Naiga: Resilience is key in building an admirable brand
What you need to know:
Mai Naiga cut her teeth into the banking sector for many years. She also spent some years teaching university students. When she decided to quit all that and venture into business, she was welcomed by broken partnerships, betrayal, high cost of doing business, among other hurdles. Her business was named among Uganda’s top 100 mid-sized companies.
On December 1, 2022, Daily Monitor named Uganda’s top 100 mid-sized companies, after doing a survey which considered a wide range of parameters. The winners were recognised at a dinner held at Hotel Africana, Kampala.
One by one, as the exceptional companies were read out, a youthful managing director, Mai Naiga, unaware of what was about to unfold, sat in the audience and waited to hear her company name mentioned. As the numbers trickled down from 100 towards one, she had made peace with not making it to the top 100.
“Number two is Digit Vehicle Tracking,” read a voice from the public address system as the name flashed across a projected screen. It was Naiga’s own creation that had made it this far, being accredited at the big stage ahead of some of what have come to be known as the country’s biggest companies.
“This was our first time to be part of that particular survey. And I did not think we could come out as one of the top companies. This remains my biggest achievement,” says Naiga.
A place at the table
Her establishment had earned her a place on the table of big achievers. According to Naiga, this was an opportunity for her to showcase her business to the world.
“Some people thought we were masqueraders, but this award showed that we are a credible company that can be trusted,” she explains.
Walking to podium to pick the award forced her memory back to where it all began. From an ambitious girl from a humble background, to managing a business.
“She has created an environment for every employee to thrive. You can always walk into her office and she will be ready to listen to what you have to say,” says Nasur Musiwa, the chief operating officer at Digit Vehicle Tracking.
Naiga’s path in the car tracking business has taught her a number of life lessons; lessons that have shaped her to thrive in business.
“The people you trust will betray you any day. Running a business is a daily struggle characterised by tests and tribulations. You need to have a thick skin to move past those tests,” she narrates, adding that it takes resilience.
Into the tracking business
Naiga describes herself as one with a passion for creating solutions. Around 2017, car theft was on the rise in Uganda.
“I read a story from one of the dailies, with statistics indicating that car thefts were on the rise across the country,” she recalls.
Figures from the Interpol in April 27, 2018, showed that there was a rise in car theft cases in Uganda between 2015 and 2017. The police figures confirmed that vehicles stolen from Uganda and trafficked to neighbouring countries increased from 64 in 2015, to 516 in 2016 and that shot to 589 in 2017.
Another survey done by police in 2020, also registered the highest number of car jacks with 288 cars reported stolen. It was followed by October that recorded 93 cases, September 86 and 58 cases registered in March of 2021.
The numbers were alarming. Cars were vanishing in thin air. There was more than enough reason for car owners to worry. Car thieves had even more tricks under their sleeves. After stealing cars, the culprits would go ahead to change the colour or chassis number, but all these tricks were to be met with the stiff hand of what was cooking in Naiga’s mind.
As Naiga was pondering on her next move, she was introduced to a group of people who shared the same idea. They convinced her it was more feasible to get into the venture as a group, after all, one was a South African with knowledge on the business and she bought it. But this was a mistake she would later regret.
While Naiga thought the partnership was the beginning of another success story, she was locked out of the business under unclear circumstances, months into operation.
Picking her pieces up
They say what does not kill you only makes you stronger.
If Naiga’s former partners thought they had shattered her dreams by maliciously asking her to pack her bags, they were mistaken because a comeback was on the menu. She went off the scene to plan her return into the world of car tracking.
“I had invested so much money in the first business and I lost all of it. That was frustrating but I had to start all over again,” she says.
The experience of being kicked out got her in flames, thanks to her savings she had earned working as a banker and lecturer at Kampala University.
Her education background laid a firm foundation to help her get back into the business. With a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Business Administration and years of experience accrued from the banking sector, she was not the type that would run away from business risks.
Equipped with her savings and what she had collected from selling off property, Naiga now faced another hurdle of building her own clientele.
She was the marketing cog in the old partnership and her social capital would be handy in helping her new found establishment, Digit Vehicle Tracking, get up and running.
Thanks to a long-time friend Abbey Mukiibi, who was then a host of a local popular radio show on Central Broadcasting Service (CBS FM), Naiga gradually found her way back in the fold.
“Mukiibi was my first client and has stayed put to date. He also put her business out there on air and it played out well, thanks to his big following,” she recounts.
Once the business picked up, Naiga’s entrepreneurial mind saw room for other opportunities.
It is why Digit Vehicle Tracking does more than just tracking, but asset tracking, fleet management, fuel monitoring, cameras and car alarm systems, axle load sensors, livestock tracking and transport.
Six years into the business, Naiga loves what she does and is reaping from her sweat.
In a third world country like Uganda, technology is yet to be broadly incorporated in many of our daily activities. For a business that is tech-oriented, one has to get in touch with applications and software.
“Awareness is key. One needs a smartphone to run the tracking software. Most of the clients are not tech savvy and they need training,” she explains.
Naiga wants to spread the wings of her car tracking business across the region and possibly the continent in the near future.
“We currently have different service providers and we want to develop our own local tracking system. Five years from now, we hope to integrate local companies,” she says.
Hurdles to push through
According to the East African, a regional publication, Uganda leads Africa in countries that have a great number of women-owned enterprises, as a percentage of total business owned in the country despite obstacles.
These are same hurdles Naiga has pushed through. She hopes that the number of women entrepreneurs shoots through the roof in coming years.
“Girls out there should learn early on that you cannot run a business alone, you have to grow your network. I have had to work with people and keep them around me for different reasons. Sometimes you go for network sessions even when nobody knows you but because you want to learn something new,” Naiga wears the role model’s cloak.
Hard work can never be out of the equation on top of striving to be a better person every other day. According to Naiga who wants to see a better world for women still grappling with the reality of life.
She recently held a car wash at Nexus Lounge which saw her clients come through to support needy expectant mothers at Mulago Hospital.
She is only six years old into business but making big strides in and out of office. There is a feeling she is just getting started.