Founded by Pratik Kumar, OCharge is an Airtime Recharge App which rewards users with discount vouchers and deals from Kenya’s top brands, every time they top-up their mobile.
According to Kumar, OCharge is powered by Oliza, which is among the first investments of iSON Innovation and Investments (i3), a subsidiary of iSON Group, a global leader in BPO services. OCharge is the first initiative from Oliza, which aims to redefine consumer internet business in Africa.
”Airtime recharge constitutes the largest share of expenses for an average young adult Kenyan. The Kenyan youth is spending more than 50% of their disposable money on airtime and data, and so have to cut corners on other expenses,” says Kumar. ”At OCharge, we want to enable them to do MORE with what they have, without having to compromise. The thought was simple — spend KES 200 on airtime, and get KES 200 off on your next pizza purchase.
”We think this will not only enable users to do more, but also help local merchants reach out to their prospective customers, with deals and discounts which could entice them to try out new services and products,” adds Kumar.
Though Kumar explains OCharge simply, the firm has had to do surveys and an iteration to really validate their model and to show the market that the idea really works. OCharge Android App was first showcased in a limited public launch at Panari Sky Centre in partnership with IMAX Africa. Prior to this, the firm doing various online surveys and beta sign-up campaigns to get initial feedback, which was mixed, given that the business model is very new to the Kenyan Market.
The immensely positive feedback during the firm’s showcase validated his conviction about the value the app was bringing to its users. This was further reinforced during another showcase at Nairobi Innovation Week held at University of Nairobi, where it won the Best Innovation Award against 80 other companies, including the likes of Samsung, Safaricom, IBM and Barclays bank.
In a way that shows Validation of the concept of airtime points for deals in the country as Xtra Value, Ocharge’s local competitor has launched targeting the same market.
However, with this small successes the firm is continuously working hard to improve the user experience, based on the feedback it’s receiving.
Ocharge’s first offering was local businesses search available on WhatsApp. And it was building an app towards the same objective.
”We have decided to move forward with this model looking at some statistics and behaviours in this market. Airtime constitutes a large share of wallet for the average Kenyan. Also, everyone loves a good deal here. So we believe the basics for this model to work, are in place, finally, its all about execution,” Kumar told TechMoran.
OCharge’s primary revenue stream is the commission it makes out of airtime sales. It hopes that the commission or marketing fee from its merchant partners will also become a substantial portion of its revenues, going forward.
OCharge as a business has exposure across Africa, thanks to iSON Group, which is now present in almost 24 countries across Africa, with more than 10,000 people working for them.
For us, Kenya is a great place to pilot this idea. As soon as they nail it in Kenya, Kumar intends to scale it, across Africa adding that in today’s time, and especially in consumer internet businesses, VC funding has become a necessary tool to achieve growth. And I personally he believes that if your unit economics are sorted, then VC funding can prove to be a great enabler.
”I think Kenya is at a very interesting inflection point. Adoption rates of new offerings and use cases is high, and people want to experiment with new things,” Kumar told TechMoran. ”Kenya also has a history of adopting innovation. An almost cliché example is mPesa, among others.
However, innovation is hard. Thinking from first principles and coming up with a solution ground up is hard. Kumar says he hasn’t heard of too many examples of that yet but the scope is huge. To most employers complain of lack of tech and engineering skills in Africa, Kumar thinks different arguing that Kenya is at a very infant stage of technology. This is a phase which all countries have followed, including India, which was like this 10 years back, but is now a very mature market. It is only a matter of time.
”I also believe that it cannot be impossible to find a handful of people who can meet your skills standards. It’s just harder, and we’re working on it,” says the entrepreneur adding that as a company, it believes that young and driven people with a shared vision can do great things together, and that’s the kind of talent it tries to hunt down.
”We’re a small company right now, and our founding team typically has people not necessarily with a lot of experience, but a killer attitude and a high growth trajectory,” he says. ”Working with a startup provides an opportunity for an extra-ordinary growth trajectory, if you’re willing to put in extra-ordinary effort. That itself, is our talent development and retention strategy for the time being.”
OCharge says talent development is an important formal theme within the company as well, and it keeps coming up with various training modules for its employees.
”Overnight successes in the startup world typically come after years of slogging and doubt. You have to keep at it. Execution eats ideas for breakfast. Ideas are nothing without execution. Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts,” advises Kumar.
Airtime is a need for everybody. The firm says it is simply making it convenient and rewarding to use the platform. Kumar concludes that Kenya, and Africa at large, is at a very interesting stage where online and tech will start to take off in the consumer segment. It wants to be amongst the forerunners to bring in this trend.