Mobile money is probably one of the best innovations in Kenya. But like every technology, there will always be hitches. For instance, you are sending Sh10,000 to your mum or paying for a service, but instead, you end up buying phone airtime via mobile money. What do you do with Sh10,000 worth of credit? Or perhaps you want to send airtime to your dad who is in another network. We have encountered these and other dilemmas, at least once in our mobile money lifetime.
That is why five University of Nairobi students came together two years ago to solve mobile money interoperability bottlenecks. From UoN’s incubation hub, C4D lab in Chiromo, Chura was born.
Samuel Njuguna, one of the co-founders, says the name Chura (frog), was decided because “we wanted to give our users the ability to easily leap from one mobile network to another.”
“Chura allows users to exchange airtime for money not only within but also across mobile networks. You can also send airtime to someone who is not in the same network and you can even buy Orange credit using M-Pesa or vice versa,” says Njuguna
Chura is leveraging on the fact that having more than one SIM card is the norm rather than the exception in the country, thus offering their users flexibility and convenience.
“It’s hard for people to buy into ideas especially if it involves money. ..so we have used APIs provided by operators to create our platform,” explains Njuguna.
In the last one year, Chura has handled 13,000 transactions and has an average of 1600 active monthly users, who also get to exchange airtime from one network to another.
“Our campus friends and family were the first to use the service when we started,” says Njogu Kinyanjui, who studied Architecture but couldn’t pass up an opportunity to be part of a team, “that is truly making an impact.”
In addition to Njogu and Njuguna, the Chura team also includes Stephanie Gaku, Byron Sitawa and Jack Kinga, who between them have Computer Science and Industrial Chemistry degrees.
Of course, the folks were not too excited about ‘abandoning’ the conventional path of getting employment in their area of studies. But like many entrepreneurs, they are passionate about their product and what they want to achieve.
“We are working on a mobile app that will make it easy for people to use our services. We are also working on diversifying our products as well as expanding our reach,” says Stephanie Gaku.
Chura has received requests to offer their services as far as Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa.
The Chura team offers advice to budding entrepreneurs:
- Entrepreneurship is not romantic as people think
- The journey between the idea to market is hard
- You will have to make a lot of sacrifices
- Believe in what you are doing, be passionate about your product and company
- Youth should venture out and not depend on the government or in securing employment
- Be creative