Kityo thrives on selling  premium perfumes online

Sunday October 25 2020
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Kityo displays perfume bottles of Invictus and Club de Nuit. He says genuine premium perfumes are scarce in Uganda or they are highly priced. PHOTOS | GEORGE KATONGOLE

By George Katongole

A series of frustrations at work led Joseph Kityo to start his career as an entrepreneur immediately after completing his studies at Nkumba University.

As a young man, Kityo lost his father in 2002, while in Primary Seven and lived through the physical and emotional effects with his stay-at-home mother. This motivated him to do his bit, completed university with a bachelor’s in Procurement and Logistics Management and instead of staying at an unsatisfying job as an auditor, he went for kyeyo (odd jobs) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“The job was not paying well and meeting ends was indeed hard. I yearned for financial freedom and I knew I could not realise it by working at such a job. I could not sit idly by, so I decided to look for greener pastures,” Kityo says.

The 31-year-old mobilised money from relatives and friends but the greatest boost was from his father in-law Henry Ssalongo, who was already based in Dubai, UAE. Ssalongo expedited his travel.

Kityo’s first job was a two-year contract as assistant inventory controller at Almaidoor Metal Industries, a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company, in October 2013 where he was responsible for overseeing part of the activities in the warehouse.

“It was a welcoming environment. I was the only African but they treated me so well. The business processes in the company is well defined and everything is streamlined,” Kityo says.

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A month later, he was promoted to the role of inventory controller and warehouse manager after presenting his academic papers. When his contract expired, he renewed it for  a further two years.
However, in 2016, he realised that working hard was not going to fulfill his mission: to have a stable flow of income.

“After three years of work, I realised I was not fulfilling my original mission, which was to save as much money as possible and become financially independent. If I did not find new avenues, it was going to take all my working time employed by someone,” he says.

Starting up
Kityo, the seventh born of his mother Aidah Naluwooza, had a goal to support his family and younger siblings. That is when he started sending items which could be sold by his sisters.

His first entry into business was with his Nkumba alumnus Samalie, whom he used to send stuff and she would sell to workmates until 2018 when his girlfriend Audrey, visited Dubai.

“While we were walking in the stores for her shopping, Audrey suggested that the products we came along were cheaper than in Kampala and that we could make a business,” he recalls. After one week, Kityo started by opening up a Facebook page, “Ugandans Touring Dubai”, which had modest success.
“It was aimed at helping people planning to come to Dubai,” he says.

In September 2018, he created another page, “Buy From Dubai & Receive In Uganda” where he would increase his sales. The old name has now evolved to become “Dubai Perfumes and Watches” together with his dreams and catalogue of offering.

“I started sending home anything I thought could be sold at a profit. It included, electronics, clothing, cameras, and phones, among others. As a result, many people started placing their orders,” says Kityo.
His clients would place their orders and when he left work in the evening, he would go shopping and send the orders as quickly as possible via air. His business grew through referrals.

Business to consumer 
Having reached a sizeable number of final consumers online, he embarked on selling perfumes.
“I personally like perfumes. But there was this time in 2019 when I bought a perfume for Shs700,000. I had seen the same perfume with a higher price tag at the duty free shop in Entebbe, earlier. I thought it could make sense to venture into this,” Kityo says.
He started sourcing for luxury and branded designer perfumes from suppliers in Dubai. 

The most bought brands today include Club de Nuit, Tom Ford, Creed, Dolce, Victoria Secret, Invictus and Gabbana, among others, which he offers at what he says are unbeatable prices.
His model is to source from few trusted sources and deliver to consumers who contact him online - via Facebook, WhatsApp and delivery personnel.

“This model helps me to avoid related costs with middlemen. Being able to communicate and sell directly to our customers is what has led to our success,” Kityo adds.
As any other online business, pay after delivery payment plan is the simplest method because it requires little information to complete an order.
“And in case one is not satisfied with the product, they will not feel cheated,” Kityo adds.

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Samples of premium perfumes Kityo sells online. PHOTO | GEORGE KATONGOLE

Covid-19 blues
Early this year, Kityo returned home for an annual leave. He thought he was ready to become his own boss but his employers would not let him move away. 
While in Uganda, the Coronavirus struck. This was an opportunity to launch his business.

