Daily Collection Business operators provide essential microfinance services and in essence help to drive financial inclusion. It is a very old business model that thrive in both rural and urban areas. Yet, not much has been done in terms helping the operators achieve mileage. Their operations remain traditionally crude, making it difficult for them to achieve scale.
This is the pain point in the business that Thritplus is set up to address. Thriftplus is a web based application that is designed to make the business of daily contribution easy for both operators and savers.
In this interview, the man behind Thriftplus, Mathew Okechukwu give insight on how the software works and how it helps dailycollection business owners and their customers can use it to achieve scale.
Tell Us About Yourself?
My name is Abaegbu Mathew Okechukwu. I am an entrepreneur. But most importantly, I am more passionate about creating systems that meet a need. Before now, we built a CBT platform for assessments. It can be found here
How long have you been in software development?
Professionally, I can identify two major points along this journey. 2 years doing internship and 6years in private practice
When did you know you wanted to pursue software development as a career?
I have had lots of dreams in my growing years. If you come to this world with one or two abilities, it’s pretty easy to build a career along those. But when you demonstrate competence in all most everything you lay your hands on, with little or no training, settling for a career might be a challenge.
At one time, I opted to give up myself for any space exploration projects around the world, because I wanted to have a feel of how a plant would look like if there were zero artificial lightings, no clear path leading to anywhere in particular and no food aroma emanating from a neighbour’s kitchen.
At that point, those feelings were very strong in me and I surfed much of the web, seeking information. In addition to these, I love simplifying complex processes. But more importantly, I love automations. So I felt, learning to code could help me meet these twin needs and then in 2005, I bought my first personal computer, from the money paid me as a home tutor, back then.
Can you tell us about this app, Thriftplus?
Thriftplus is an household name in the micro, small and medium scale businesses sphere. Its technology is intended to provide feature rich services to businesses niched around daily contributions, savings, loans administration and cooperatives.
These businesses can be one man in nature (with two or three other employees0 or larger scale enterprises like micro-finance banks, but it does not stop at that point. Because of its very elaborate nature, and the fact that we envisaged a solution that cuts across all scales of business (big or small), we agreed to make it platform based. So currently we are hosting this solution for hundreds of businesses.
I quickly want to add that before now, 99% of thrifts collectors pay salaries, a very dangerous model to run for a business that is very volatile. So with thriftplus, we holding seminars and sensitization programs with our customers and introducing to them a better model, which ensures growth for both the employee and the business.
More so, a small business can now employ as many field agents (merchants) as his subscription on our platform allows. This brings growth, both numerically and financially.
What motivate you to develop thriftplus?
The story is a long one. Long before the thought dropped in me to develop this app, the only product I had to my credit was our CBT app.
One evening, I was on Nairaland, the programming section when I noticed that lots of reactions were generated from a post someone made on daily contribution app. The author of the post listed so many features that I asked myself if this person actually made this app himself.
Now I want you to understand that most people, who parade themselves as developers and claim they have XYZ years of experience on the job, do not have a single app to their credit. There are sites where anyone can download any app of choice and start to tweak it here and there.
So I felt that must have been the case with the author of this post. So I chose to add a comment. I said this app is only good, as long as you want to utilize it as it is. Any day you want some customizations, which is peculiar to your business. You will have to wait till infinity. And that most time, if they get it [the custom feature], it comes at the cost of destabilizing other aspects of the program.
I then went on to say that anyone who wants a custom made app for their business should feel free to contact me. The calls and chat I got afterwards showed me where the hunger of the people lie. It was this astonishment that gave birth to the decision to develop Thriftplus.
Interesting. So how long did it take you to develop the app?
Any serious developer who have worked on any meaningful project in the past, will tell you that, with software development, you are never there. You only refactor your code and optimize certain features, while adding new ones, over time. With thriftplus, the story is same.
