By Michelle Dennehy, & Harry Brennan
During our time in Dar es Salaam, we worked on two client projects with our colleagues in the Tanzanian Student Consulting Group. These projects were undertaken for SomaApps and ClickPesa, two of the city’s exciting start-ups. It was interesting for us in ISCG to work on diverse projects with such a local flavour.
What is SomaApp?
SomaApp’s aim is to inform students in Africa about the scholarships they are eligible for. Currently, there is $3 billion worth of scholarships set aside for African students unclaimed every year! This shows there is no lack of supply for scholarships, there is also a high potential demand for scholarships from the students as many cannot afford to go to University. The problem currently in the market is the lack of communication linking the supply with the demand. SomaApp aims to make this link through a mobile app that all students can access easily on their smartphones. SomaApp is a relatively new app available in the android market store, developed as the flagship product for SomaApps Technology Co. Limited who provide contraction services for other businesses.
When Isaya (SomaApp’s CEO) told us his personal story it really inspired us all. He grew up in a poor area of Tanzania where educational opportunities are limited. Isaya’s motivation from a young age helped him obtain many different funded opportunities such as conferences and scholarships. This had a tremendous impact on Isaya, helping him to succeed academically and pushing him far in his career. However, his experience showed him how complicated it is to apply for scholarships and illustrated why there are so many unclaimed scholarships every year. This encouraged him to set up SomaApp, so that other students could have access to similar opportunities that he had.
As well as students benefiting hugely from SomaApp, it is also of great benefit for employers in Africa as many employers have the opinion that students lack the skills necessary to succeed in the workforce. By giving students the opportunity to access these scholarships and conferences students will be more equipped for the workforce. This should give businesses a higher quality workforce and boost employment rates for students once they finish college.
The app involves students entering 6 basic criteria, such as field of study and GPA score. The app then shows them a list of all the scholarships they are entitled to apply for. It also lists conferences the students can apply to and attend for free. Another great feature of the app is that it provides students with assistance in filling out the application forms. Students can access sample application forms that other students submitted already. Isaya also hopes to add a ‘live messenger’ feature into the app where students can ask questions and get an immediate response from one of Isaya’s team.
What is ClickPesa?
ClickPesa is currently an advanced-stage Beta application for both Android and iTunes. It is run by Rick Groothuizen and Richard Lema.
To truly understand the app’s aim, it is first important to understand the local context of the mobile-money (m-money) market. Tanzania has an entirely different financial system than Ireland. For one, only 3% of Tanzanians have a traditional bank account. That is not to say that most Tanzanians do not have access to financial services. In fact, the penetration of the mobile phone has led to huge financial inclusivity through mobile-money services.
Mobile-money allows the user to deposit and withdraw cash from wakala (agents) at every corner and street across the country. Each account is linked to a sim card, therefore enabling every mobile phone owner to have a mobile-money account. (This feature also explains why the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have total dominance within the sphere). With one of these accounts, the user can do four things; firstly, he or she can pay someone else (peer to peer transactions), incurring a small fee to the MNOs. Secondly, he/she can pay a bill (such as a utility bill or a store cheque). Thirdly, the user can purchase supplementary financial services such as insurance. Lastly, the user can withdraw and deposit cash from 60,000 agents across the country, much like our ATM system.
It is hard to convey how common wakala and m-money accounts are in Tanzania; hence, I will resort to statistics. The country is home to 55 million people, yet there are over 60 million registered m-money accounts. In fact, Tanzania is one of only two countries globally which has more mobile-money accounts than people (the other being Kenya).
One of the big problems with m-money in its current form is that users of one network are unable to pay an in-store bill to another network. To put things simply with an Irish comparison, this means that users of a Meteor account would be unable to pay a store that uses a Vodafone account.
The company obviously has lots of potential. If they can truly deliver on their interoperability promise, their product will dramatically improve the financial infrastructure of the country, yielding benefits for merchants and customers alike.
The scope of the project was broad, however, this allowed us to gain a really broad understanding of the m-money market in Tanzania.
