Charity M Namala: Thank you so much Kevin for joining us. Could you please tell us about yourself and what you do? 

Kevin Asinde: I am Kevin Asinde the founder of Amarin Financial Group and a facilitator at The Kampala Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project. The project is an action research that is facilitating collaboration amongst ecosystem players to enable the players to serve entrepreneurs better. I founded Amarin in 2014 to give hands-on skills to youth getting into the accounting field while supporting SMEs to become bankable and sustainable. We are a team of 12 youth and offer services such as outsourced bookkeeping, accounting, tax advice, business planning, financial modelling and capacity building for SMEs.

We recently launched an application called Souce.io that supports enterprises with source documentation. The application is a cloud-based mobile and web app that automates request and approval of funds, introduces seamless segregation of duties, and facilitates storage of all transaction records. Put simply, staff can request for money from their mobile phones, the necessary approval happens, disbursement follows, acknowledgement of receipt of funds and accountability of funds by uploading the receipt onto the platform. This means initiation of a transaction to its conclusion does not require one to come to office, no paperwork is required, transaction details, receipts and reports are always available and easily accessible, and therefore financial reporting is a lot faster.

Charity M Namala: How has Amarin fared during the pandemic – and what testimonies or lessons can you share with us on business survival?

Kevin Asinde: As a company, we managed to survive during the pandemic because of the typical structure of entrepreneurship in Uganda in its formative years. We bootstrap, so the consultancy money helped us to survive.

The company revenues reduced, however given that bootstrapping was already part of how we funded the business, the existing consultancy agreements enabled us compliment the available resources to run business operations. Also, when the pandemic struck, we had already decided to work in a collaborative online environment, and it was a matter of enhancing this with the team. Working with a young team, I had to offer a lot of support and guidance to them to be able to work from home and deliver on their assigned work. The staff that failed to deliver efficiently on work without genuine reasons had their pay reduced until they improved their delivery. After the lockdown, we continued to use a blend of online working and coming into the office.

As an outsourced bookkeeping company, our relationships with clients are not a face to face or a day to day affair. During the restrictions, we continued to guide and support clients remotely using phone calls, WhatsApp and email. An interesting scenario is that during the pandemic we had a lot of inquiries from our existing and new clients requesting financial analysis to support them in making business decisions on whether to close completely or for a given period, where to access finance and how to increase revenue. This, therefore kept us extremely busy at a time when most companies did not have work, we actually didn’t get immediate payment, most of these payments were deferred because of the circumstances where some clients were at the time were completely shut down.  We looked at our support as a way of building a solid relationship with clients with the hope would eventually pay off in the future.

 

 

Charity M Namala: How has Amarin Financial group engaged and supported youth during the Covid-19 pandemic? 

Kevin Asinde:  We were able to engage and support youth that we work with in various ways.

As a start-up, we mainly employ youth that have finished school and are looking for their first job.  We employ a phased approach; some youth start as interns, volunteers, then employees, while those who have been three to four years in the field have a very strict three months’ probation before confirmation. This is because soft skills and self-awareness is lacking amongst the youth in most cases. We therefore provide an opportunity for the youth through our approach get that at an early stage in their careers. Elements like self-assessment, continuous self – reflection and learning through provision of reading materials, linkage to professionals who are on retainer, online courses and a very strict supervisor. With above the roof expectations of everyone also forms our ethos of getting the youth to believe in themselves enough to become global level employees/entrepreneurs. Like one former employee provided feedback after getting her next opportunity. She said; her new employer said she was so confident that that was one of the reasons that made him give her the opportunity. She confessed that without working at Amarin she would have never recognized her own potential, being confident about what she knew and been able to articulate it.

Under our capacity building arm, we continued supporting youth businesses we worked with over the years to make the same decisions that we were supporting other businesses to make.

Charity M Namala: What can be done to increase the participation of young people in entrepreneurship?

Kevin Asinde: I think there are a couple of things to help increase the participation of young people in entrepreneurship.

We need to communicate to young people to think and dream big. Most times we limit youth people’s goals because of our own limited experience. We make youth think that they are capable of 50 yet they can attain 500 [times their potential]. This will build their confidence and get them to know that they are capable of making a difference regardless of the prevailing situation. Young people also need exposure where they can see, hear, read about what others like them have done and are continuing to do. This will make them inspired and develop the attitude of why can’t that be me.

Charity M Namala: Could you tell us about your experience as an entrepreneur during the internet and social media shut down

Kevin Asinde:  My experience during the internet and social media shut down was a tough one and this took me about a month backwards in my work.

I had two very important international client online meetings that were cancelled, which delayed my ability to close some business deals. Given that a lot of our work is done online, business came to a standstill and the ripple effects are still ongoing. We had to quickly adapt to the situation and resorted to using alternative offline accounting systems and use telephone conference calls for our meeting and client engagements. This was a reality check for us, and right now we are trying to do more offline backups [of our systems] so that in case we are faced with a similar challenge in the future we are able to do work with minimal disruption.

Charity M Namala: What advice do you give to your fellow entrepreneurs and youth?  

Kevin Asinde:   I have two things to share with entrepreneurs; the first one is to think about ‘exit’ and the second is think about what type of enterprise they want to be.

As an entrepreneur when you think about exit, I find that it helps you model your enterprise better. When I talk about exit this includes succession. Ask yourself where you see the enterprise in 5, 10, 20 and 40 years dead or alive, what will the enterprise be like?  This will guide you on the structure and systems to put in place that will allow for the kind of exit you are looking for. Exits in three, five or seven years requires that you adopt the required structures from the onset, otherwise you are bound to play catch up all the time.

I would also want entrepreneurs to think about what kind of enterprise they want to be; high growth entrepreneurs, dynamic business, livelihood businesses, because this helps them determine how to structure, decide the best people to talk to, hire and collaborate with. If you want a high growth business you should focus more on iteration of the product, delivery and process whereas when you a dynamic business you might focus more on perfecting the act of revenue generation enough to allow you think about expansion.

For youth find your ‘thing’, obsess over it, be crazy enough to defy the norm and find resources to make it work. Resources in this case does not need to start with cash!