Interviews

Interview With Sibabale Joja The CEO Of Tech Company Chama Money

Interview With Sibabale Joja The CEO Of Tech Company Chama Money. Chama Money enables stokvels to operate online in an easy, safe and transparent way whilst giving them access to retail, insurance and financial products from trusted providers. The platform has automated processes like bookkeeping, accounting and payments.

We recently talked to Chama Money CEO, Sibabale Joja, about how the business was started, its challenges and what the future looks like for the company. Check out the interview bellow.

What prompted you to start Chama Money?

● One day I was visiting my aunt who was part of a lending stokvel and that day she was complaining to me about how people were defaulting on her loans. During that time I was studying software development which at its core is about using technology to solve problems I therefore tasked myself to prototype an application that would solve her problem and the rest is history. Above and beyond that there are more than 800 000 savings groups in SA, with a market size of R45-50 billion and there is a real pain in most households in SA as group savings schemes are part of our culture.

What problem would you say Chama Money is solving?

● Safety: some stokvels still keep their money under the mattress, some get defrauded by scams or corrupt stokvel executives and others tend to get robbed during their meetings when making contributions or in banks after making withdrawals.

● Transparency: Stokvel executives like chairmen and secretaries tend to have more influence of which they use to make certain decisions in their favor instead of the whole group. Also, they are the only ones with access to stokvel information like transaction records, the number of members, and so on.

● Access: stokvels are typically short-term orientated in their nature by buying groceries and using short-term savings accounts. We want to expose them to long-term products through equities, property, bonds, and cryptocurrencies.

What innovative ideas are you implementing with this business?

● All withdrawals and major decisions on our platform go through a voting system that uses a majority consensus. This means that stokvels will no-longer have executives or signatories withdrawing money without the group’s knowledge and all decisions are made in a fair and transparent manner.

● All the stokvel data is freely available to anyone at any time

● The bookkeeping, accounting, and payments processes are automated so you pay once and we take care of the rest

● All stokvels will have a constitution by default that is customizable to each stokvel’s needs.

● We are partnering with retailers, insurance providers, banks, and hedge funds, to provide discounted and bespoke products to stokvels.

● We are building an agent network that will assist customers without smartphones or access to the internet to benefit from our solution and this will create jobs. People can Whatsapp us for more information on this.

● We partner with trusted and reputable companies to offer the right products at the right price.

● Financial education will be a major focus for us, we will not only allow customers to transact with us but also help them understand where and how their money is working for them and how they can better manage it.

Why did you choose to use technology based solutions for your business?

● Technology has the ability to simplify things and connect people and our goal is to make being part of a stokvel easier but also to connect people who would otherwise not have been in the same stokvel because of the many barriers that exist whether they are geographic or social.

What has been the reception like since the platform was launched?

● Everyone that we have interacted with has loved our solution and we are growing day by day.

What challenges have you faced in your entrepreneurial journey?

● Our customers are unique and our solution had to be bespoke to them or else it would not work, so we had to build our solution knowing that data is expensive and network coverage is not always the best in some parts of our country so we had to optimize our application. Not everyone uses a smartphone so we will have agents that can interface on behalf of those users in a safe and controlled way. Every cent matters in the lives of our customers so we had to be strategic in how we monetize our business.

How does Chama Money make profit as a business?

● We have a B2C model that looks to offer value add financial products as well as account and service fees.

What do people have to do in order to join the platform?

● They can go to www.chama.money and click the “Get Started” button and signup. They will use the prototype version of our platform which is similar to the MVP that we are working on the difference is that we are using mock transactions at this stage. People should follow us on social media where will make announcements and run our educational webinars with Palesa Lengolo a financial and stokvel expert.

Since your company is in the technology space, do you think businesses need to adopt technological solutions for their businesses to survive in the future?

● Yes, mainly because more than ever humans seem to love convenience and businesses love lowering costs and technology is the medium best suited to do the heavy lifting in a cost-effective way.

Does the company have any plans of expanding the business?

● Yes, we have big audacious plans to serve the underserved and bring financial services to the remote corners of the world. Also based on our research, the stokvel model exists across the world under different names and our focus is the developing countries.

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

● We hope to have grown our team in a meaningful way and hopefully have a footprint in the SADC region.

How does the company ensure that people who are not so technologically savvy can use the platform without difficulties?

● We have partnered with a payments provider that will allow stokvel members to make deposits and withdrawals at some of the major retailers in the country.

● Our agent network will consist of agents that can go into their local communities on-demand and service our customers. Also, spaza shop owners and street vendors can download our application and service our customers, and earn extra income.

By Thomas Chiothamsi

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