ClickPesa aims to solve this huge problem in the marketplace. It wants to integrate the MNO’s m-money systems to increase ease of use for the merchant. On top of that, it wants to make the transaction easier for the customer by introducing QR codes. Currently, m-money payments take 5-6 tedious steps – ClickPesa’s platform would decrease the transaction time from 2 minutes to 10 seconds.
Isaya joined us at one of the workshops in UDSM and spoke to the students about the app and how they can help. We had previously met with Isaya earlier in the week and discussed how we can best help his business. Isaya explained, to us and our fellow students, the two major problems that SomaApp is currently facing and how they could benefit from our assistance in solving them. The first problem he wanted us to consider was how SomaApp could increase brand awareness in Tanzania and across East Africa; currently the app has only been downloaded approximately 1,800 times. The second problem he had was working out how to make SomaApp a financially sustainable product by analysing the potential revenue models available to them.
We met with Rick and Richard to discuss the scope of the project. We then began undertaking the market overview to get our heads around the East African mobile-money market.
ClickPesa had four main questions for our consulting group. Firstly, they wanted a market overview from an independent source. They wanted this to incorporate case studies of competitors of our choosing. Secondly, they wanted a product usage report from student and from mid-sized retailers. Thirdly, they were unsure how to price the product; in essence, they were unsure whether to pitch a premium product or aim to reach a mass-market. Fourthly, they wanted ideas which they could implement as part of their launching strategy based off competitors’ experiences.
Rick and Richard came to one of our workshops to showcase their product to TSCG members. This was really helpful as it enabled our Tanzanian colleagues to grasp an understanding of how the app functions. During the week, we also began working on the market overview and the case studies of SnapScan, B-Pesa, Zapper, JamboPay and mVISA.
We worked as a team with our fellow students to break down the two problems. We found issue trees were very helpful in doing this. Lots of different ideas were discussed and considered; we realised that to constructively harvest these ideas would take more research. We decided to use the issue tree; to divide the work each consultant took a different “branch” to research further at home.
We discussed the findings that we all came back with. Unfortunately, many students had exams starting this week, so their research was limited due to how busy they were with exams. Because of this, we (the Irish students) spent some time ourselves during week two and three trying to put together our ideas. We showed the Tanzanian students what we had been working on so far and asked for feedback on what we could change/improve.
Having us do a lot of the research at this point was necessary for members to focus on exams. Reviewing the findings together made the results more contextually relevant and allowed members to learn from the process.
We spent a considerable amount of Week 3 attempting to gather data for the Product Usage Report. This included creating unbiased surveys, which we then used as part of our discussions with street vendors and mid-tier stores. A mixture of Irish and Tanzanian students conversed directly with the merchants, which was certainly an eye-opener to those of us lucky enough to be involved!
In our group session later that week, we also discussed potential launching strategies for the firm. This aspect was based on our personal experiences as well as on our individual research.
In the fourth and final week, we worked with the students in finalising all the ideas and putting together a PowerPoint and report for the SomaApps team. On the Wednesday morning, the students had a practice run-through of the presentation in the University before heading out to SomaApps' HQ where they presented the PowerPoint to Isaya and team. The presentation was a great success. We all seemed to really enjoy it, especially the new members. We structured the presentation such that it was very interactive with Isaya, Richard, Isaiah and the entire SomaApps team asking many questions throughout. SomaApp were very impressed by the work and gave lots of positive feedback. They also seemed to really be taking in what the students were suggesting. A copy of the report was given to them afterwards.
The last week was spent aggregating our efforts. This included taking the key findings from the Market Report and Product Usage Report to inform the Pricing Strategy. When the 7000-word report had been completed, we then subdivided the presentation before delivering our findings to Rick and Richard.
Four of the local TSCG consultants presented to the client. They performed really well on the day and were more than capable of responding to the numerous questions that ClickPesa posed to them. The group enjoyed the day immensely and look forward to completing another client project again into the future.
We thoroughly enjoyed the client projects as part of this year’s Project Seed. It was an absolute pleasure to work with local students on these two exciting start-ups and we look forward to witnessing their continued success into the future. We are confident that the clients were both happy with the results; both gave strong positive feedback, even suggested (without any encouragement from us) the idea of working with TSCG again in the future and one took the contact details of consultants with a view to future recruitment.