Being locked down here was the best thing,” Kityo, who was in the final days of his contract, says. “There was scarcity of perfumes in most shops and this presented an opportunity to increase our supplies,” he says.
Kityo explains that since his sources could send him perfumes, it was so easy to supply at an added dollar on each kilo imported.

“It also gave me the chance to see the market. Normally, I would come in for a few weeks and spend the time in family issues rather than business,” he adds.
Having clients, according to Kityo, was not enough amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. 

“We opted for the digital approach, and as such, we have seen enormous growth over the last five months of Covid-19,” says Kityo.
He explains that “being online is incredibly important nowadays, as people spend more time than ever on their gadgets and it has a significant impact on their shopping behaviour. 

“Not only does the individual now have access to more options, as the location of the company is not a problem anymore, but the entire sales cycle can be done with just a few clicks – at any time of the day,” he says.
His mobile platform already amassed more than 40,000 subscribers and a sizeable number on WhatsApp. This translates to more than 50 successful sales a week. On average, his sales can hit more than Shs6m monthly.
Kityo, who started his company four years ago, today reports that one of the greatest challenges is being able to materialise something this ambitious at such an early age and with so many market gaps.

“There is a big gap in the perfume business in Uganda especially with fake products all over while the renowned brands are overpriced,” Kityo says.
At the beginning of October, he resigned his job at Almaidoor Metal Industries and plans to return to Dubai in December as a freelancer to establish a tour and travel company. 
He also plans to open a store next year to reduce on the delivery time.

Opportunity 
Being locked down here was the best thing,” Kityo, who was in the final days of his contract, says. “There was scarcity of perfumes in most shops and this presented an opportunity to increase our supplies,” he says.


Tips on running a perfume business

For more than four years, Joseph Kityo, who runs an online perfume shop – Dubai Perfumes and Watches, has been involved in the business. He has gained enough experience, sources and clients that help his franchise to thrive. Kityo’s business approach could be helpful for one planning to venture into fragrances.

According to him, distributing perfumes could lead to real profits. Developing your business will take careful planning and research, but that hard work can pay off if you can secure consumers. In terms of the type of perfume you can specialise in, according to Kityo, one should consider an approach that can cater for a wide number of clients. 

Although the best idea is to sell perfumes to retailers on a wholesale basis, dealing with consumers directly via the internet or by establishing a sales kiosk in high-traffic community gathering places, stands out.
In this context, Kityo shares tips to achieve a viable investment in perfume business whether mainstream or as a side hustle. 

Kityo’s tips on running a perfume business include primarily using social media effectively.
“Social media is one of the most effective tools you can use to market your brand today, and it is right at your fingertips. But just like any media source, frequency matters,” he says.

He adds that any prospective investors should be extraordinarily good at understanding the value their business is giving to the consumer.

“This calls for market research to understand the actual needs and desires of the consumers. The survey can be simply conducted in offices or among friends because they form the basis of your clientele,” Kityo explains.

How much money can you make?
According to Kityo, there is no ceiling to how much one can earn. He says that one must keep looking for new clients. 

“Over-reliance on a particular group of customers, can leave a business vulnerable. Revenue is more likely to fluctuate because of a sudden downturn in your customer’s fortunes, and a change in the market can have a big impact on your pricing, margins, and bottom line,” Kityo says. One must build diverse numbers and keep following up with the existing clientele. 

According to him, an average month fetches him Shs6m monthly. “But an aggressive approach can earn even higher,” he adds.

What kind of experience do you need to have?
Kityo counsel investors never to get too comfortable. “It does not matter how famous you become,” Kityo says. Developing a skill to attract more customers is the key to this business. To Kityo, persistence is important in this business because it takes time to get clients,” he says.

But it is equally key for someone to have a good taste and love for perfumes. He says that although perfumes are an extremely individual thing, one should be able to appreciate fragrances same as you would for a piece of art.
Striking a balance between a nice fragrance and the right price is the key for him.

What’s the most important thing to know about this business?
Kityo says that because of personal preferences, it is a challenging business. “It requires a lot of patience,” Kityo explains.

Because branded perfumes are expensive, it is important to explain to the client how a nice perfume is appreciated by peers. The discussion should not be about the price but the value of the particular perfume.

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