When he landed in the UK with only a few pounds in his pocket, he didn’t know that he would one day set up thriving multi million tech business. Here he speaks to Zim Abroad about the business and more.
Zim Abroad (ZA): Congratulations on establishing Senditoo, tell us what the company is all about?
Takwana Tyaranini (TT): Thank you, Senditoo is a global airtime remittance company and what that means in plain English, is we have built a platform that allows people living abroad to send small amounts of airtime to the phones of their relatives and friends back home. Using the Senditoo mobile application or website and soon at retail outlets, our clients are able to send airtime in seconds to their loved ones back home. Interestingly and unintended, word must have circulated in Zimbabwe about Senditoo and now we are seeing a surge in local transfers in Zimbabwe.
ZA: Tell us how you and your business partner Ibrahima met?
TT: I can remember as if it happened yesterday.Basically I went to Chaplin High School with his wife Miriam Muratu and when we both moved to the UK, Miriam has essentially been like a sister to me. So about seven years ago, we bought tickets to the R Kelly Concert, I was quite emotional as that was the first time I was going to see R. Kelly perform live and voila Miriam turns up with Ibrahima Soumano. She was pregnant too – now how is that for a twist.
TT: Ibrahima is from Conakry, Guinea.
ZA: Ibrahima when are you visiting Zimbabwe?
TT:Mukuwasha, so we have to initiate him the right way so hopefully soon.
ZA: How did you start the business?
TT: Ibrahima and i have always exchanged wild business ideas and if the numbers made sense, we would have started a “sell a banana to a monkey” business but that’s a story for another day. Ibrahima went back home and whilst visiting his family in the rural areas, he gave them the customary airtime vouchers. On coming back to England, he asked me if I had ever sent airtime back home to which I said no. It turns out, close to 80% of immigrants have never sent airtime back home. As a businessman, that excites you and depresses you too as it means potentially there is a gap in the market you can make use of or it could mean people don’t need the service hence the 80% who haven’t done it ever. So we took a leap of faith as somehow we understood it was more than just sending airtime: the feel good factor that the sender gets when say his or her mum calls and says thank you mwanangu, I just got the top-up you sent me, was too much for us to ignore.
ZA: You recently won the ZAA UK Business of the Year Award, what does that mean to you?
TT: There is no better award than an award voted for by the people you serve so what it means to me is indescribable. We at Senditoo understand who matters most in this equation, the customer and we are humbled and grateful for each and every one of them.
TT: Over 30% of prepaid mobile phones go without airtime and eradicating that issue is at the core of our future plans. No one has to be deprived of Olinda’s Facebook Live Videos just because they have run out of airtime .. (lol)
ZA: Which other businesses interests do you have besides Senditoo?
TT: At the moment I eat and sleep Senditoo but as the brand grows, we intend to follow what brands like Virgin have done.Do you know that Virgin has over 400 different businesses; now that’s crazy?
ZA: Tell us the head office of the business?
TT: We are a U.K based company and our offices are located in Covent Garden, London.
ZA: What challenges did you meet or are you meeting in your business?
TT: When we first started, Ibrahima and myself funded the business out of our own pockets and there is something painful about funding a dream you have no clue will pan out.But with a few lucky breaks, we secured investment three months into our venture and that has made all the difference. As for other challenges, I literally could write a book about them as they happen on a daily basis but when you start something for reasons that are bigger than yourself, you learn to endure any and everything.
ZA: Explain how the business has been received by the market?
TT: When we first started we looked at the numbers and as most businesses would have done, we thought of starting to make use of massive markets like Nigeria or the Indias of this world. But something very interesting happened, in the month we launched Senditoo, I made over 1000 calls and emails to my personal circle of friends, most of them Zimbabweans and boom over seventy percent of our transactions are going to Zimbabwe. Senditoo is really and truly a company my friends built and thanks to them, we are able to approach investors and state how much millions we want because our numbers are very exciting.
ZA: How big is the business at the moment? Elaborate if you wish?
TT: One fact that makes me sleep well at night in spite of the headaches that come with running a global business, is that in our second year of business, we are growing ten times faster than WorldRemit did in their second year of business. The fact that WorldRemit does over 600 000 transactions a month now excites me. Our growth rate is at a healthy 38% month on month and God willing, we intend to double up on the marketing initiatives that have yielded the best results for us this far which in turn should see us continue to grow.
ZA: How old is Senditoo?
