With all the advances in the ease of making payments and moving funds, it’s surprising that basic financial services, especially in certain countries, can be so difficult.
This is what the founders of Nigerian-based artificial intelligence startup, Kudi, thought when they came out with their funds transfer service. Kudi didn’t just have to deal with difficult systems of transferring money or paying bills, it also had to deal with Nigeria’s internet problem. According to a research report by Pew Research Center, not even half of the Nigerian population has access to the internet (about 39% does).
This means that even when options exist, like paying bills online or sending funds to family members, many Nigerians still lack access to those features unless an app or program is developed for them that doesn’t use the internet. Otherwise, most people can only pay bills and send money by going to brick and mortar locations to do so, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming.
Kudi never sleeps nor slumbers. She’s always available to help you send money & pay your bills.
Solving the problem
Kudi combats this problem head-on with the way it uses customer’s data, or rather the way it doesn’t. Since it is a part of Facebook’s Free Basics, no data is needed to send payments and all a customer needs is the receiver’s phone number.
Free Basics is a service offered by Facebook for people who are in areas with limited internet access or where internet access isn’t affordable. Websites are made available for free without data charges for content like news, local information and health sites. This is made possible by Facebook partnering with cell phone providers to offer basic website access for free.
Providing in-app services that don’t require access to the internet in an environment where many users are unlikely to have access to it is just one way that Kudi develops their products to match the needs of their target group. It’s also important to see how startups formed in-country are better at identifying and matching the needs of their target audience than those founded by outsiders.
Another potential obstacle Kudi faced is the difficulty of transferring money in Nigeria. There are various ways to transfer funds in Nigeria, but all of them tend to include a fee and/or in-person visits to stores where money can be wired. Kudi not only ensures that transfers can also be made on their app but they can be done without a fee if the funds are being transferred to a bank account.
If customers need to pay their bills by money transfer, there is a small fee of 100 Naira (approximately 30 cents), which is typically less than the bank costs incurred by similar funds transfer services. For the forgetful among us, bill reminders can also be set using the Kudi reminder service.
Since basic things like paying bills and transferring money can be cumbersome and expensive, many other startups and companies have caught on to making apps for these purposes. To simplify things for customers then, Kudi has used chat apps as the preferred format for customers to transfer money and pay bills.
Kudi is an AI-powered chatbot who can help with your finances just by asking her. Kudi uses everyday conversational style to communicate with you. It is that simple… errr… actually it is not. We do the complex stuff so that you can have simple interactions and focus on what matters to you. Chat with Kudi as you would a friend. She’s here to help with your finances and she also learns more as you communicate with her.
This works for many customers because most of them are already familiar with using chat apps to talk to family and friends, so they don’t have to learn to use another app. Messaging is also cross-generational and most likely to be easily adapted and understood by various age groups than a new app.
Their chat works with any bank, all customers have to do is buy airtime (or "minutes") and go to their Facebook Messenger, Skype or Telegram app. They can also choose to chat with the browser from Kudi’s website if they don’t have or don’t feel like using their messaging apps.
It seems like Kudi identified a new way to make the lives of Nigerians just a little bit easier with solutions already hiding in plain sight.