Evenings in Kampala are mainly for meet-ups. They are the informally allotted time to meet with the people you do not share work space with. At Café Javas, Lugogo, there is a bustle of the evening life as plates and cups suffer the emotion of repeat activity for the growing numbers of the self-acclaimed hungry. It is only in the evenings that you can catch up with all the never ending events to which the moon relentlessly shines and the stars twinkle upon. Such moments are lodged out on open terraces without a particular sitting arrangement save for the circular or square tables that are a uniform in almost all Kampala hangouts. Dim lights fizzle through the thick of potted plants to make meaning of their existence as the wind meanders through splitting open the leaves of the same checking on which is still awake and which is asleep at such active hours among the humans. The waiting team, in their fully branded attires, pace about some with wrinkled notebooks and bic pens dug out of the waistline centred aprons, others raise their trays above the heads of the happily seated lest the food topples over their heads as the superintendents tower over tables whispering recipes and orders in their walkie-talkies as if to prepare a way for the food president yet to show up and cut a ribbon. The entire team is always in motion either to find an empty table for the clients walking in or to pick an order or perform the most important task of the night; deal with the bill. They tend to always be minding their business.
It is here that the journeys of the day come to a halt. Dr. Davis Musinguzi and I are meeting to break the day with food and drink as he tells me of the good work of The Medical Concierge Group (TMCG). Without splitting roles, somehow Davis does most of the talking as I help with the eating.
After a while of attempted meet-ups, this particular one comes off as the best that there would be or should have been. For the past six years, Davis and his team at TMCG have been on their feet building a telemedicine company one of its kind. Their wild dream has taken them this long to have it tamed and accepted among those they target as clients as well as partners. Today, he tells me of this journey.
TMCG has swanky offices stashed away from the noise that is Kampala’s identity. Their presence online and offline might tempt one to think that it has been a plentiful harvest all through. With a team of 50 young professionals, TMCG has emerged as one of the companies offering immediate solutions to emergency health problems. With an ever growing number of internet users in the country along with improved online payments, you may not necessarily be wrong to think this is a timely business.
With a median age of 29, the TMCG is mainly divided into three departments; medicine, tech and business. For them to be able to reach their clients, they have to always be online with a working model and with doctors ready to offer the help needed. They have built a system that works 24/7 serving the needs of their patients.
When Davis is speaking, it may not occur to you that close to ten years have gone by trying to figure things out. Donned in a blue light weather sweater and his signature glasses, Davis speaks with authority in an empathetic tone as he leads me through the time that have been. Random recollections like when they burnt out all their savings a few months after opening shop without business to carry them on leave him clenching his fist as silence befalls us before he digs deep into his voice to say, “…somehow we made it through.”
I notice that throughout the conversation he uses the pronoun we in reference to the work. Theirs has been one winning team since the word go. TMCG opened its doors to the public after identifying a need. The founders are all doctors who realised that the patient to doctor ratio was higher than the number of doctors available. They thought of addressing this issue by creating a platform that could offer an immediate response to the patient without breaking the doctor at the same time. There was a need and in themselves, they saw a solution. However, they could not be able to do it on their own. Overtime, they have had to revisit and restructure their business model to a point now where they are able to be specific with what they do.
Davis tells me telemedicine began as initiative between doctors and specialists to ease their communication. Today, patients are no longer third parties to the platform, instead, they are the immediate targets. Patients use the platform because it is more direct yet it does not give away their privacy.
Between where they are today and where they first begun, is an edge which has had to rub the rough against the smooth. Their main challenge has been accessing finances that are required to set up the kind of establishment like the one they have today. It has been one painful long trial. First they had to tame their thoughts to know that it would take them some more time before they could get clients trust them fully for their services. They have had to spend a lot of time pursuing funding. He tells me there is no dedicated funding to emerging companies. This leaves one having to try a lot and for long before they can access funding. Strenuously, they have had to polish up on their domain knowledge, “You can’t run business with money alone.”
Overtime, Davis confesses to have made a thousand mistakes. “We were doing something we had no idea about.” They have learnt life changing lessons yet they are not there yet. As the grip of night tightens upon us, I ask Davis what he would have told his adventurous younger self with the experience he has now.
He laughs bowing and cupping his head in both his hands before he opens up;
“Build a business first then you can have a chance of pursuing venture capital. Make sure that you can build your business to a point that you do not need venture capital then look for it. Don’t look for venture capital before the business kicks off.”
You can check out TMCG’s work at Rocket Health .