At the start of the project, what we conceived was daily contributions, what we refer to as thrifts, however as more clients kept calling, they kept asking for different solutions. This made us expand the scope of our project to include savings, loans and cooperatives.
As at today, there’s a new understanding about the entire project and its cope, as we now want to handle the loan aspect in a slightly different way than we conceived it originally. So this is where we are today. From the day the first line of code for thriftplus was penned, to today when we feel we have reached the half-life of the first phase; over seven months have passed.
But it’s a work in progress and our clients are already asking for more features, which we will definitely implement.
What unique features does Thriftplus offer?
The first feature I can possibly throw up right now, is our pricing model. Migrating to our platform is very affordable. While this may appear not to be a feature to some others, it can be the single factor that draws the thin line between a successful project and one that’s not. This implies that the local thrift collector in the remotest parts of the city, can now migrate his business to our platform and enjoys all the rich features the app, without paying so much.
Asides pricing, Thriftplus offers SMS alert for deposit and savings transactions, E-mail notifications and in-app notifications, more so, it offers logins directly to customers.
This feature is turned off by default, interested customers will have to request it. Again, it has a range of solutions. Thriftplus is a suit o apps, which houses solutions for daily contributions, savings, loans and cooperatives. So whatever your business and however the scale, we have a solutions for you.
How easy is it to use this app, does one need any form of training?
Our solution is simple, and we have included a short guide, for new and existing businesses, however, in our business experience over this short period of operation, our clients sometimes request clarifications. This we deliver in the form of training and re-training.
Who do you consider to be your target market?
Like I mentioned earlier, the idea behind the product is to have the widest spread possible. For this to happen, we need to include a wide range of solutions. These include daily contributions, loans management savings and cooperatives. I need to emphasize something here, the logic for loan management of thrifts collectors is different from that of savings. We had to make sure our solution reflects this realities too. So every businesses, whether big or small, that’s into any of the aforementioned areas are our potential market.
Why is thriftplus different from competing apps in the market?
Let me make a bold statement here, Thriftplus has no competition, not in terms of features or services, but in terms of robustness and the variety and scale of businesses it can accommodate. No singular product in the market as at today answers to the needs of a micro finance organization, while at this time, providing services for a cooperative society, daily contributions collectors, and a very robust accounting feature!. SMS alerts for deposits and withdrawal transactions, E-mailing, and at the same time giving access to customers directly. Just to mention a few. And we aren’t there yet, because of course, development in ongoing.
What are the security features in thriftplus that addresses the challenges in thrift, savings and loans business?
Owing to their very nature, I think there are more challenges with thrifts business than with others. The reason is that majority (about 95%) of transactions happen on the field.
This can be a lot of issues, especially for field agents with quick money syndrome. One the app, customers’ accounts are not credited until cash has been remitted to the cashier, and it’s been approved by the business owner or their representative.
How Can Prospective Operators Sign up to use this app?
Three simple steps. One you get your business registered and specify the services your business will consume. Two, you make payments. Three your account gets activated, instantly!. You are bound by some T and Cs, and licensing is usually 6 months or 12 months.
What were the challenges you had developing the app?
We ran into lots of issues during the course of development. Not forgetting that this app was built from scratch, one major issue is the ever changing business logic of the app.
What would you do differently, if you were to start all over again?
Really can’t think of anything. We had consultants with stake holders long before the first line of code was written.
If you have on piece of advice for anyone just starting out, what would it be?
Consistency is the key word. Keep on at it. Work on your projects daily, the sky is your limit.
Is there any specific education path you would recommend for anyone who wants to become a developer?
No! These days Google doesn’t even require a first degree anymore as a requirement for employment. App development is a skill, if you have got it, irrespective of you career path, you are good to go.
Buchi creates content and leads the Team at Stalwart Investment Partners; a business development and investment consultancy firm. He provides strategic advisory to help SME's, small business owners and HNI's grow profitable business and make informed investing decisions.