How HollaTags is helping businesses drive connectivity through mobile communications – Kenny Orisanaiye
Communication is very important in any business. Being able to communicate effectively with customers through various channels can lead to increased sales, repeat business and even referrals. You could have the best products and services but if you don’t have a coherent customer engagement strategy apart from emails, social media, etc., you might lose customers.
Even with the rapid rate of internet penetration, many people are still offline and to engage with this demographic, other communication channels like SMS and USSD need to come into play.
Kenny Orisanaiye created HollaTags – an easy mobile communication channel that connects businesses to customers on mobile through various channels like SMS, Voice and USSD. The company provides MessagingHollaTags and APIs for communication on mobile via VOICE, SMS, USSD and Mobile Value-Added Services.
Around the late 2000s to early 2010s, Orisanaiye noticed how mobile was becoming a big tool for communication, entertainment, socializing, and access to digital services amongst consumers. But it was still very difficult for businesses to set up mobile channels like SMS or USSD for customer engagement. Only a few businesses could afford to approach multiple telecom companies to discuss and negotiate integrations. Even those that could afford it still required significant technical support.
As someone with over a decade’s experience in the Nigerian telecom industry, and armed with ample research to understand the core pain areas for business-to-customer communication, he understood the best approaches to the market.
“We needed to create simple and easy tools for these businesses to set up automated mobile communications and interactions with their customers. It should be very easy for businesses to send alerts, offers, authentication, etc. to their customers. Setting up an SMS or USSD application should not be a tough process that takes forever to go live. That was why HollaTags came into existence,” said Kenny.
What services do you offer?
If you have received a one-time password from an app or website, an SMS alert from a bank, followed voice prompts when calling customer service, or used USSD to transfer funds from your bank account, then you may have benefited from the work we do at HollaTags.
HollaTags is an industry-leading communication platform that connects businesses to customers on mobile.
HollaTags’ innovative products, including APIs and web platforms, allow businesses to interact with their customers leveraging SMS, USSD, and Voice. Our high-performance APIs enable businesses of all sizes to send, receive and track SMS effortlessly and deploy their ideas with just a few lines of code.
What are the challenges one faces trying to run a business such as yours in Nigeria
We face mostly the same challenges as other businesses that function out of Nigeria. From challenges with infrastructure to difficulty finding trained and suitable talents. The dynamic nature of regulation in Nigeria also has a significant effect on businesses.
A challenge that is somewhat unique to our business is the perception of the market towards local providers. Our APIs and platforms offer solid infrastructure for all kinds of businesses, which is evident in the quality of services that we deliver to our clients. However, we see a trend where it appears some Nigerian companies are used to procuring technology services from non-local providers, and as such, tend to require a bit more convincing to get them on board. Nonetheless, we have made remarkable progress with earning trust by delivering beyond expectations.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that local service providers can bring global expertise to the table, and working with companies present on-ground has a number of advantages, including cost competitiveness and better knowledge of the terrain.
Other challenges include talent scarcity, considering that our work in the telecommunications space requires industry-specific skills that are not easily found. Bureaucracy, which is common in larger organizations, also often slows the pace of activities.
Do you operate only in Nigeria, and what has been the rate of adoption of your product?
Whilst Nigeria is our primary base, we serve a global audience. We are headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, but our global connectivity reaches mobile devices in over 220 countries.
How many users do you have and how many businesses have you supported with your communication API?
We are a B2B company, so we offer businesses our APIs and platforms to enable them to serve their customers via SMS, USSD, and Voice. Globally, we serve 8,000 customers, including banks, fintech, and multinational businesses. We help these businesses deliver SMS to over 1,900 telecom networks around the world.
How are financial service providers using mobile channels to connect with customers?
Technology is making it easier for more companies to efficiently provide financial services to a broader audience. At the end of 2019, 477 million people in sub-Saharan Africa subscribed to mobile services- therefore, it is a no-brainer that financial service providers will leverage mobile to connect with their customers. Today, it is common for people in Nigeria to say they have not visited a bank branch in months because they have mobile channels to interact with their bank on the go.
This enables the innovation of new services and delivery channels to increase outreach. Many fintech, banks, and other financial service businesses are launching USSD channels. They deliver alerts, dynamic passwords, account statements, and notifications via SMS. Voice technology has also proven very useful to manage automated customer interactions and service center calls.
With phones in the hands of almost everyone, it is easier for financial service providers to efficiently drive financial inclusion by connecting with their audiences.
How is the business funded and do you have any plans for a funding round in the future?
The business is self-financed, and we are currently not raising funds. However, as we pursue growth and expansion in other markets, it is likely we may develop an appetite for funding at some point.
Companies like VFD Microfinance bank, EMRO, 9pay, OsusuMobile are harnessing the USSD and SMS services offered by HollaTags to help drive connectivity in their businesses.
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