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  • Writer's pictureTimothy Laku

What is the role of Community in driving Digital Transformation?

As part of an ongoing series of conversations with Digital Transformation Leaders, I was honored to meet with Nick Kamanzi, who is the FinTech Lead at SafeBoda and Damalie Wasukira, who is the Communications Manager at SafeBoda. We talked Digital, Fintech, Startups, Innovation, Disruption and the NPS Bill.

Nick Kamanzi, rider #2183, and Timothy Laku at the SafeBoda offices in Kampala
About Nick Kamanzi

Nick Kamanzi is a Former Taxi conductor trying to have a go at innovating with technology. He is a Mandela Washington Fellow 2017. Nick is currently using technology to build financial products for millions of consumers in African cities SafeBoda. He enjoys solving offline challenges with technology and very interested in mobile payments. Nick, built Yoza to help single mothers get access to work and worked with Africa's Talking to enable software developers get access to millions of mobile subscribers in Uganda. Nick has worked with HiveColab, PCTech Magazine, Yoza, SulaPay and Africa's Talking.

Below is the script of the first part of the Q&A that took place at the SafeBoda offices in Kampala on 26th February 2019.

Damalie, what is SafeBoda to you?

For me there are two ways to define what SafeBoda is. SafeBoda is a transportation platform – we have an app and what we do is sign on SafeBoda and customers can download the app then request for a SafeBoda through the SafeBoda app.

SafeBoda is also a community, it’s community of boda boda riders and our passengers who believe in changing the industry, who believe in creating a more professional, a safer, more affordable, and more convenient means of transportation within the boda boda industry.

So how are we doing this? We are going out and we are interviewing and recruiting the best boda boda that we find on the road. They go through training. They have road safety training- within road safety, they are taught the road safety act. They go through that information - what are the different road signs etc because most of them have never had a formal training on road signs.

We teach them about professionalism this is a professional job. So, if you get a customer, greet the customer, there is a way you must handle a customer - there are things you don’t say to a customer because this is your business. So, we are teaching them that. We are going through customer services with them.

In addition to that we are introducing them to technology. A lot of the SafeBoda who have come into the community had never previously held a smartphone so much so that they don’t even know how to turn it on. So, we train them and teach them this is smartphone; this is how you turn it on; this is how you turn on your data; this is Google maps; this is location and so on.

We teach them how to use a smartphone and we show them specifically how to use the SafeBoda app so that they can receive requests without having to stop on the road and say “mama tugende” or just sit at the stage because now business is coming to them through their phone.

We give each SafeBoda two helmets one is for the rider and the other is for the passenger the helmets have numbers, so we want to be able to identify who the people are that are taking passengers. We have reflector jackets that have their names.

On the passenger side you have an app - you have a record. The app shows you how much the trip is going to cost. There is transparency. There is no price discrimination - paying a fair and affordable cost for your transportation. In addition to that, you have a record - all the trips you have taken, who took you, how much it costs etc. You also have access to a helmet. It’s difficult to carry a helmet everywhere you go but now you have access to a helmet.

That’s why I said that there are two definitions – there is the app, the platform, and then there is the community.

Nick, what is SafeBoda to you?

We have a 1.2 billion dollars road safety problem. Road safety costs this country 1.2 billion dollars every year. For me SafeBoda has created a digital revolution for people who actually care about their safety on the road.

How do we improve road safety? We have gone beyond just connecting you to the next bike. We have put so much thought on the process of how we actually put a bike on the road. How do we make sure when this rider comes and moves you from one point to another point that you are in a much safer environment?

We started by moving people from one point to the next, but we also took up the challenge of road safety which is really important. That is what SafeBoda to me. It is that digital tool that is going to take on the road safety challenge and help the economy to reduce the amount of money that we spend on road accidents every year.

Nick, what other ways are you seeing digital solving the problems for SafeBoda as a business?

