Digitisation does not come cheap – Musinguzi

Dr Davis Musinguzi, a medical doctor and digital health entrepreneur. PHOTO/courtesy

What you need to know:

A new report on the future of retail by the Innovation Village, Rocket Health, a direct healthcare consumer company in retail business and other partners was released early this month. Dr Davis Musinguzi, a medical doctor and digital health entrepreneur explains how he digitises healthcare in Uganda. Prosper Magazine’s Paul Murungi brings you the excerpts.

Tell us about retail

Retail basically means a service provider offering a service or product directly to a consumer. Normally, there is always a one-on-one transaction involving exchange of digital or physical cash to be able to receive. This happens every day if one walks into any shop, restaurant or supermarket.

Why has this report focused on the future of retail?

Retail is changing from how business used to be conducted in the past where there was physical encounter between the buyer and seller and exchange of cash for services a consumer would have.

We have seen that relationship in retail gravitating towards the digital space and the actual consumer is further being removed from service providers with most transactions being made through other online intermediaries. The new report on the future of retail highlights that change so that retailers can make that adjustment.

When we discuss the future of retail, it seems all fingers are pointed to the digital world. Is digital the singular definition of retail? What is your take?

I think the largest transformation we are seeing is being driven by digital technology. Digital makes it more affordable for consumers to access products and services, meaning anyone with a smartphone can access products and services.

Digital technology also democratises retail trade because every merchant can now participate in a retail experience with consumers which previously did not happen. It makes it more scalable because a retailer can access more consumers in the market by having a single store in a local town.

There’s still exists a digital divide among Ugandans with some not being able to access smartphones. What can retail companies pushing for digitisation do for potential clients who are out of the digital space?

Digitalisation is a journey that involves the consumer, merchant and the platform making the transaction possible. This sometimes involves hardware or software and other telecom companies to facilitate mobile money exchanges. So, there are multiple players involved. Currently, more people are transacting using a USSD code on mobile money or simply a MOMO number on MTN, and that just needs a basic phone to transact and have goods delivered to you.

The person receiving money on the other end may also simply have a basic phone with an Instagram account. So, there are many opportunities for low capital entry into digitisation for consumers and merchants.

You said earlier, digitisation is not necessarily cheap…

It is not necessarily cheap because work needs to be done to change the mindset of the consumer and the merchant. People have to establish new trust. If I send you money, then I have to receive the product or services from a merchant I have never met.

So, there are other investments that may need to be made, for instance, having a good Internet connectivity. That means, wherever, they are located, they need to have a good stable Internet. Then, we also need to think about expenses that go into logistics, such as having motorbikes in multiple places around the city to have a quick turnaround time for delivery. This means, there is an investment that goes into digitising retail trade.

Tell us about the experience of Rocket health. How do you digitise?

At Rocket Health, we have made it so easy for consumers to access services. Right now, you can easily video call and have consultation with a medical doctor. You can also have your medicines delivered to you wherever you are and if you need a lab test done, we can have a technician come to your location and pick up your samples, run the test, and doctors can call you to explain your results.

What is interesting about this service delivery model is you can buy all this online and pay through a debit card or mobile money. This has revolutionised the healthcare system because before, healthcare was riddled with long queues and waiting rooms which cost a person the whole day.

We have seen a huge number of consumers relying on that through the lockdown period. As Covid-19 continues to spread, we are seeing a conversion and people are now switching to the future.

The report also talks about the gig economy, who fits to play in this kind of new economy?

If you have hustled around Kampala, you at least know what a gig is! It is normally a small term job with clear terms of transaction that happens periodically. This is happening with digitisation of retail.

There is a rise in restaurants and other catering service providers operating at physical locations that a consumer may not know about, but still makes an order for food.

The process of delivering this food to the consumer goes a long way to involve several gig participants. The first gig participant is a motorbike rider, who will get the food delivered to a client. And possibly, there is another gig person in the distribution chain whose sole role may be processing payments per transaction.

 In our case, we are building our services around the pharmacy chain. When we receive an order for a medical product, we have to liaise with pharmacy technicians and assistants who are trained to handle and deliver the medicines.  Right there, you have built a pipeline of the gig economy in the healthcare space, and the same can happen for other services.


Who is Musinguzi?

Dr. Davis leads The Medical Concierge Group, a Digital Health enterprise in Africa that delivers the Rocket Health Telemedicine service through call centres with medical doctors assisted by AI, last mile deliveries of prescriptions, lab sample pick-ups & tests and clinics equipped with connected medical devices under the brand name «Rocket Health».