1) What are your full names, your age (if you don’t mind), your current position and what does a day in it look like?
A: My names are Eng Michael Asola, co-founder of SILK (Synergy Innovations Limited Kenya).
SILK is Kenya’s 1st smartphone company. We pioneered in making Kenya’s 1st smartphone branded SILK. The brand name is thus an acronym of our company’s name.
We first rolled our first smartphone in 2016. The market was rife for us and it got so popular especially with the informal sector players amongst others. Attracting many boda boda operators, mama mbogas, teachers, police and others because of the unbeatable price and value, we introduced a pay-as-you-go model where one could pay a deposit and the rest of payments made in instalments on a daily basis. The model was very interesting and attractive to the local mwananchi. It had a caveat, however, if one missed out on a payment, they would not access any utility on the phone.
The market responded to our model very well. We got sold out in our first week of introducing the product having made successful sales country wide.
2) What 5 words best describe you as a person career wise?
A: I am a maverick product designer, a walking encyclopedia and a Jack.
I plan for my products end-to-end. I conceptualize, put on paper, manufacture all at the same time thinking of the end user experience i.e. how the consumer will feel when my products land in their hand.
I am not a one-size-fits-all guy also. I want the consumer to use the product themselves and recommend their pros to their loved ones. I like it when I achieve 360° utility on all our products.
3) What are you most proud of accomplishing throughout your career?
A: I can’t say I have accomplished so much since technology is a very dynamic sector. Actually, in technology there are no small or big boys. One just needs to do their thing right and the world will place them on their own pedestal. That is what I’m all about as Mike.
Every day for me is a day to be better than I was the previous one.
4) What would you do differently in your career if you had a chance?
A : I would say, God, give me a place to anchor my feet and get my balance then I will move the world.
To the youth, you don’t need to look up to the government all the time to achieve anything. Most of the things I managed to do, I did them at some of the worst times …. like my mortgage is not having been paid on time, the banks threatening to institute recovery of the house and then next day you have to dust yourself and make a life changing pitch.
It was crazy, sometimes I could get a call in the middle of a presentation that the bank were at home harassing my people. What could I do then? I would just keep my cool and pray that things turn out for the better.
From these challenges I have learnt that life has a way of sorting itself out as long as you keep yourself focused.
Would I do anything different? Yes and No.
Yes, because I have learnt to ask questions, No because from my own experience I can teach others boldly.
5) What advice do you have for that young man or woman who wants to venture into a career similar to yours? Where would they start?
A: If you want to hack it in business, you have to understand the life of a baby like a mother does. In 5yrs if a child does not die of polio, diptheria, etc chances of living to adult hood are very high. As a mother, however, you have to take the baby to the clinic for post- natal checkups ….. here is where they get professional advise.
You should never be the ‘I know it all ‘ person or else the walls of your small business or career will come crumbling on you. I have personally been there!
In business again, there are no shortcuts, I personally made several mistakes because I was excited. I had so many times where I thought this was my eureka or a thriller moment, only to realize I was far from both.
Learn to get professional services too and pay for there value in your business – even if it means making service providers shareholders when you are cash strapped.
I just read the other day that the person, a painter, who drew an F for Facebook took stock as payment for services rendered instead of cash and is now one of the most valued shareholders in terms of current price per share.
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