Communication is very important in any business. Being able to communicate effectively with customers through various channels can lead to increased sales, repeat customers, and even referrals. You might have the best products and services, but if you don’t have a consistent customer engagement strategy outside of email, social media, etc., you risk losing customers.
Even with the internet’s rapid penetration rate, many people are still offline and in order to interact with this demographic, other communication channels such as SMS and USSD must come into play.
Kenny Orisanaiye created HollaTags – a simple mobile communication channel that connects businesses to customers on mobile through various channels such as SMS, Voice and USSD. The company provides MessagingHollaTags and APIs for mobile communication via VOICE, SMS, USSD and mobile value-added services.
In the late 2000s to early 2010s, Orisanaiye noticed how mobile was becoming an important tool for communication, entertainment, socialization and access to digital services among consumers. But it was still very difficult for companies to set up mobile channels like SMS or USSD for customer engagement. Only a few companies could afford to approach multiple carriers to discuss and negotiate integrations. Even those who could afford it still needed significant technical support.
With over a decade of experience in the Nigerian telecommunications industry and armed with extensive research to understand the main areas of business-to-customer communication, he understood the best approaches in the market.
“We needed to create simple and easy tools for these companies 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 shouldn’t be a difficult process that takes forever to get live. This is why HollaTags was created ”, Kenny said.
What services do you offer?
If you’ve received a one-time password from an app or website, an SMS alert from a bank, followed by voice prompts when you call customer service, or used USSD to transfer funds from your account banking, you may have benefited from the work we do at HollaTags.
HollaTags is a leading communications platform that connects businesses to customers on mobile.
HollaTags’ innovative products, including APIs and web platforms, enable businesses to interact with their customers using SMS, USSD, and Voice. Our high-performance APIs allow businesses of all sizes to effortlessly send, receive, and track text messages and deploy their ideas with just a few lines of code.
What are the challenges you face when trying to run a business like yours in Nigeria
We face mostly the same challenges as other businesses that operate from Nigeria. From infrastructure challenges to the difficulty of finding trained and adapted talent. The dynamic nature of regulation in Nigeria also has a significant effect on business.
A somewhat unique challenge to our company is the perception of the market towards local suppliers. Our APIs and platforms provide a solid infrastructure for all kinds of businesses, which is evident in the quality of the services we provide to our clients. However, we are seeing a trend where it seems that some Nigerian companies are used to sourcing technology services from non-local vendors and as such tend to require a bit more conviction to engage them. Nonetheless, we have made remarkable strides in gaining confidence by exceeding expectations.
I think it’s important to recognize that local service providers can bring global expertise, and working with companies on the ground has a number of advantages, including cost competitiveness and better local knowledge.
Other challenges include the scarcity of talent, as our work in telecommunications requires industry specific skills that are not easily found. Bureaucracy, which is common in large organizations, also often slows down the pace of business.
Do you only operate in Nigeria, and what has been the adoption rate of your product?
While Nigeria is our main 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 clients, including banks, fintechs and multinational companies. We help these companies send text messages to over 1,900 telecommunications networks around the world.
How are financial service providers using mobile channels to connect with their customers?
Technology is making it easier for more businesses to provide financial services to a wider audience. At the end of 2019, 477 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were subscribed to mobile services. Hence, it is evident that financial service providers will use mobile to connect with their customers. Today, it is common for Nigerians to say that they have not been to a bank branch in months because they have mobile channels to interact with their bank while on the move.
This enables the innovation of new services and delivery channels to increase reach. Many fintechs, banks, and other financial services companies are launching USSD channels. They deliver alerts, dynamic passwords, account statements and SMS notifications. Voice technology has also proven to be very useful in handling automated interactions with customers and calls to service centers.
With phones in almost everyone’s hands, it’s easier for financial service providers to effectively drive financial inclusion by connecting with their audiences.
How is the business funded and do you have any plans for a fundraising round in the future?
The business is self-funded and we are not currently raising funds. However, as we continue to grow and expand into other markets, it is likely that we may develop an appetite for funding at some point.
Companies like VFD Microfinance Bank, EMRO, 9pay, OsusuMobile are leveraging USSD and SMS services offered by HollaTags to help boost connectivity in their businesses.