The burgeoning number of unemployed youth challenged Peter Massawa to create a platform where many Kenyans will generate wealth. He thus introduced network marketing to make wealth out of airtime consumption. Network marketing is a form of multi-level marketing in which the sales force is compensated by both the sales they generate and the sales of other salespeople they recruit. This marketing strategy has become increasingly popular in Kenya. He talks to ESTHER KIRAGU about his role in empowering Kenyans.
In a country where the gap between the rich and poor is widening each year, Peter Massawa, the managing director of Pillar Technologies Limited believes only bold solutions will stem the rising tide of this inequality. And it is this thinking that led him to make a daring decision of giving up a thriving banking career in South Africa and give back to his country through job creation.
“No one should be proud of being a billionaire surrounded by people looking up to him as a king. That kind of lifestyle is selfish because there are enough resources to go around for everyone. What we need in Kenya are good systems where everyone gets a share of the national cake,” Massawa says.
Having been brought up by a mother who was widowed and an elder sister, Massawa explains that his upbringing played a crucial role in shaping him to be who he is today. His mother and elder sister struggled financially to educate him and his siblings.
“At one time, one of my aunties had to sell her livestock to secure my school fees. If it were not for such sacrifices made, I wouldn’t be where I am today especially since statistics show that in many cases, children who struggle to raise school fees eventually end up dropping out of school as they are psychologically affected. I resolved not to be one of the statistics and through hardwork and focus, I rose above my circumstances,” he recounts.
Prolific banking career
Massawa’s tenacity bore fruits as he ventured into the banking career. As a person, he is always keen to bring value to others. And so while working in Kenya as a regional manager in one of the leading banks, Massawa went out of his job requirements to become involved in direct selling.
Direct selling in a bank is a programme where bankers go out in search of clients to sell financial products and services directly to. This resilience not only saw the bank increase its market share, but also created jobs for many salespeople especially the youth. Today, most if not all banks in Kenya have embraced direct selling. Massawa was also instrumental and successful in promoting automated teller machine (ATM) in the various branches of the bank he worked for at a time when ATM’s were considered a privilege for the wealthy in Kenya.
Massawa rose up the ranks of top management and went on to work as an expatriate first in Nigeria, overseeing the retail operations for the bank in Nigeria, before moving to South Africa, where he was overseeing retail operations in acquiring expanded market share, in specific market segments aimed at capturing the wealthy in13 African countries. While in South Africa, he was inspired by Mr. Cilliers, a successful entrepreneur and a lecturer of Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, popularly known as Wits University. Mr. Cilliers specialised in Network marketing. Massawa became one of the lecturer’s mentees.
“Cilliers took me through the network marketing class and challenged me to do something that would make an impact and help build the Kenyan society. He was extremely instrumental in changing my mindset and I realised that like many people, I had been conditioned that as long as one is employed and is living a fairly good life, they are fine. But the truth is, you can never be fine if your neighbour can’t afford the basic things of life,” he says.
Massawa reckons that a leading cause of social stress in any society is the growing gap between the poor and the rich because when the inequality gap in any society is huge, it causes frustration and resentment among the poor.It is for this reason that he walked away from the comfort and trappings of his job to an unfamiliar territory of creating a solution to the problem of unemployment and wealth disparity in Kenya.
A slice in the telecommunications industry
When Massawa resigned after 13 years in the banking industry, his eyes were set on the telecommunications industry. He had studied the industry and learnt of the high mobile penetration in Kenya, which translated to a market for mobile accessories and airtime.
He therefore registered a company, Pillar Technologies Limited, where he is the managing director. Pillar Technologies powered the start of the Direct Intervention Programme for Empowering Kenyans (DIPEK), a programme where thousands of Kenyans are now making money whenever they consume airtime through multi-level marketing. The company works in partnership with Orange Telkom Kenya, the third largest mobile service provider in the country, and MobiKash Afrika, a mobile money transfer company owned by Fountain Enterprises Programme (FEP).
So how does DIPEK work? When one joins DIPEK, they are required to register into the system for Ksh 4,985 to own a lifetime business. From this, an individual gets a website, an accounting package, a business manual, a customer tracking system and training to equip them to be successful in this business. The knowledge offered at DIPEK can help one run any other kind of business successfully.