I’ll tell you what we are doing for our customers - especially from the FINTECH angle.

We have gotten to a point where we know how much someone earns. This is a SafeBoda driver that is always on the road every day; we know how much they earn every day. We know their potential. These are people who have not been banked before. From putting a smart phone in their hands, what we have created is a history of how they are making money, when they are making money, how much they are making, and how much they are spending on a daily basis. If you go to a bank right now, they don’t have that information on the last mile customer – the boda boda guy.

The one thing that I am passionate about is how can we harness this information to start giving this rider financial abundance. From “I used to drive around in the city” to “I am building a home for myself” We do that by putting savings at the top of what they are doing.

You find that these riders never used to save any money, but they are now saving UGX 50,000 every week. They are better than maybe some people who have a high paying job and have all these expenses but at the end of the month have nothing to show for the work that they are doing. I am not saying that you should quit your job and become a SafeBoda driver.

We partnered with FINCA and we are seeing very interesting data. People are actually opting in to save money for a very long period of time. For me, that is interesting. Going beyond that - how can we give these guys loans because we know they are going to pay? We see how they are earning. We see how active they are. We are the ones who are connecting them to the jobs.

How can we introduce things like insurance? This guy is always on the road everyday what happens when he gets an accident? As SafeBoda we have started building digital tools around savings for the boda riders so that they can easily, with a click of button, send money to a bank account and at the end of a few months, they can get the money out. The money is now in bulk – they can then use it for something - they can use it to pay school fees for example.

This is someone that we really really care about. So, creating tools that are going to help them get that abundance is very important. Most of these things are going to scale to what our customers are doing. We are not just looking at this as SafeBoda but also for our customers. Where can we innovate? What tools can we build in the app to help our customers track their spending? All these things - that’s where we are pushing the boundaries.

Would you say that the data collected over the years on the SafeBoda app inspired the FINTECH angle for SafeBoda or FINTECH has always been part of the plan from inception?

I think that is a very good question for the founders. From the get go the founders have tried to build a community. If you look at the element of community, where we come from, you think about your village and your home, as communities, we have always come together to contribute to certain things, and to help mitigate risks by creating small groups.

The vision was how can we create this community that cares about road safety, that cares about who is actually driving. If you see this on the road, SafeBoda drivers are actually signaling themselves and saying “hey I see you – I know you are revolutionary like me, you are embracing the digital technologies and the tools”. That element of community is a lot.

Communities are trying to build themselves up into better communities. I am not making an answer for the founders, I am just assuming, if they didn’t think about it then it was already built into the community.

Right now, we are just using the power of the community to provide financial services that actually speak to what the SafeBoda community is doing. If we had tried to force this on them then it would have broken. We know when technology is forced on someone they might take it on or refuse. From what we are seeing – they are embracing it more because it creates a more cohesive community and that is something that they want to see.

How do you get your community to use your digital platform?

When you work closely with your customer you start to discover new things. If you are not working with your customer, you can build all the digital tools that you want to build - they will not use them.

If you are constantly engaging with the customer and actually understand whom you are building for, I think it’s an easy sell. You don’t have to over sell it. You know how they react. You know what they want. You know what they do not want. You know they want to make money. So, if you are doing things that will make them more money than they will do those things.

Understanding whom you are building for and what you are building for them is very very key to making sure you both succeed. Business is all about win-win. If you are benefiting and I am not benefiting then I’m going to resent using your product, but if we are both benefiting, we are all building each other up. That’s how we sustain this relationship.

Digital business models that have always taken advantage of their customers because they are the biggest players or because they are the monopolies are going to lose to digital business models that actually think about the customers and are trying to give more value to their customers than take from them without creating a lot of value.

We are seeing this already happening in different parts of the world. I think that is going to be the next step for most of the business models that have always had an advantage. Because of better distribution, they actually stopped talking to their customers, not until someone comes and gives them an easy way of doing it, at a much affordable price, and then they will switch.



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