Nigeria’s BeepTool offers a home-grown Skype, WhatsApp and Viber rolled into one plus money transfer, claims 500,000 users
With increased smartphone use, voice apps are becoming increasingly popular among African users. Nigeria’s BeepTool is a local voice app that claims to have passed the half million user mark. Russell Southwood spoke to its CEO and Founder John Enoh about this home grown product.
Founder John Enoh had the idea for BeepTool several years ago when he was working for Ericsson as an engineer and started the company in 2014. He was struck by how expensive international voice calls were and wanted to find ways of reducing the cost of communicating.
”If I’m paying for data, technically I can make a call. If I’m buying 1GB a month, I should be able to make a call over the Internet. There are lots of Africans globally in the diaspora who need cheap, international calling. We’re focused on Africans at home and abroad and we provide a cloud where they can communicate.”
The pitch for BeepTool has two parts. Firstly, it offers the same VoIP calling as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber by offering cheap Internet to mobile or landline calls. Secondly, it has added a money transfer service to the app.
The calls to mobile and landlines in Nigeria cost 2.6 cents a minute and other VoIP calls start from as low as $0.008 per minute. The latter shows how the bottom has fallen out of the wholesale minutes market over the last decade because of the transfer to data-made calls.
”Wholesale vendors like IDT are trying to help us with partnerships to lower calling rates to Nigeria. Nigerians can buy airtime for any phone anywhere and top up from a network overseas. You can use the website to log in and check your account.” In addition, BeepTool-to-BeepTool voice and video calling is free as well as SMS messages.
Enoh claims to have just passed 500,000 users through a combination of PC, Mac, Android and iOS users: 478,000 are from Nigeria and the rest are from other parts of Africa:”We’re trying to push more on the Andriod App because smartphone use in Africa is mainly Android.” The Play Store page for BeepTool says it has been downloaded between 10,000-50,000 times.
BeepTool can also handle money transfers:”In the UK we can send money to any bank account in Nigeria instantly via Interswitch. At the moment, because it’s just started it’s free for Beep Tool users.” In future, it’s looking at having free use for those with a US$10 minimum on their BeepTool account.
”We’ve bundled different services together. So you can send an SMS request for money and send reminders. You can also give reasons for sending the money.” The maximum amount you can send is US$1000 as its focus customers are families.
The company has been self-funded:”I’ve not been able to find an investor but I’m pushing for that. I’m not a full-time employee and I’m using part of my salary and friends and family to support it. There’s a small team working in Lagos.”
So how does the business model work?:”It’s going to be a partial fremium model. We can offer traffic to and from Nigeria and within Nigeria for less than traditional carriers. With volume, we’ll be able to make money. On the wholesale airtime, the providers give us a 10-18% discount. On the money transfer, we’ll charge up to 5% so they’ll be some money from that.”
So how will things look in a year’s time:”I’m expecting to have 1.2 million Nigerians in Africa using BeepTool.”
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