It has been a long and arduous journey for two Zimbabwean innovators, Tatenda Katsande and his wife Aliama Tsitsi Mangwende, in their quest to set up an online video on demand app, IgniteFlix Zim.
Their reason for slogging at it since October 4 last year when they set up the application, is that they want the world to see Zimbabwean stories through its content.
One year in technology times is a long period for one to be at it trying to refine a product which could be overtaken by events.
The app can be downloaded on a smartphone or movies can be watched on the website for an affordable monthly subscription.
Katsande said the journey started off in 2015 when he entered the filming industry.
He worked the next year on a movie called The Sons of Macgregor whose shooting was completed in 2017.
Unfortunately, they could not get people to buy and watch the movie and they tried again in 2018 with another one called The African American.
Again, they were unsuccessful and they had to change tactic and this was the turning point in their lives.
“I had to sit down with my wife and we came up with the idea of creating the market which was not there and that was IgniteFlix online streaming channel. So, in 2018 we started working on establishing the channel,” said Katsande.
Like many other tech start-ups in the country, all the money to develop it came from his own pocket, with his teacher’s salary this feat was going to be hard for Katsande.
“It was not easy as we self-funded the whole thing. I’m a teacher and my wife sells some stuff in town to complement my small income which would come at the end of the month.
“I still remember having seen that the money wasn’t enough to pay the software app developers, and at the same time earn us a living, I had to join her in selling different kinds of stuff in town at the same time going to work. Since our incomes were small, it had to take us two years and some months to completely finish the channel,” said Katsande.
Last year the channel had some glitches and problems.
“We launched the channel last year on the 4th of October. After launching it, we started experiencing some technical problems one after another and in December we had to take it off the internet.
“We took two weeks of thinking whether to continue with the idea or not. At the end of the two weeks we decided to continue with our dream. It was some kind of redeveloping the channel and it was more money as we had to change our developers,” said Katsande.
By April this year, Katsande said the channel had better functionalities.
“This one can download and then watch offline but the film stays in the channel so that there won’t be piracy. This one can integrate with any television channel. We had to give it three months asking people from different countries to stream movies so we see if there are no technical faults before we take it out into the market. By July we decided to take it to the people and here we are,” said Katsande.
After all is said and done, Katsande said the channel offers to give the world Zimbabwean content.
“At first people were sceptical to give us their content but now they are coming with the content. We have over 20 films from Bulawayo and two movies, Zyathunqa and Ubudlwangudlwangu. We have production houses in Bulawayo like I’skhetho who’ve promised to produce films exclusively for IgniteFlix,” said Katsande.
For those who love nostalgia, Katsande said they want to bring back old soapies such as Studio 263.
Another thing is that they want to give movie productions houses a chance not afforded to them before.
“There are a lot of films that were being produced before. People don’t know them because we only have one outlet which is the state broadcaster ZBCtv.
“So not every movie can make it on to the platform even though they are not paying any money to the filmmakers. Even now a lot of films are being made in Zimbabwe but we still want more that resonate with the changes in the environment,” said Katsande.