Kenya’s Chura cashing in on dual-SIM environment

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With its innovative way of creating interoperability in Kenya’s multi-SIM environment, award-winning startup Chura is seeing strong growth in uptake and revenues as it looks to woo investors to aid its expansion.

Many mobile subscribers in Kenya opt to have more than one SIM card due to the different benefits offered by different operators. Chura allows such subscribers to leap from one network to another, through the transfer of airtime between SIMs and the purchase of one network’s airtime using the mobile money service of another.

The startup’s “Airtime for Cash” service allows the conversion of airtime into mobile money credit, while its bulk airtime service allows the sending of airtime to many phone numbers across different networks.

“Chura is a startup that aims to ease interoperability across the different networks,” business strategist Samuel Njuguna told Disrupt Africa.

“Kenya is a multi-SIM environment and each service provider has its own unique strengths, for example Network A is good for data, Network B is excellent in voice calls, and Network C has an affordable texting service. This environment leads to mobile service users averaging more than one SIM card to maximise on these unique benefits that each service provider has.”

Njuguna said, however, that until the launch of Chura there had been no platform that allowed users to shift from one network to another with ease.

The arrival of the service has been popular. In nine months Chura has completed 11,000 transactions, been a finalist at the PIVOT East competition in June and declared a winner at the DEMO Africa conference in Lagos, Nigeria in September. The latter success gave the startup the opportunity to pitch at the DEMO Fall event in Silicon Valley last month.

Revenues have also been impressive. Chura takes a percentage of all airtime bought and sold through the platform, and has so far raised US$50,000 in revenues. The company is optimistic on building on the successes it has seen so far, and having bootstrapped since its launch is now looking for investment in order to expand.

“We are currently warming up for funding and we are in the “investor dating” mode,” said Njuguna.

“We are looking at diversifying in terms of market, for example introducing the service in other countries and also adding new products to the market.The new products will also be in line with our philosophy of allowing interoperability across different platforms and services.”

He said Chura’s only real competition came from brick and mortar stores where consumers can purchase different types of airtime, as well as the SIM-porting services which allow consumers to move a SIM’s registration from one network to another. Operators have thus far not been helpful, with Chura having found a way of implementing its solution without having to rely on them, though the company is working towards possible partnerships.

Njuguna said a lot of dedication, sacrifice and learning from mistakes had been needed to get Chura off the ground, but the company was looking forward to a healthy future.

“We consider this a true test for people who are passionately focused in pursuing their goals, versus people who are merely interested in running their startup,” he said.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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