Emeka Onwuka Talks Mobile Money and Payment, ReadyCash, Parkway Projects

Editor’s Note: Emeka Onwuka is Deputy Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer at Parkway Projects, and it was good to have a chat with him at the Co-Creation Hub.

Having read Jesse Oguns’ piece on Cashless Economy, Emeka was up for a discussion on Mobile Money, Mobile Payment, ReadyCash and Parkway Project.  (All my words are italicized)

The Parkway Way

Parkway Project commenced operations in 2004, with a focus on e-banking and e-payment solutions for corporate clients – banking institutions, etc. Some of its bragging rights includes –  RechargeNigeria.com, the first transaction website in Nigeria.

The company has however gone ahead to build products including InfoGrid-Bank3D, and PayZone; also offering e-Banking Support solutions, consultancy and custom deployment. The latest product from the company is ReadyCash – the very first retail product from Parkway Projects.

Ready, Set, Cash

ReadyCash is a mobile payment service that enables end users (especially the un-banked) with GSM phones to operate virtual accounts (wallets) by leveraging on a large network of agents (the Bank and individuals) for enrolments, cash deposit and withdrawals. In addition, end-users are able to make requests such as account enquiries, bill payments, funds transfer, purchases for goods and services, via their mobile phones.

Why Go Retail Now?

Products like ReadyCash is what Parkway set out to do, but the landscape was not conducive until now. Infrastructure made us stall. Now, things needed are on ground and the Cash-Less policy plays in our favor (even if the policy has always been integral part of making Nigeria one of the 20 biggest economies in 2020).

Mobile Money – Mobile Payment Dilemma

Personally, I have always been confused of these two terms – mobile money and mobile payment, so I got Emeka explain it to me. He’s no Professor of terminology, but here’s what he could come up with:

Mobile Payment is all about selling convenience in daily transaction and banking. A good example will include Google Wallet, Apple Passbook. Mobile Money, on the other is basically a fund transfer tool. It evolved from M-PESA (Kenya) and can be considered as service for the un-banked.

R-L Emeka Onwuka (Parkway Projects) and Me.  Photograph by Ayoola Omoshewo

Let’s Talk Funding and Marketing

We have thriving businesses and open to investment. Marketing has been on the low simply because ‘Lagos is not our market’. Foot soldiers are in place in our target market, while we have digital marketing in place, like BlackBerry Messenger social integration, and currently considering mobile advertising via Twinpine. Traditional media – radio and television to come later.

Getting Techy, Product Development

All of our products are developed in-house and we don’t compromise on standard, as we want our products to have the best feel and user experience possible. We have gotten positive feedback and sometimes people don’t believe we develop all of our solutions locally. We don’t outsource to India, it all happens at Parkway Projects, Nigeria.

I did try out the ReadyCash app on BlackBerry, and it’s very good. Sleek, easy to navigate and comes with a good use of metro icons in design. To the best of my knowledge, BlackBerry app development is the most tricky, so I can only be more impressed with the Android and Java version of the app. You can download the app and give your feedback as well.

We are open for developers to integrate our mobile payment systems while developing their product. (Does that indicate ReadyCash’s got API?)

 Government Influence on Business

Of all the mobile money/payment companies, it took us longest to get our licence. That’s because we followed due process and didn’t declare bogus documents. This call did help us during the secondary processes, so we are going to keep to that culture – product and policy.

Another bragging right is that we are the only ISO certified software company in Nigeria and this comes in handy when we are dealing with government/public (financial) institutions as well as corporate bodies.

The Future and Our Market

In the next three months we are looking at a 60% coverage of our initial target market. Yes, Lagos is not our market. ReadyCash serves as a mobile payment service, allowing users purchase airtime, pay bills,  and more – all under the convenience category for the Lagos, or better yet urban market.

However, ReadyCash is more of mobile money and our focus is offering this service to the un-banked outside the urban market region, especially Lagos. We’ve not segmented a market but have created a social path to it.

We’ve built a product – ReadyCash to meet needs in different markets. The need to send and receive cash (transfer funds), as well as the need to be able to make mobile payment (convenience). Why we are not focusing on the latter is that the urban mobile payment market is already choked up. Paga, is said to be one of the biggest mobile payment companies and supposedly has about 100,000 subscribers, with 600-700 daily transaction of which 60-70% is purchase of airtime.

 

I have to admit I did learn a lot from the chat I had with Emeka O, and sure except to do a follow up – perhaps a video interview when I visit the Parkway Projects tower, just a stone throw from the Co-Creation Hub where I am based.