In this rapidly changing age, the innovators behind the world’s first credit lending platform have metamorphosed into a talk time and digital products switching platform. Their journey is one of doggedness and a determination to disrupt the technology space through a cross selling approach that puts the customer in the driving seat.
Q: As part of our interview series on the 50 biggest companies in Nigeria, we are putting a spotlight on your company, Creditswitch Limited. A few years ago, you came up with an idea called eCredit which was a platform for people to be able to borrow airtime on credit. Tell us what has transpired since then.
A: The eCredit solution, which we created over 10 years ago, is actually an emergency credit system. This has its origin in my background as a Banker, when I had first-hand customer behaviour experience as to how money was being borrowed and used.
The idea was to be able to give micro credit to consumers of telecoms services who were in need of it, and when they purchase airtime the loan is paid back. When I conceived the idea I decided to venture out of the Banking industry to start this with a couple of friends. We went around pitching the idea and the first things they asked was “which other country are they doing this?” When we say there is no country, they ask us “So why are you here?” We researched China, South Africa, all over the world, but because of their post-paid culture, there was really no need for that kind of service. When we went to pitch one of the major networks, the man said “you actually want us to turn our entire network operations upside down because of you? We won’t do that; you need to leave”. But I think that was because they were still basking in the euphoria of making easy money and really had no need for it.
The story is very broad and it is something we will be telling in no distant future.
Q: You are now the CEO at Creditswitch Limited. What’s the difference between eCredit Limited of 2008 and Creditswitch Limited of 2019?
A: We were able to see some loopholes in eCredit. In eCredit you needed the approval of the network operator which for me gave a lot of power to them. If they don’t approve your service you cannot do it. Some operators will tell you to go and build your own base station if you want to execute the idea. So we had to look for another idea where the power reside more on our part than those we want to execute it for.
Creditswitch is actually bigger than just distributing airtime and data. The idea of Creditswitch is to be able to transfer airtime from one network operator to another. As we speak today, *931# is on Airtel, Glo and other networks.
If you dial the *931# code and you want to transfer 200 naira airtime, it will debit you for 200 naira airtime and we will give whoever you want the airtime, no matter the network, and take some fees. That’s the idea of Creditswitch. It does not give absolute power to the operator because the operator does not want to buy the competitor’s airtime anyway.
If you think of Interswitch for the financial services sector, you will easily understand Creditswitch for the telecoms sector. The idea is that, globally, we should be able to exchange airtime or anything you want from one network operator and give to another. The big picture of Creditswitch is to be an integrated digital exchange platform.
We don’t want to be involved in physical growth like Alibaba and other brands due to the attendant logistics. When you think Creditswitch, think of a warehouse of digital products like ringtones, airtime and anything we can distribute digitally. If it can be distributed digitally, it is Creditswitch.