The Kenyan startup rewarding you for topping up your airtime

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What if your 100 Kenyan Shillings could buy you 100 bob airtime, and a 100 Shilling voucher for other goods or services?

Well, that’s what Kenyan startup OCharge is offering.

Launched in November 2016, OCharge allows customers to recharge their airtime for any mobile network, rewarding them with one OCharge point for each Shilling spent on airtime.  These points can then be spent on goods and services at a number of partner businesses.

So, a KES100 (US$1) airtime recharge would provide 100 OCharge points, convertible to KES100 (US$1) spending credit at any of the partner merchants listed on the platform.

“Through competitive research, we discovered airtime recharge has 74 per cent wallet share expenses for most Kenyans. People would rather not pay their monthly utility bills, clear debts or even take care of their basic needs, but will do anything to have airtime on their phones,” says Ian Mwaura, head of marketing and communications at OCharge.

“Consequently, the idea of OCharge was born […] OCharge solves the problem of meaningless benefits customers weren’t using, by leveraging prepaid airtime users with equal, exclusive and meaningful benefits on every Shilling spent.”

The idea is going down well. The startup says that in the seven months since launching, it already has 86,000 users.

OCharge’s revenue model relies on charging a commission on airtime purchases, while partner merchants also pay a fixed subscription and percentage commissions on purchases through the platform.

The startup says it has found the way to shake up Africa’s markets by leveraging consumer spending data to drive customers to local retail organisations.

“We at OCharge are passionate about making Africa’s marketplace more efficient by leveraging insights into user spending patterns which we collect by powering more and more transactions. Through this we’ll be able to identify, drive and convert the right customers to our merchant partners, especially those who don’t have little to no advertising budgets for their businesses,” Mwaura says.

With Kenyan operations in full steam, OCharge plans further launches in Africa in 2018; while the startup will also begin fundraising to enable its pan-continental expansion next year.

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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