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Tina ventures into unknown waters

Tina Byaruhanga at her work place. She has recently ventured into e-commerce businessa a relatively new sector in Uganda.   Photo by Ismail Kezaala

Tina Byaruhanga at her work place. She has recently ventured into e-commerce businessa a relatively new sector in Uganda. Photo by Ismail Kezaala


New business. From a public relations job that left her with a full plate day in day out, Tina Byaruhanga, former MTN publicist, has moved on to being a business woman. Now working with Buzz, a youth marketing agency and running, an online shop, she has never needed to multi-task as much as she is doing now. Edgar R. Batte caught up with her.

Hello… how is Tina today?
She is fine and in a good mood.

We knew you for PR…what were your biggest highlights in PR?
My biggest highlights revolved around working on projects alongside the marketing team that started out small but grew and turned out to be really successful like the MTN Marathon, CSR projects, and media functions amongst others. The other highlight was being able to work on the same team with highly experienced professionals, from both here and within the global operation.

Your face was in the news almost every single day, did you ever feel you were losing your privacy?
I was in the papers for work related reasons and not personal reasons, so I never really felt exposed.

What were your big challenges working with MTN?
It was a big brand with very high public expectations and a massive reputation to keep and I was in a sensitive position. I had to make sure the information I passed onto the public was accurate and plausible or risk a potential crisis.

You did quiet a good job as a PRO; do you think your prettiness had anything to do with the fact that you had an easy way with media?
I can’t say for sure, you tell me. Did it?

When you left MTN, did you get any offers from companies to do their PR?
Yes I did.

Sounds like you had prepared your exit, how well had prepared for it?
Yes I had. It was not an emotional decision, I had a plan. I even discussed it with some people but they all thought I was kidding.

You went into self-employment, how easy or hard was it for you adjusting from earning a salary to having to work, earn and pay yourself a salary?
It wasn’t easy and I’ve had to learn along the way. I read books and also surround myself with people who can advise me, from experience.

What are you doing with yourself now?
I work with Buzz, a youth marketing agency. I also run an online lifestyle site,

Do you miss the limelight?
No, I wouldn’t say. I think I am enjoying my privacy

You seem to be doing more work now than you could have been doing before.
Yes, because the business has grown and calls for more attention.

You are into Buzz teenies-the magazine and awards- what made you go that particular route, teenagers?
They are a versatile market.

What is it about today’s teenagers that you find different from when you were a teenager?
There are several, we didn’t have iPads, mobile phones, Facebook, virtual friends, Lady Gaga, auto tune or naughty corner. We had letters, cassettes, day vigor, real music, real friends, jackfruit, guavas and kiboko, our times were different. Today’s teenager is more exposed and as a result more impressionable.

Do you look at teenagers and worry about the future of the country or they could be future leaders/entrepreneurs?
Their times are different but that doesn’t mean they are less advantaged. They have more options and opportunities in education, career and lifestyle. They just have to make the right choices in life, just like everyone else.

You run, an online shop: Are Ugandans ready for that sort of thing, online shopping?
Yes, more Ugandans have access to the internet now. Also they are more consumed with work and other responsibilities but still want to remain relevant so convenience shopping is a timely introduction.

What has been people’s response to the site?
Very positive and very encouraging. The hits on the site are impressive so that means people are engaging the site.

Without intending to come off as sexist, men are more tech-savy than women, and so they are more likely to engage in such things as online shopping whereas women sometimes have to window shop and physically go to a shop before they decide to buy, is that true? Has that affected your business?
Naturally, because it is a new concept, some people are not sure if the products are genuine so they first want to see them. However after their first experience, they are more trusting. But yes, to some extent you are right; the men make faster purchase decisions than the women.

When does she sit back and enjoy what she has achieved?
Hmmm. She makes the time.

What do you credit your hard work/entrepreneur spirit to? Does it have anything to do with your upbringing or your character?
I would credit it to my family; they were mostly hardworking and unrelenting self-employed people. For example my father and uncle started out early, followed their hearts and worked hard to achieve their dreams.

You are a multi-tasking businesswoman, how do you manage?
I work with a team of very dedicated people and they handle most of the work. Sometimes, my role is simply to supervise what they do.

How do you balance work and family?
It takes discipline, when I am at work, I try and accomplish everything on my to-do list for the day, so I don’t carry work home or forward. Plus I make a deliberate effort to keep in touch with siblings and friends.

About HotKyana
HotKyana is an online store, a high-end consumer lifestyle. “kyana” means “chick” in Luganda which is the widest spoken ethnic language in Uganda. Therefore, HotKyana means, quite literally, “Hot Chick”.
HotKyana operates by taking online orders via its web site. It does not yet offer credit card processing online so most of the payments they receive to-date are via cash, mobile money and direct cash deposits to their bank account.
Social media and especially Facebook has been a big part of their marketing strategy and they have a built a community there that supports HotKyana.
According to Tina, the payments space has been a major challenge but mobile money is proving to be a major boon for them. What is interesting to note is that HotKyana also gets orders from as far Rwanda showing that their reach is significant.
For their customers, they carry out fitnness sessions once every month for two hours.

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