YoKapo, a Bluss project. The web based application helps businesses keep tabs on their operations remotely.   PHOTO/JOAN SALMON


Digitising SMEs through web apps

What you need to know:

Mr David Bechker Mukombe has developed a web-based app to manage drug shops, hardware shops, restaurants, construction projects and rentals remotely.  

Some software developers remain at the incubation stage, never taking off. Moving from one incubator or catalyser to another, they never seem to find their footing. While Mr David Bechker Mukombe was in no catalyser of sorts, he took a while to take off.

His journey began while in school pursuing a BSc Computer Science and Mathematics. He alongside two friends; Yusuf and Caleb started a small company, Blue Streams Solution (BLUSS) in 2013. 

However, after campus, each went their separate ways. Caleb went abroad, Yusuf got employed while Mr Mukombe applied to the Office of the President as a systems administrator. Unfortunately, even after getting a green light at all the interview levels, Mr Mukombe did not get the job. 

After a long search and being turned down on the pretext that he was overqualified, an opportunity presented itself in 2014. Mr Howard Tugume, the  chief executive officer of Pic-me-up Investments invited him to use part of his office at Najjanankumbi in exchange for IT services. 

“Then, all I had was my laptop and brain. With time, the one-man team grew to four prompting me to call out for students in need of internship skilling. Five came through, and we started making some money,” he says.
With some revenue coming in, Mr Mukombe started co-renting with Mr Tugume (Shs250,000). Towards the end of 2015, they needed more space thus moving to Mabirizi Complex where they also co-rented at Shs400,000. Looking out for more work opportunities, Mr Mukombe reached out to his former lecturer Mr Ronald Azairwe, the current managing director of Pegasus Technologies.

“At that time, he was working at the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority (URBRA) and they needed a procurement system, which he asked me to develop. That was our first big contract, worth Shs4.9m. Thereafter, in 2016, we were asked to develop the e-licensing system for the organisation and it was worth Shs19m,” he says. 
The team grew bigger hence reaching out to his campus landlord at Makerere University, and the rent was Shs550,000.

Inconsistent team
Staying in Zzana, coupled with the tonnes of work at URBRA, it became tiring to monitor the activities at the new premises. Even when interns reached out, he directed them to the office. 
However, the consistent report from them was that the offices were locked while his team reported otherwise. 
Mr Mukombe got a wake call after a surprise visit to the office showed that the team had long stopped coming to work. 
“With no big projects coming in, I closed the office in 2017 as it no longer served the purpose. Thankfully, a friend, Mr Richard Okot told me of a cheaper space at Bat Valley (Shs300,000). I opted to keep my things as I wrapped up with URBRA,” he says.

Left to right: David-Makombe, the chief executive officer of Bluss, Tendo Namali, the digital-manager, Francesca Akirabyona, the administrator, Mark-Akiring, the software engineer. PHOTO/JOAN SALMON

Mr Mukombe set up the office again in January 2018 with a new three-man team. Immediately, they got a contract with Infectious Disease Institute through SkyApps technologies to develop a web system for their database. 
“It was then that I re-conceptualised the purpose of the company – to come up with ideas for real-life solutions rather than employment,” he says.
Along the way, Mr Mukombe, a software developer, got a few app ideas such as a supermarket shopping app and a school hub. 

However, some did not come out as envisioned while others failed due to financial inefficiency.
These setbacks were compounded by the lockdown. Thankfully, some contracts for website and web-based application development came through, though not as big as they desired.
“With minimal income coming in, after the second lockdown, employment seemed appealing but I hated the idea of being underutilised,” he says.

Developing yoKapo
In mid-2021, a client running a veterinary drug shop asked Mr Mukombe to develop a web-based app to help them manage the shop even while away. On testing it, it served the needs and they named it yoKapo drug shop. 
“While developing it, I thought I could spruce it to meet the needs of other enterprises. That gave birth to yoKapo Hardware and our second client was Zema Hardware whose proprietor decried the shop attendant declaring zero business returns every month,” he says.

The app has a link to access money where the money tray is only opened after inputting payment details. It also has surveillance services which enabled this user to discover that the attendant was selling personal merchandise instead of that in the shop. 
Mr Mukombe and his team further improved the app to include the real estate arm and soon got a client with more than 59 rentals in Komabooga, and Kiira but realising no profit for months. 
“In the first month after installation, she got a profit of Shs10m. She also learned that the warden had been onboarding tenants but declaring the units vacant,” he says. 

Ensuring that the app allows interaction between the client and the owner, the landlord can now keep track of new tenants, and needed repairs which was previously unheard of. The tenants also receive rent payment reminders and can input repair requests. 

There is also yoKapo Restaurant which monitors shopping patterns and the cost of foodstuffs and ingredients. Ultimately, it analyses these to help in plate costing. 

The web-based app has been upgraded to accommodate various business sectors, even churches to ease management with daily and real-time reports as it helps in managing expenses, and incomes. 

“Currently, we have 20 app clients and it is easier to handle compared to various accounting applications that need professional accountants to manage them. Nonetheless, it still eases bookkeeping and auditing,” he says. 

Monthly app charges are based on classes. Business class A comprises retail shops and medium drug shops that pay Shs100,000. 
Class B comprises construction companies that pay Shs150,000.

Other web-based apps
The Bluss team has also developed Mabira to help motor owners with easy access to spare parts and genuine mechanics. Though the app is fully developed, they are still at the stage of partner integration. 
“We are dealing with genuine spare part suppliers and certifying our mechanics whom we will also give well-stocked toolkits. The system will work in that after placing an order for a mechanic, one will receive a verification notice on who is coming. The mechanics will also have an ID for physical verification purposes. Once partnerships are done, we will roll out,” he says. 
Mr Mukombe adds that they are guaranteeing insurance for everything replaced in the car to boost their clients’ trust. 

Cost to create apps
While a lot of work goes into creating apps, Mr Mukombe says the major cost is team facilitation. The process of creating these apps starts with coming up with the idea and developing the app to full capacity which solely falls on him. Thereafter, he brings in the developers to maintain them.

“I prefer to develop the app alone so I follow an undivided train of thoughts. It becomes harder when doing it with several opinions. After creating a functional prototype, effecting changes and upgrades is easier because there is something to work with,” he says.

Mr Mukombe is also passionate about training students to prepare them for the employment world. While he has done this in previous years, hence having many in various industries, he chose to transfer the internship programme to an online academy. 

“That gave birth to Bluss Academy with a focus on computer programming and cyber security. At the moment, it is free of charge,” he says.

With several small and medium enterprises (SMEs) embracing technology, and most Bluss products being SME-oriented, the team believes the future is bright. 
“We are also geared to develop more as most ideas are still on paper. Two years down the road, Bluss will be one of the top SME software-producing companies in the country,” he says.