As businesses face the challenge of another 14 days lockdown in Nigeria, a lot of changes have to be put in place. Startups are struggling to remain in operation and searching for ways of bringing existing structures to work in the current situation; one such startup is Extramile Africa.
Extramile Africa is a fintech startup in Nigeria with a mission to reduce the rate of financial exclusion in the country. The startup was the response to a personal experience of the co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Olalekan Bankole.
While banking with a financial institution in the country and building a good and trackable cashflow, Bankole approached the bank for a loan. He was denied, even though the loan was a small percentage of his total transactions with the bank. This birthed the vision of creating a fintech solution that worked out the kinks in accessing financial aid for the common man.
The company was launched in December 2018.
I spoke with a co-founder and the Chief Marketing Officer, Olatunde Victor Adeoluwa. We touched on many aspects of Extramile Africa including the company’s major offerings, challenges since the COVID-19 lockdown, and innovative measures that have kept the company running still.
What services does Extramile Africa offer?
“Before we launched any of our products, we carried out a pilot at the grassroots, that informed us to change our financing models along the line. However our first and major focus product/channel was the financial services for the informal market sector. This sector refers to people who are unbanked and who mostly make use of traditional thrifting systems to save up money.
“The first product we rendered was digitizing of their usual thrifting system. The traditional model was enhanced to become traceable, and secured so that there would no longer be cases of thrift collectors carting away people’s funds.”
What is special about Extramile Africa’s thrifting solution?
First is that our service goes beyond helping people save effectively. It renders three core services which are Thrift to Save, Thrift to Access Micro-credits, Thrift to Earn (Invest).
Another thing is that 80% of our customers are unbanked, because our model makes adequate provision for financial services. We have a trader-marketers-merchant relationship that helps us to ensure transparency and security of people’s money.
In the hierarchy, the trader without a smartphone must be assigned to a marketer and the marketer must be assigned to a merchant. This is our way of building relationships with our users at the grassroots particularly those who can only thrift in cash, not transfers.
Our services can be accessed online through our apps, Extramile Africa Merchants and Marketers App. They can also be accessed offline through a USSD code *347337#.
How has the lockdown affected Extramile Africa?
For us, the impact has been mostly on fund inflow into the platform. Our fund inflow was majorly from the informal sector, and since the lockdown people can’t go out to sell so they do not have much funds to save.
Another of our services that has been affected is the business credit we give at a small percentage. Since business is not in full gear, there has been little need for people to get business credit.
What other service is affected?
Our investment service, Extrawealth, has seen a slowdown in usage. The service allows people to lock up funds in Extrawallet from #10,000 upwards and earn a ROI from it. Not many people want to lock up funds in a lockdown.
However, we have lots of our investment operations in the food production sector, we were able to have planting operations supported before the lockdown. Our farmers, while adequately ensuring safety measures, are working on making sure the Nation has a continuous food supply. This guarantees that our investors get to earn despite the economic downturn.
Who are your major competitors?
Our top Competitors are other financial platforms like Cowrywise and Piggyvest on the investment side, while we have platforms like Page Financials and Carbon on the Credit sides.
What is the unfair competitive advantage that Extramile Africa has over competitors?
Our Major Edge is our Informal Market Financial System. The informal market has a very high volume of transactions that can’t be matched. These are done by loyal and faithful customers, not totally moved by trends, but who will stick with brands giving them value
Another edge we have is the experience of most of our founders and team members with grassroots business and financial operations. This has helped us achieve success in developing tech products for our target audience that really meet their needs.
Also, our low credit rate, in comparison to every other credit platform, gives us an edge because of our diversified investment portfolio which brings about good returns.
Another one is our lean operation model. We have over 15 main offices across Nigeria (aside merchant offices), but these are mostly partner offices, operated on low overheads. This model keeps us profitable and can be easily sustained. This also helps us be able to deliver on our 25% yearly ROI, and even more if we want to.
What do you love most about your team and how is it helping during the lockdown?
My team is an awesome one with 5 co-founders, 30 team members, and hundreds of workers and ambassadors on the field. What I love most is the team’s innovation and commitment.
My team allows ideas from any corner and we do proper evaluation before taking or discarding any. The team only rests because they should, we are that committed and that has aided our rapid growth.
From onset, we had built the company to work virtually. All our systems are built to work online, and so the lockdown period came into our terrain. Those in the field, marketers, ambassadors have their online interactive communities, so we are still good in the middle of the lockdown.
The fintech startup has come a long way in such a short time. The co-founders plan to release a book later in the week titled “Managing your finance against Covid-19“. With many players already in the fintech space, constantly innovating and putting the customers first with each product will set the good players and the game-changers apart.
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