1. APIs: a bridge between mobile operators and start-ups in Africa- Especially
(a) Monetisation: Start-ups must understand their path to monetisation and also the monetisation path for mobile operators;
(b)Support: Start-ups need to seek external support in understanding how mobile operators work and how to work with them. This will help them reach out to the right people within the operators and to craft the right value proposition; and
(c) Product Differentiation: Operators are keen on propositions that are unique and will give them an edge in the market. This differentiation should be reflected when reaching out to them.
Barriers that still prevent start-ups in their markets (Rwanda and Kenya in particular) to fully realise the benefits of operator APIs. These barriers include:
(a) Operator’s maturity in the management of APIs (e.g. clear and actionable documentation);
(b) Lack of access to stable sandbox environment;
(c) Difficulty in identifying the API ‘point of contact’ within the mobile operator;
(d) Integration issues with some APIs (often requiring to connect through a VPN); and
(e) Lack of standardised APIs across markets.
If one has ever heard the concept of “collect calls”, this must sound familiar. This is the concept of reverse charge call where the calling party wants to place a call at the called party’s expense.
Under the concept of “Missed call marketing (MCM)“, a similar thing is happening in the emerging economies.
According to an article on The Hindu, Ozonetel Systems– a pioneer and a leading provider of on-demand cloud communication services in India has handled 700 missed calls in 9 months leading upto February 2016 and will handle a billion missed calls in a year.
Consumers call back in response to ads targeted at them, but hang up without connecting.
Companies then call them back or send messages with deals, coupons and offers.
More than that, the companies gain valuable information of customer interests, preferences and profiles so that ads can be more precisely targeted. Ozonetel has been handling missed calls for the past four years.
Such has been the power of the MCM phenomenon that ZipDial, an Indian startup that was successful in capitalizing on the prevalence of “missed calls” and was bought by Twitter in early 2015.
The way in which these MCM marketing firms work is quite simple and is illustrated in this figure below:
According to the Wharton article, the missed call marketing has even crossed the income divide, where in recently a luxury housing project had a “Give a missed call to xxxxxxxxxx for more information” tucked away at the bottom of each page.
Politicians and political parties, have been using them to reach to their followers and for their membership drives.
Employer provident funds and Banks are using MCM to help their members with tracking their account balance.
Nestlé’s Bunyad is an iron-rich product specially focused on school-going children to prevent iron deficiency. The brand offered free talk-time top-up to anybody who gave a missed call and listened to the Bunyad message. “We called the user back through an automated system, educating them on the issue,” says Jafri. “The response was way beyond our expectations. Also, we now have a database of these listeners to engage them further with Nestle Bunyad.”
How big is the business in India? There is no simple answer. Three years ago, The Economic Times put it at Rs. 5 billion (approx 75 million USD). But that was in the days before Big Data came into the picture. “Trial prices start at Rs. 1,000 (less than $15) a month,” says Sunil Jain. Add a substantial dose of number crunching and the bill could shoot up to 100 times as much. “The size of the market is difficult to estimate,” says Rajesh Jain.
Saw this really inspiring business initiative in Kenya called “EcoPost”.
EcoPost uses 100 % recycled plastics to make aesthetic, durable and environmentally friendly plastic lumber for use in applications ranging from fencing to landscaping.
By starting this business they are actually tackling issues that in the context of Kenya are quite important such as plastic pollution, urban waste management and deforestation. As a business, they are able to create employment and also at the same time because of the sustainable way they are proceeding, they are actually doing their small part to create an environmentally friendly Kenya.