Safaricom launches innovation centre in Nairobi
Kenya’s leading mobile telecom company and provider of M-Pesa, the nation’s mobile money service, Safaricom has opened a new innovation centre in Kenya’s capital city, in the Kilimani neighbourhood – outside the company’s main office.
The incubator, Safaricom Alpha, will prioritise analysing spending patterns on M-Pesa and use the collected date to create additional Safaricom products.
“Safaricom’s unique in that we have telco services and a financial services platform that connect nearly every household in Kenya largely on the basis of trade,” said Kamal Bhattacharya, Chief Innovation Officer of the company.
“We’d actually like to move beyond M-Pesa by leaveraging its power as a social network to connect people to other product solutions.”
73% of mobile subscribers are Safaricom customers, and its M-Pesa fintech app has 27mn customers across a network of 136,000 agents.
The app generated Sh54bn (US$525mn) of the telco’s Sh207bn (US$2bn) annual revenues.
Safaricom has already been adding consumer and small business-based products to its mobile and fintech network through in-house development and partnerships, including digital TV, the M-KOPA solar-powered lighting kit, Lipa-Na bill pay service, and the Little ride-hail app.
The company are also set to launch an e-commerce, named Masoko, platform in the coming months.
“Facebook and others have connected people well on a social level, but are still at a fairly nascent stage in digital monetary transactions,” Bhattacharya added.
“Safaricom already has an extensive network of people, merchants, and governments all connected through monetary transactions.”
Dr Shikoh Gitua, former Technology Leader of African Development Bank, will be Head of Products Innovation. Safaricom’s Veronica Ogeto-Tchoketch will be Head of Strategic Partnerships. David Nyamai will be Team Manager of the Business Intelligence and Big Data Team.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.