacted with the device. And only because it was examinable and compulsory.
“People think I did either Information Technology or Computer Science at university, but I didn’t. Everything I know, I taught myself through YouTube tutorials and Github – an online group of geeky programmers,” he says.
This Ruraara did as he struggled with a four-month contract as a marketer for a timber firm in Kansanga, where he earned Shs100 000 (USD28) per month.
For the sake of exposure, networking and experience, Ruraara soldiered on until he got another part-time contract with Spedag Interfreight Limited. Here he earned enough money to finally buy a laptop, on which he started designing websites for clients.
“The salary was not enough, so I quit and became self-employed. I started my first company, Nemrock, in November 2013 with two of my friends, determined to take a step into the virgin ICT sector,” he remembers.
Judged from his sombre expression it is still painful for him to recollect how the lack of a shared vision, patience and direction led to the collapse of the company three months later. His co-founders left him and took separate routes. Although disheartened, Ruraara did not let go of his entrepreneurial spirit.
“I didn’t wait to get back. I remember even the company logo was designed for me on credit. Most people thought I was over-ambitious, calling a start-up business an empire,” he says. “But they didn’t look at it the way I did. My plan was, and still is, to launch several flagship products under Ruraara Tech Empire. They saw ambition instead of strategy.”
Lightning Strikes Again
In early 2015, calamity struck again when the server hosting his clients’ websites crashed and Ruraara’s empire faced financial hardship. Stuck, he had to get back into full-time employment to maintain a cash flow for himself and his failing company.
Luckily, Abacus Parental Drugs Limited, a pharmaceutical company, was seeking a water specialist. Armed with his degree in Environmental Science, he was a perfect fit. Ruraara was hired and given an eight-month contract. From there he saved up enough money to buy bigger servers for his company and started Service Hunt, his flagship product.
“We launched it in February 2016 and, by April, we already had over 200 companies enlisted on the site. My virtual private servers were over-powered. Once again, they crashed,” he recalls.
From the money he made, Ruraara bought a dedicated server for the company. Rather than spend his profits on luxuries, he says, he reinvests in the company to give it a competitive edge and greater financial muscle.
Having faced marketing challenges in his previous attempts, Ruraara thought that creating an online directory for different businesses, their services and their locations would make it easier for consumers to find the products they needed. He also believed he could help small, medium and large-scale businesses market their products, services and brands.
From the over 700 companies now listed on the portal, Ruraara earns at least Ushs40 million (USD11 ooo) every month from consultancy, web designing and hosting, and subscriptions.
Bridging the Knowledge Gap
As he struggled to start, Ruraara remembers reaching out to established entrepreneurs for mentorship and guidance on business development. To his surprise, however, he was given the cold shoulder.
“The problem with Uganda, and Africa generally, is that we lack mentors. The people who have made it pretend to be very busy and are therefore unapproachable. I resorted mostly to reading books and consulting online mentors for guidance,” he says.
He derives his inspiration from the work of Evan Spiegel, the 26-year-old CEO of Snap Inc, the developer of the popular social media application SnapChat, and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, who, Ruraara says, were driven by passion and a vision to make the world a better place.
To bridge this knowledge gap in Africa, he started Success Stories Africa, a website that publishes success stories of African businessmen and women, and start-up tips like how to manage a team. The idea, Ruraara says, is to inspire the youth to start their own businesses with the basic knowledge that they cannot get from far-flung entrepreneurs in their societies.
Despite these strides, he acknowledges that founding a company is the biggest challenge he has ever faced. “You are the CEO, marketing manager, accountant, strategy director and product developer. It is heart-wrecking,” he says.
With the growth of the ICT sector in Uganda, Ruraara sees a tremendous opportunity for the youth to cash in with innovations that could fetch billions of shilling in revenue.
Ruraara Tech Empire is also developing Android, iOS and Windows mobile applications for all its products. Ruraara’s only worry is the hefty price and the poor quality of the Internet service in Uganda, which, he says, directly affects businesses like his. He calls on the government to reduce Internet costs and improve its quality to ease businesses operating with ICT.
Ruraara is now targeting the greater East African region, from where he will hopefully expand to cover the entire continent. Ruraara advises his peers to look at social media and other ICT tools as business avenues, and not just as platforms for sharing nude pictures and jokes.