To be the kind of business that attracts investment is in and of itself, grand. But to be Chipper Cash, attracting the eye of investors in a Jeff Bezos’ owned investment company, is epic. An African-founded company with cross-border payments and local P2P (peer-to-peer) services, Chipper Cash is in the process of setting up in several countries. Live in seven countries already, and was founded by Ham Serunjogi (Uganda) and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled while the pair studied in the US. The biggest challenge they had was sending money back home. They wanted to solve this X. How can Diasporans send money home in the easiest way and in real-time? The solution became Chipper Cash.
“This is an area of passion for me. I have been in tech or selling tech solutions over the last eight years. What happens is, innovation was left to the teams in tech and they would come up with all these tech masterpieces. They built APIs and coded, but when business teams began to get involved by saying, ‘The customer wants this,’ and ‘Can you build his for my customer?’ the game changed. This is possibly why we have seen a burst in various solutions coming in to solve different problems that customers are facing in financial services,” says Leon Kiptum, Country Manager, Chipper Cash, Kenya.
The growth of mobile money shows there was a dearth of solutions. Not because there was no shortage of problems to solve. As soon as you ID the problem, you can then start to think of the solution. But who is identifying the problem? And this is the biggest challenge especially for business teams sitting in this tech space.
With a background in business as he entered the tech space, where they spoke geek, Leon had learned fast that the secret to good business is meeting the customer’s need. And if you are not doing so, as a business, you simply must ask, if not, why not and what are you doing wrong? As a fintech, you may need the best tech team to build solutions, but if you don’t know what the customers want and are instead of imposing solutions on them, it becomes a top-down and rather preachy approach. It results in coming up with something that works – because it was designed to work. Except for one thing. A lot of companies will develop a basket of solutions and come tell the customers, ‘look at this amazing thing I have created for you, now take it!’
Leon compares it to a Mama Mboga telling you what her wares are then asking you which one you want to buy. “That is how a lot of organisations have behaved as far as developing tech for the financial space has been. But I think there has been a fundamental shift where many FSIs are beginning to think the other way round and ask, ‘what does my customer need?’. That is probably the reason we have begun to see a shift. It is no longer just about lending. There’s a lot more that is going on there.” But. Who is talking about the other needs customers have when too much focus has been on tech? There is an entire spectrum of needs that have been forgotten. A spectrum where customers need solutions.
It is self-evident Chipper Cash has an ethos they run with. There is no shortage of problems to solve in Africa, and if you can deploy tech correctly, then you can solve those problems and begin to make customers’ lives easier.
“I’ve come from a time when we used to sell loans and bank accounts to people in offices. And moved to a space where a lot of this is being deployed technologically. These needs have since been moved to tech,” Leon recollects.
Away from IT, the big challenge is, is the IT team listening to the business development team? They, the latter, who engage with clients the most also understand customers’ needs and the customer experience.
“Customers really just need something simple that works. All these masterpieces can get lost in space,” he warns. As fintech think through how to innovate around their customers, anyone involved in fintech needs to ask what customers are doing in their daily lives and innovate around that. “Let’s take the notion of Africans and where we spend our money. Is it supermarkets and restaurants? No. It is the local kiosk, That is where most of the money goes. So how do you make solutions that talk to that customer going to the kiosk? How do you enable the kiosk owner or the customer who visits him?” ponders Leon.
We are in SACCOs. Can we then move that money fast through your platform? “I am talking about the African context because I believe this is where the basis of innovation is ongoing, required, and needed as opposed to the needs of the developed countries and economies.”
“Are we identifying these problems that our customers have? Are we understanding the lives of these customers we are offering solutions to are doing every day? What are we doing with that understanding? Because that should lead to projects that address these simple things. This is how fintech will prosper and make this market-relevant,” concludes Leon reaffirming that ultimately, the customer reigns supreme.