Once you begin recruiting others, they are referred to as your first generation in the multi-level network and for that you earn points, which you redeem in cash. Whenever those you have recruited bring others on board, they become your second generation and you get points, and so on, up to the 18th generation.
Earning at DIPEK is in three ways – every person you bring on board falls under your network of business and you earn redeemable points from them. Like most multi-level marketing businesses you get points for bringing people into the business. The second way of earning is by airtime points. Airtime is considered a product that is virtually everywhere, is fast moving and can be used at any time. Therefore, every time you or any other person in your network loads airtime, you earn points. The wider your team the more you earn. The third way of earning is from your airtime. Every time you load airtime for your use, you earn points.
In an industry where it is reported that the leading mobile operator sells an average of seven billion shillings worth of airtime
on a monthly basis, which ends up in the hands of just a few dealers, agents and retail outlets that earn in form of commissions, the DIPEK business model is going against the grain and this has rubbed off a few people the wrong way.
As a network marketing business, one of the misconceptions it has had to deal with is being construed to be a pyramid scheme. “Many people who don’t seek to inform themselves often brand great opportunities negatively and may even dismiss a great business opportunity. My advice to Kenyans is that they should take time to read extensively, analyse and understand concepts before dismissing them because ignorance is very expensive,” he challenges.
At DIPEK, Massawa is responsible for fronting opportunities for investments for the members as well as keeping the vision of the company alive. It is for this reason that the company holds training forums every Tuesdays and Saturdays to explain the vision to new members, as well as to empower already existing members on three levels – to earn, save and then invest. The forums are held countrywide where DIPEK members exist. In addition, members get value addition through free training on making sales, goal settings, presentation skills, financial skills, team management and leadership skills.
Currently, the company is looking to expand its product portfolio, with the focus of owning chains of supermarkets countrywide where members can reap off the benefits. Already the members have formed a DIPEK Housing Cooperative Society with the aim of venturing into real estate development this year.
Fortifying the family…
DIPEK has seven pillars that an individual needs to embrace to be considered successful. These are one’s spiritual standing, finance, relationships, health, legacy, self-learning and development and family. “Family is vital because when all is said and done, it is the family that ensures continuity in society. You can’t afford not to think about the kind of family you will raise and the values you will impact on them. Families must be respected based on the word of God,” he says with strong conviction.
For Massawa the importance of family cannot be overemphasised. Having witnessed first hand the struggles of his mother as a widow, he has embarked on a project where he helps build houses for widows and pays school fees for orphans within his rural Nyanza home. He says that this will help them rise above their circumstances and make something out of their lives.
Massawa, who is married with three children, also considers the DIPEK members as part of his larger family. His wish is to leave a legacy of an individual who created opportunities for his fellow citizens. “My challenge to others is to use their knowledge and skills to make a difference and empower others,” he says in conclusion.
A STORY OF SUCCESS
Jane Gatwiri testifies to the benefits of DIPEK business model. She joined the business on May 9, 2014 after a family friend introduced it to her. Jane, an information technology professional, says she understood the DIPEK model from the onset.
Prior to this, she had been doing Internet marketing through her blog and website in addition to running a supplies company, Dove Mart Suppliers since 2010. She admits to encountering hitches in getting regular tenders for this business.
“I like the idea of DIPEK because it means having a system that works for you and also because it is empowering all Kenyans who use mobile phones regardless of their academic status. In my team I have a mama mboga, lawyers, doctors and even students.
Usually a mobile subscriber who buys airtime from a shop ends up paying middlemen such as dealers and agents, who all benefit from a commission, whereas the most important person in that chain of distribution, the mobile subscriber, doesn’t get any commission. In addition, to become an airtime distributor requires huge capital, which many can’t afford. However, with Dipek, by registering with Ksh. 4,985, you automatically become an airtime sub-dealer,” she says.
Jane who has understood that the Dipek model of business leverages on teamwork, already has a team of 538 members under her network barely six months into the business. “So far I have earned over Ksh 100,000 but I feel that’s too little because I have seen some members earn over fifty thousand per week and this has prompted me to go full time into building my Dipek business network,” says this rather ambitious lady, whose aim is to have at least a million people under her network.
For more information on DIPEK contact Jane Gatwiri on 0721- 628681 or 0771-160420.
Published in February 2015