TT: We launched as Ozaremit in March 2016 and to be fair, there was little or no marketing involved then. Shortly before an investment of $330K we rebranded to Senditoo in October last year as there were pronunciation issues with Ozaremit – my mum couldn’t pronounce it basically.
ZA: Which countries does the platform send airtime to?
TT: We have a truly global reach, covering over 140 countries and connected to 400 mobile network operators. Ibrahima and I being African entrepreneurs, our sole focus at the moment is for Senditoo be the number one top-up platform for the 40 African countries we operate in.
ZA: What other platforms is the Senditoo available through?
TT: So we have a Senditoo mobile application available on iOS and Android, a website and by year end, we hope to have a presence at retail outlets as a large segment of our target audience remains skeptical of all things internet.
ZA: What are the advantages of using Senditoo?
TT: I could literary write a book about that but will start with how very simple and easy to use our platforms are so much even my own mother has no difficulties whatsoever using our mobile app to request airtime from me. We also have a 100% money back guarantee policy so your money is truly in safe hands with us. We also have one of the cheapest and competitive prices on the market but for me the biggest advantage has to be something you can’t even begin to quantify which is the feel good factor that I mentioned earlier when mum calls from back home and says, mwanangu waita basa ndaiona credit – it makes me melt all the time.
ZA: How important is your airtime transfer business to the world?
TT: The world is becoming increasingly social and if you are like me, the first thing you do when you wake up is check your social media or Whatsapp without care for your data because most of us in the diaspora have endless data. We never take into account that somebody somewhere and most probably a very close relative of yours, have to ration their data and at times are without any airtime. With very small amounts of £2, £5 or even £15, my mum can initiate a conversation with me as and when she wants and also I can stay in the loop of things back home. On a more serious note, we have had personal testimonials from our clients stating that thanks to Senditoo, they were able to send airtime back home and their relatives were able to coordinate funerals or attend to close ones’ health care needs and that makes us sleep well at night.
ZA: Explain what corporate social responsibility initiatives you have as a company so far and what you have done?
TT: We have a very much Save Our Selves approach when it comes to addressing issues affecting our community and of the many initiatives we have done, one stands out for me personally. There is a Facebook Group called Ladies of the UK that has been conducting various charitable initiatives back home and after consulting us, we agreed to donate £5500 worth of blankets to hospitals of their choice.
ZA: Which part of Zimbabwe where you born and grew up?
TT: My business partner tends to laugh at me cause on days when we say meet an investor who expresses interest in investing astronomical amounts of money into the business like say £1 000 000 000, I always say to him, I’m just some kid from the slums my brother. Had anybody told me things would turn out this way, I would have slapped them in disbelief. So yeah I was born in a mud hut a few miles from Masvingo and apart from the months I was in boarding school, I spend most of my youth kumusha kwedu kwaChivi. It was during the latter part of my primary school years that my parents rented two small rooms in Rimuka, Kadoma.
ZA: Name the schools that you attended?
TT: I went to Martindale Catholic School and from the get go, we went to mass/church four or so times a week which explains my deep seated belief in that God is for everyone not just the Beyonces or Strive Masiyiwas of this world. Then I went to Chaplin High School and the one thing everyone tends to remember of me is my obsession with basketball. Whilst others hung out with girls, I was on the basketball court and even whilst others studied for exams, I was on the basketball court which explains why I barely passed my ‘O’Levels.
ZA: When did you leave Zimbabwe?
TT: I left Zimbabwe in October 2002.
ZA: Explain the challenges you faced when you came into the UK in educating yourself and or establishing your business?
TT: I really want to say kusina mai hakuendwe and describe horrific experiences but the transition was fairly ok. I recall calling my mum and telling her that we eat ice cream every day mum cause growing up that was a luxury reserved for the Chiyangwas and all, so I was literally in heaven, food heaven at the least hence the subsequent weight gain.
ZA: Takwana what advice would you give to others who may look up to you as a role model?
TT: You are only a decision away from the life you desire.
ZA: What is your motto at work or in business?
TT: Do it for a reason bigger than yourself, that way when the inevitable hardships that come with owning a business come, you are not fazed and most importantly, you don’t give up.
ZA: Where do you see yourselves in 5 years as Senditoo?
TT: We hope to see ourselves as an example of what we as a people can accomplish but there is a lot of work between then and now.
ZA: Any relevant information you wish to add?
TT: Chase your dreams like the last bus at night.