A few days ago we visited Dariro, a new startup building what we can describe as a ‘local pages’ web platform. The website is still in beta and it’s live on Dariro.com. The website also provides a platform for developers to build their own applications. The Dariro founder is Richwell Phinias, an internet marketing entrepreneur.
Some disclosure: we have known the founder since 2002 when we were building a lyrics website for local music. We shut down the website after some 2 years having failed to monetize. Dariro now has picked up the lyrics website (which they now own) and is running it as part of Dariro.com.
Phinias believes that Dariro offers an opportunity to bring online a lot of Zimbabwean entities that are not. According to him, such entities can be businesses, non-profit organizations, schools, clubs and even individuals. It’s sort of Facebook pages without the integrated social networking features. He explains: “When I first went online, way after the turn of the new millennium, I noticed that online there wasn’t any much information about Zimbabwean businesses, organizations, churches, individuals etc and that’s when the Dariro journey began…”
Some concepts of Dariro are sort of in competition with the storefront feature of the established classifieds.co.zw. It also provides some already available page features of the ever more relevant finditfast.co.zw. But Phinias says it’s more than just classifieds, or a business directory, “the classified component can actually just run as part of Dariro, but Dariro is wider than just that”.
The applications concept definitely differentiates it from these existing platforms and if executed well, may define the success of Dariro. To demonstrate how applications can be built inside Dariro, the website has launched with 4 applications: a Provisional Driver’s Practice app, the Zimlyrics app, a chat app and a still-in-the-works Dariro eLearning centre. If you use the provisional driver’s practice application, you can quickly see how useful this platform can be. And the possibilities of linking the application to driving school websites, driving training tips, the how to’s of Zimbabwe’s driving etc…
On the pages front though, clicking around the directory you notice that most of the categories are still empty. This of course lessens the usefulness of the pages themselves and unless a lot of people decide to create pages for their businesses, this will not change. Now, visitors are unlikely to create pages unless they see the benefits clearly, and as it is, Dariro is not telling these benefits clearly. It’s not to say that there are no benefits, there are, but a user needs to feel the benefits when they first arrive at the home page. We may be wrong, but this is just not the case yet.
We think that filling those empty pages will take a lot of work; maybe a couple of data capture clerks busy at keyboards entering data that’s been collected by another team doing the rounds countrywide visiting businesses.
As for the applications inside Dariro, the Dariro team will also need a clear-benefits story for developers to choose the platform. Every web developer will weigh the benefits of launching their application on an independent platform against the benefits of having it on Dariro. Developers will also be interested in knowing how their applications’ intellectual property and revenue are protected. We don’t see it clearly on the site if Dariro is directly addressing these developer questions. Or maybe it’s too early to do so. Maybe Dariro well keep launching their applications to amass critical visitor eyeballs first so they can have a compelling story for developers.
Phinias says creating pages on Dariro will be free but they will ensure that pages contribute to and are consistent with the overall user experience on Dariro. This, he says will help protect the user experience by keeping the site clean and consistent. Dariro’s revenue, Phinias explains, will come from advertisers as the website’s visitors increase.
Dariro has an opportunity to advance the usefulness and relevance of the internet to Zimbabweans. There’s no go-to solution right now for internet users and businesses to quickly and painlessly bring their offline entities online. Facebook pages have served this purpose well so far, but there’s still a lot of space for a solution built from the ground up for local pages.
Dariro itself has Facebook comments integrated with each page.
To finance Dariro this far, the founder has used finances from his internet consulting work and the proceeds from the sale of his personal car. The founder and one other member of the team are currently working from a friend’s garage in Harare.
For the techies out there, Dariro is based on Joomla.
We would love to know your thoughts on Dariro.