Author: Hillary Miller-Wise for Mobile World Congress 2016
Like many technology start-ups that have managed to survive beyond a year or two, Esoko is continually evolving. We believe that when you are finished changing, you are finished in this industry.
One of our biggest challenges for us has been to evolve quickly and in a smart way. We haven’t always succeeded at that but we’ve learned a few things along the way.
Before I go there, let me first talk about the problem we are trying to solve and how we are solving it. Smallholder farmers across Africa struggle to access the information they need to increase productivity and sell their crops at a good price. Esoko believes that by putting simple but powerful communication tools in the hands of agribusinesses and farmers, we can make markets work better for the poor.
We use mobile and web technology to provide farmers with vital information on how to grow their crops better, what inputs to use, where to sell and at what price. We also enable businesses like buyers, input suppliers, financial institutions and mobile operators to gain better visibility into what’s happening on the farm and to know their customer. We currently work in 10 countries and reach more than 300,000 farmers.
During our seven years, we have made several strategic pivots. One of the first was a market segment problem pivot. We started by targeting farmers directly but, given their low willingness to pay, we pivoted to serve businesses and other entities that work with farmers. Another was a sales channel pivot. We launched in Ghana and served customers directly, but now we also work through resellers in different markets, who we’ve trained and certified to sell our services. This year, we are planning perhaps our biggest pivot to date. We will carry out a customer problem pivot by integrating digital financial services as part of our suite of service offerings.
Change is hard. One of the ways that we try to mitigate the risks involved in these pivots is to learn as much as we can from others who have tried and succeeded or failed. This is one of the key benefits of Mobile World Congress for us. It provides us with an opportunity to see how other companies are solving for similar challenges. It also affords us an opportunity to explore strategic partnerships to grow the business and continue to innovate.
By the end of 2020, Esoko will have grown its revenue 10 times over 2015 levels and be the leading solution for businesses to communicate and transact with last-mile markets in Africa. We will only get there by continuing to learn and by being willing to change.