CEO Weekends: to Expand Across East Africa| Rolling Out a USSD & Android App

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1237022_434661926654743_1412585254_nKenya’s Chura, Swahili name for Frog,  an Airtime for Cash Service signifying the transition in leaping from one mobile network to another is set to launch a USSD platform to change the status quo, especially in a country where mobile money interoperability has failed to work.

“We plan on rolling out our USSD platform to facilitate easy and free access to our services and also introduce a mobile app for the smart phone market for a better experience for our users,” said Stephanie Gaku, a co-founder. “We are also looking to replicate our service in other Multi-SIM markets in the region and we are also on track to launch some new products and services.”

Launched on 1st December 2013 in Nairobi-Kenya, by a group of friends Samuel Njuguna, Stephanie Gaku, Njogu Kinyanjui, Jack Kinga and Byron Sitawa all alumina of the University of Nairobi, allows one to switch airtime-transfer airtime across networks, buy airtime from any network using any mobile money service, does Airtime for Cash conversion and fourthly allows users to send their friends bulk airtime to multiple phone numbers at the click of a button.

The team, Samuel Njuguna, Jack Kinga and Stephanie Gaku all Computer Science graduates and Byron Sitawa and Njogu Kinyanjui who studied Industrial Chemistry and Architecture respectively, developed Chura when they realized most Kenyan mobile subscribers use different networks for different purposes. Now planning to go across the region, the service will be of great help especially in countries where there is no mobile money reversal services.

“An example is a subscriber that has one line for calls, another for texts and another for the internet. We thought it would be convenient to be able to serve all these lines from a single point in a fast and efficient way, Stephanie Gaku told TechMoran. “The airtime for cash service was created for users that had a lot of airtime, wanted to convert it to cash but had no avenue to do this”

Gaku adds that at times users buy airtime erroneously from their mobile money account and there was no reversal. Chura sorted that.

The platform works simply. A user makes a request-online or through SMS for the service they would like to do. User sends airtime or mobile money to Chura. Chura sends airtime or mobile money to their desired number.

Chura makes its cut from selling the remitted airtime and also charges a fee for its services. Currently bootstrapped, Chura has had its bad days especially financial and also faced problems with network operators who at times closed up their technologies to them but the team has had to be creative and sacrifice their personal funds to see themselves through it all.

Their main competitors are retail airtime vendors though because the retailers are brick and mortar businesses, they are limited by time and location and their airtime is always in fixed denominations and unavailable at times. Mobile Service Providers also avail airtime directly to users via mobile money, emergency credit and redeeming of loyalty points, but only within their networks.

Chura is available on its web portal and via SMS 24/7 and also allow for any amount of airtime to and from any network at affordable rates. Currently incubated at UON’ C4DLab, the startup has received positive interest and offers from investors, but is yet to take up any. However, the team is excited to be among the DEMO Africa finalists.

“We are excited and honored about being part of DEMO Africa 2014. The opportunity to showcase our product, network with industry professionals and gain insight from peers and receive constructive feedback from leaders in the space is a reward in itself and we don’t take it for granted,” Gaku concludes.

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