Zimbabwe has over the years become a predominantly cash society while mobile communication continues to grow and be pivotal to most consumers in the informal sector. We recognise the inherent burdens airtime pre-payment inflicts on consumers.
These were the words of the founder of Lendme.co.zw, Michael Charangwa, when we chatted with him a few days ago about his new startup. His company lends out airtime to users via a web and mobile web interface. Borrowers are given 7 days to pay for the airtime. And here’s the great part; they don’t charge anything for the service. Well, nothing as long as you pay them back for the airtime on time.
So how do they make their money you ask? Lendme basically sells airtime and providing it on credit in a market that’s not so cash rich, might help them move more volumes faster. They already buy airtime electronically from the mobile operators at wholesale rates.
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The idea, Charangwa says, came about in January last year when he was in Nyanga, a tourist area in Zimbabwe. He narrates, “I was about to run-out of airtime, however was able to access internet. So really thought how good it would be to access airtime online or on some sort of mobile application. The problem however was people would have to pre-pay an account.” To tackle the airtime problem and also not require anyone to prepay the airtime Charangwa decided he’d create a company to provide the service.
Though available for registration online, Lendme will be launching officially on May 1. Charangwa explains the product has been in beta test for a month with 1,200 participants and during this time says “we have learnt a lot about our market, expectations and dispelled quite a few assumptions.”
Lendme enters a market where one mobile operator, Telecel, has started offering airtime on credit, and other operators are said to be considering offering the service too. Telecel however requires that you be a subscriber for at least 3 months before they can let you borrow. The Lendme approval process on the other hand takes mere seconds; it’s carried out mainly by computer algorithms which come with a trust rating for new users. The trust rating basically helps the company determine if they can trust the user to pay for their airtime on time. When I registered last week for example, the account was approved immediately and I was able to borrow a dollar’s worth of airtime.
To pay back, subscribers can either the mobile money payment options EcoCash and OneWallet. When they launch Charangwa says they will be accepting payment from of Zimbabwe issued debit cards as well as bank deposits. The team is also working on making the repayment process smoother by integrating it to mobile operators so that subscribers don’t have to do it manually.
While the product’s target location is Zimbabwe, the Lendme team of 7 employees (including Charangwa) operates primarily from an office in the United Kingdom. Charangwa explains that he travels between Zimbabwe and the UK often for business and that the system as a whole requires very little admin locally so there’s not been need so far to establish offices in Zimbabwe.
In future, Lendme plans to expand the Lendme service beyond just lending people airtime. A service called Lendme Money is the pipeline. Charangwa says the team is working on agreements with a local financial institution to launch a service that will allow users to borrow micro amounts up to $100 using the same platform.
What do you think? Will you likely use Lendme?
9 thoughts on “Lendme.co.zw will lend you mobile airtime, at no extra charge”
Cool idea, they shd make the repayment system as smooth as getting the initial loan,
running out of credit in the middle of nowhere or en-route sucks!! this would be a more than welcome innovation.
Dont you just love it when a real problem gets a real solution…i mean something i would find useful if i was in the depths of Gokwe. Real innovation…Well done guys.
Sounds great! Pros:
-Higher credit limits (Telecel FAIL – $1 is often not enough in a crisis)
-Convenient, you don’t have to be down and out (Telecel requires 10c or less balance)
-No usage charge?
-Seems limited to smart(ish)phones
-Yet another new service requiring personal information
(If you run out of airtime AND data credit you can’t use the service, or can you?)
gret product but word to Rich i think u can use domain lend.me(just did a search n t seems ts up 4 sale)..so that u can be international in the future rather than .co.zwts kinda restrictive.All the same gret product guys..a rel solution i will definetely use
Brilliant idea, it happens on many occasions where you need airtime without money or with money but nit would be too late to find anyone at the corner of any road!!!!
However the only way to do is for them to liase with the mobile providers to deduct the money from the client’s next topups!
True innovation which does not seek to swindle subscribers (Econet can surely take a leaf)… It only had to come from UK…
Loan Shark ?
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