Young and ambitious are two words you would use to define Jonathan Katumba.
At only 18 years of age, he and his co-founders, Abdallah Kambugu and Sharif Kasujja set up Minute5, an online fresh groceries delivery service company.
The decision to set up the company stemmed from the quest to assist his friend and co-founder, Kambugu, in his venture to sell tomatoes and passion fruits.
“One of the co-founders is a farmer, so we were trying to help him sell off his produce and that’s how we came up with Minute5. Initially he only grew tomatoes and passion fruits which we sold to people in offices through a Whatsapp number advertising in groups and on our statuses. Then people started requesting for other produce that were not part of what we were offering. We saw that as an opportunity for us to become a one stop shop for produce and that’s how Minute5 was born,” he recounts the genesis of Minute5.
At the time, the business received payments through mobile money using the Whatsapp number which Katumba says was a strenuous process for their customers.
“Customers would ask to pay the company and many would get discouraged whenever they paid to an individual’s account. They assumed we were not professional because of the lack of a recognised payment system. As a result, we had very few customers, only about 5 customers,” he explained.
MTN App challenge
It was during their quest for a payment system that the entrepreneurs behind Minute5 chanced on an advert of the MTN App challenge in 2019.
“In 2019, we were learning how to implement payments and we were looking at different payment gateways. That is how we found the MTN app challenge online. There we saw the challenge that MTN had and it was about open application program interface (API) which spoke to what we were searching for,” he narrates.
Determined to attain skills, and a payment system to run a successful company, Katumba and his co-founders applied to take part in the challenge.
The challenge was segmented in four categories including; fast-moving consumable goods, transportation and hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Minute5 joined the app challenge through the fast-moving consumable goods (FMCG) category.
At the time, the young lads knew close to nothing about running a business.
“The MTN app challenge experience was interesting because we had never been part of that kind of challenge. We met new people, attained helpful networks and learnt a lot of things. There were trainings on business and IT every Monday for four months and they were enriched with incentives for best performers,” he said.
Katumba also learnt how to draft financial models, attract and retain customers.
At only 19 years, Katumba governing Minute5 emerged victorious in the FMCG category, taking home UGX10million cash prize.
“I believe we won because of our ambition. We pitched with a lot of passion and ambition to the judges during the competition. We displayed a lot of eagerness to the judges and that’s why I think we were chosen. To be the youngest people there and emerge winner was very fascinating and encouraging for my co-founders and me,” he said.
App challenge bolsters startup
Owing to the cocktail of business skills attained from the challenge, the entrepreneurs were also inspired to transform Minute5 from a website to a mobile application. This has since smoothened operations of the company especially for the customers.
In addition, Minute5 was connected to MTN’s mobile money system at no charge, allowing the startup’s customers to make payments through a recognized mobile payment gateway.
As a result, Minute5 currently boasts of thousands of customers from only 5 that it served before.
He explains: “Most of the people and the orders we have today are online, actually mobile money customers. They don’t want to pay cash. Having the mobile payment system has been very helpful to our business. It has also given our business flexibility in payments such as a subscription based model. These aspects have helped exponentially accelerate our customer base during this period. It has also enabled us keep track of our sales and streamline our record keeping.”
Katumba lauded MTN for its efforts in supporting Ugandan startups to prosper adding that the initiatives have far-reaching impact in the lives of multitudes of Ugandans beyond the direct beneficiaries.
Minute5 as a digital grocery delivery platform has been very instrumental in the safeguarding of customer’s health during this pandemic.
When lockdown persevered for months, limiting movement and transport fees hiked, Minute5 handled deliveries to its customers who could not travel due to lockdown.
Furthermore, Minute5 has employed close to 50 people both directly and indirectly. The service also extends market to farmers whose produce is sold on the platform.
“When we grew our product offering, we incorporated other farmers such that we can get more supply to customers conveniently and at the same time, getting market for the farmers,” he elucidates.
Now twenty-one years old, Katumba, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in software engineering at Makerere University and certification in Association of Chartered Certified Accountants' (ACCA) says he hopes to scale Minute5 even further in future.