Kenya’s simplePOS helping 6k small shops move away from pen and paper records

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Kenyan startup simplePOS aims to move small shops away from pen and paper records using mobile technology, and is already working with 6,000 merchants.

In late 2018, Anderson Riungu travelled to rural Kenya during the holidays, and was asked by a relative to look at his books to see if his hardware shop was making any money. 

“He had written every sale down for months and, I must say, the task was daunting. Small shops have small inventories but there are items that are supplied in a bulk quantity so the small shop opens the bag and repackages into smaller quantities that the shoppers can afford. This is all written down,” he told Disrupt Africa. 

“Following a few days of trying to figure the books, I decided to create a simple application for him to just do his sales, and at the end of the day get reports of everything he sold. On coming back to Nairobi, I realised this pattern replicated in several other kiosks and barbershops, and that’s when I thought I could open up the original app for use by everyone.”

He did just that in August of last year, launching simplePOS, which aims to take shop records mobile. Besides recording sales, the application lets users create inventories and return lists, and view sales reports and stock levels. 

“With time, as we grow, we aim to enable the small businesses to order goods from partner suppliers within the app and also provide other services like loans in partnership with banks,” Riungu said.

The startup already has around 6,000 shops using its app, and has a retention rate of about 70 per cent. Part of the appeal is its lightweight smartphone app, and its low cost.

“Most small shops can’t afford POS machines so they just write down their sales, but simplePOS just aims to complement that task. I have not encountered an app targeting that group the way we are,” Riungu said.

The self-funded startup has not started charging its users yet. The plan is to eventually charge US$1 per month to use the app, but it has not yet activated that feature as the aim is to get to a critical mass of about 30,000 users beforehand.

“My go-to-market model has been slightly different from conventional startups,” Riungu said. 

“I have a version of simplePOS called simplePOS Elite – this is for SMEs with distribution networks and salespeople already. It has a web and Android interface. I usually give it to them for free and have their salespeople market the generic one to the small shops. It is easier to get these small shops using our app if it is marketed to them by someone who has been selling to them for months or years, someone they know.”

This approach has already worked well, and simplePOS is now planning further growth in Kenya. Riungu also hopes to expand to other markets in the future, most immediately regional counterparts Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda but also Ghana, South Africa and Nigeria. 

“With time we hope it can be the preferred app in the developing world,” 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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