By Agnes E. Nantaba
Stone Atwine is the CEO of Redcore Interactive, the mother company of Remit Uganda, an international mobile money transfer service. He Spoke to Agnes E. Nantaba about their operations.
What are the key elements in your management style as a manager?
But the key element is recruiting the right people. The old management style of having people in an organization work under pressure through setting a list of things to do under the timeline doesn’t work anymore especially for the young people. They need to know what they need to do and do it their way sometimes from wherever they want to do it not necessarily in 08:00am to 5: 00pm office setting though of course coming to the office does matter for purposes of team work. I like to do things myself but I can’t do everything so that forces me to delegate. But it also depends on how much the business has grown. So in that aspect I focus on things like strategy and where the company or organization is heading as opposed to the nitty-gritty of things.
What is your assessment of the performance of international mobile money transfer services in Uganda?
We are coming from a situation whereby if you are in a country like South Africa and you would like to send money, you would be required to withdraw your money from the bank, look for a physical money transfer agent, pay him cash, fill in forms with your identities and call the person home requesting them to go to an agent to collect the money during working hours. It’s so inconvenient in addition to the high costs. Now, the sender in South Africa uses his Visa or Master card debit card and the money is delivered directly to the recipient’s phone through a normal mobile money account, which can be cashed at their convenience. Whereas we also offer cheaper services, our biggest advantage is convenience.
How does the mobile money transfer platform work?
We have been around for two years although most of the first year was spent in building the product. Transactions are done online through our website and the money gets directly to the account. Two messages come in from the telecom company and the other from Remit Uganda with the details of the sender. It’s real mobile money service that charges 5.4% of the total amount being transacted. While we keep growing, we intend to bring our prices lower for a quality and convenient service.
The Remit platform is known to only a few people in Uganda. How are you working to grow coverage?
We have spent a lot of time building and we are now at the stage when we are embarking on user acquisition and scaling up in technology terms. This involves two things; acquiring new users and being at conventions of Ugandans in the Diaspora. We are also growing in terms of products to later include bill payments for people in the Diaspora without sending money to someone. We are jumping into Kenya and Tanzania and have plans of launching in Rwanda, Ghana and beyond.
Money transfer business has for a long time been dominated by the big boys; Western Union, Money gram and now MTN. How do you plan to outmaneuver them?
One of the advantages we have is that we really move quickly. We can make a decision faster than the big players and if it turns out bad or falls back on us, we can still easily reverse. Telecommunication companies are not our competitors but our partners whose technology must work well with us. Our platform is directly integrated with that of MTN mobile money and Airtel money. We have built from the ground up doing mobile rather than physical agents.
What challenges are associated with international mobile money transfers?
The biggest challenge is regulatory compliance from all sides and access to finance. Working in finance is very difficult as it requires licenses and partnerships at all levels. It is partly why it has taken us longer. You can set up a new business and have it up and going in two or three months but this cannot happen in financial transactions. It calls for processes that take more time. Even when you engage people in the developed world, they don’t just understand the business environment in a developing country.
How have you dealt with those challenges?
Its resilience; we accept to grow slower than a company based for instance in Silicon Valley. If they need developers or partners, they will get top talent. They can get financing even before they have the product. We will definitely grow slower but we are very resilient and can therefore deal with the challenges slower with whatever capacity we have to eventually get the job done.
Going forward, what is your projection of Remit mobile money transfer platform in the next few years?
In the next two months, it will not be Remit Uganda because we are crossing borders to Kenya and in the first quarter of 2016, we shall be in Tanzania and Rwanda. In five years though, we should be a big company delivering to about ten to 15 African countries. Currently, we can send money to any mobile money number on Airtel and MTN.