- After realising that many companies did not have simplified ways to connect with customers, Beem Africa came up with a solution, using digital communication channels
Are you looking to scale your business faster and engage your customers around the world? If the answer is yes, Beem Africa is your one stop digital solution.
Beem Africa is a mobile communication service provider helping companies and businesses interact and transact with their customers through mobile communication channels like USSD, SMS, Airtime, Mobile payment and WatsApp chatbots.
Located at Zanaki Street in Dar es Salaam, Beem Africa, which has been around since 2012 operates in 20 countries across Africa.
Media Convergency sat down with Mr Taha Jiwaji, Beem Africa’s chief executive officer for an interview and he shared the company’s journey, challenges faced along the way and the accomplishments made.
The problem attended
It came to Beem Africa’s attention that many companies that directly work with consumers and that have many customers did not have a simplified way to connect with their customers at an individual level. Beem came up with a solution to help these companies reach their customers directly and personally through digital communication channels such as Chat Box, USSD menu and SMS.
The startup journey
Jiwaji says his parents had a computer shop and that at the time, they needed a way to communicate offers to students for the laptops they were selling. That time, newspapers were not a suitable way of reaching students so they opted for SMS as a communication channel.
“We started experimenting the medium of choice. I remember I was in college at that time.
“After a couple of the tests done were effective, we built a platform around it to send offers based on one’s interest. It evolved overtime to a platform where businesses were able to communicate offers and transactions with their existing customers.”
The startup investment
According to Jiwaji, Beem has grown organically over the past few years as they have not yet raised any external funding.
“This was a family business and it first started with our family savings including the savings I had accumulated from my previous job, which were invested into developing the platform.”
So when the business was up and running, the profit gained along the way was re-invested again into the business, the team and their geographic presence.
How Beem works
Beem Solutions are split into two aspects. One is Beem engage, a self-service platform, which includes businesses that are not tech-enabled.
One has to sign up to use the service after which they are able to manage their contacts and set up campaigns. All this is done in the portal and the channels of communication used are SMS, Airtime and WhatsApp Chatbots.
The second aspect is the Beem APIs, which is primarily focused on tech companies and software developers that need to integrate with Beem’s services to reach mobile operators.
It could be a USSD menu that a developer wants to build or send a transaction notification via SMS, hence integrate with Beem’s APIs and be able to deliver that service.
Beem APIs give you access to SMS, USSD, Number Verification, Airtime and Mobile Payments to connect with your customers easily. For example, if one has a product and is looking to do a quick integration to gain access to SMS, Airtime, OTP, USSD and Payment services or if you are rapidly growing across multiple African markets and need a single platform, API enables you to reach multiple countries.
The enterprise mainly works with large or medium-sized enterprises with a large number of customers, from 500 to 1000 that need to be served, sell to or communicate with. Beem’s customers range from banks, corporate companies to mosques, churches and small groups that need the company’s service.
How Beem reaches its customers
Taha says they have a reseller programme where they train other resellers to have their own SMS or marketing business. These buy services from Beem and resell to other customers. “Most of our customers come through these trainings. Also participating in a lot of tech events helps us advertise our business.”
Beem Africa’s features
The platform has different features that carter for the needs of its users. This includes a Manage Your Contacts feature, whereby a user adds individual contacts or performs a bulk upload, they then organise their contacts into groups and tag them by tracking activity and gathering insights per contact.
Another feature is Customizing Campaigns. This allows one to send and schedule SMS and airtime campaigns to a few contacts or a mass to hundreds of thousands of contacts from your contacts or from a file. Then there is the Time Saving Templates feature, which allows one to become a power user by saving frequently used messages as templates and sender names.
Here, the user personalises and brands their SMS campaigns with their own sender’s names and IDs.
“We differentiate ourselves in the sense that we have managed to bring all of this communication channels in one platform. Being able to deliver these communication services across multiple countries in Africa is another milestone we are proud of. We have also grown as a team, having domain experience in this space and good skillsets.”
Beem Africa has actually not only surpassed in the way they offer their services but they have also built their brand from the way they operate internationally.
Prior challenges and achievements
Speaking on the challenges faced early on in their business, Jiwaji says; “We had not built up a stronger team. You know as you scale you face more challenges and those can be solved with the right people, like having a software engineer with experience in building large scale transactional systems and technical sales people that are able to communicate about our services. We did not have that early on.”
Jiwaji says being able to grow outside Tanzania to East Africa and then in Africa is Beem’s greatest achievement.
Taha says soon all businesses will have to leverage in technology to survive. This being the case, Beem sees itself as the building blocks for any business to be able to serve their customers on digital channels.
“Whether it is sending notifications via SMS or collecting payments via mobile money, 10 years from now we see ourselves serving 10,000 customers, having a deeper presence in more markets across Africa and having strategic partnerships that will help us scale better,” says Taha.
Jiwaji advises youth who are running tech-startups or aspiring to do so in future, to be patient for it takes time for a business to mature and to find a product market fit. He advises them to research early on the market they target and to believe in themselves.
For further details about Beem Africa visit Media Convergency You Tube channel by scanning the QR Code on this article. Do not forget to like, share and subscribe.
For more insightful stories, one can also access the online conversation about Beem Africa across all social media platforms using the hashtag #ImpactTechTZ