After learning that Nigeria’s stock market grew almost 50 percent in just one year while watching a CNN special edition in 2013, Osagie Zogie-Odigie who is a Nigerian entrepreneur with an avid interest for capital market activities, decided to seek out more information about the companies driving this immense growth. To his disappointment, however, after scouring through a host of app stores on his mobile devices, not a single developer had published a comprehensive platform that tracked the activities of companies within the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

But rather than remain downbeat that the third fastest growing bourse at the time was without an active mobile app, Osagie took the challenge upon himself to change the trend. At the time, 2013 to be precise, the number of active internet users was about 67 million people, less than half its 170 million population. But this was an attractive figure for someone keen to reach an segment of the population keen on financial information and had the means of acquiring such data. Osagie saw an opportunity and was determined to grab it.

Two years later, the NSE Ticker was born, an app designed to monitor stock performances in real time, offering information on prices, heat maps, and the opportunity to compare with similar stocks when attempting a share purchase.

Ventures Africa recently sat down with this entrepreneur to discuss the prospects of this innovative platform and how this will help bridge the gap between investors and assets.

What gave rise to the creation of the NSE Ticker app?

Early in 2014, I read an article on CNN money that the Nigerian economy was the third fastest growing economy in the world in 2013 with an estimated growth of 6.3%. A second article by Stanbic IBTC revealed that the Nigerian Stock Exchange grew by 47% in 2013 alone – The fastest growing in stock market Africa.  I went to the App Store to search for apps that allow users keep track of the fastest growing stock market in Africa. To my surprise, there was nothing! A search of the Google play store didn’t yield much better results as it only had a few mediocre websites refashioned with little creativity as mobile apps. My surprise quickly turned to indignation. We had made it into the 21st century but somehow the third fastest growing economy in the world had been left behind! When I made this discovery, it was estimated that about 75% of the 67 million Nigerian Internet users primarily accessed the Internet via their mobile devices. Over 50 million people! – That’s a huge number. How many of those people do you think might be interested in the activities on the NSE – as stockholders, potential investors or employees? It was clear to me that there was a need for flexibility in the monitoring experience offered to NSE market watchers.  In some sense, my national pride was also bruised. The revealed gap took the shine off the NSE’s recognition as the fastest growing stock exchange in Africa as it left a lot to be desired. All too often, our potential for advancement remains just that – potential. In this case, I could do something about it and that’s how NSE Ticker was born.

Who is the primary consumer (target market)?

Professional and amateur investors, as well as stock market enthusiasts. NSE Ticker is able to cater for these different groups by presenting its data as different services. The current version of NSE Ticker offers four services namely: PRICES, HEAT MAPS, COMPARE and SNAPSHOT. For instance stock market enthusiasts will find the “SNAPSHOT” service useful and easy to understand.  It simply provides an end of day summary of securities that the user is interested in.  Whereas more serious investors will find the “COMPARE”, “PRICES” and “HEAT MAPS” useful for more detailed analytics.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your quest to improve accessibility to the stock data?

The major challenge was to create an aesthetically appealing, intuitive and refreshing product that would compete favourably in the global market. There was no competition against other NSE apps, as they didn’t exist. However, we didn’t want that to be a reason to rest on our laurels.  We decided it should be at least as good but preferably better than similar apps developed for the likes of the NYSE, FTSE etc. We knew it was a tough call especially as we didn’t have big budgets like other players. However, we believed that setting such an audacious goal would give us something worthy to aspire to and ensure that we constantly strive to make NSE Ticker better with each iteration.

Another challenge we faced was to make NSE Ticker cheap to run (in terms of data costs) in Nigeria.  Mobile data costs are still relatively high in Nigeria and we didn’t want to alienate potential users for this reason.  The app is designed to operate on very little bandwidth without compromising the quality or resolution of the data.  Apart from that, all previously viewed historic data is saved on the device so it does not need to be downloaded every time a user needs access to it.  Apart from keeping running costs low, this ensures that 95% of NSE Ticker’s functionality is available even when the user has no Internet connectivity – a common scenario for Nigerian mobile subscribers. Accommodating these functionalities made the design/development more complex and difficult.

How will it boost the flow of foreign direct investments into Nigeria? 

We believe that if foreign investors have improved access to NSE data, they will be more inclined to invest. Accessibility to the market makes it easier to monitor activity and follow trends. NSE Ticker data is constantly available – even when the user is not connected. People always have their phones on them – this can only be good.  NSE Ticker was released two weeks ago but has now been downloaded in 19 cities in 14 countries on all continents.  This looks like a good sign to me.

In the ratio of local investors to foreign investors, a higher percentage of investment is realised from foreign stakeholders. What role will the NSE ticker play in the attraction of local investors to capital market assets?

Like I mentioned earlier more than 75% of Nigerian Internet users primarily go online via mobile devices.  Until the NSE Ticker, there were practically no mobile applications for accessing NSE Data.  There are lots of websites but trying to access websites (optimised for desktop screens) on a mobile device can be a painful experience.  Who knows how many potential local investors got turned off as a result?  We’ve all heard the slogan, “knowledge is power”. For potential local investors, an understanding of the market is key and we have developed NSE Ticker to provide accessibility to that knowledge.   The local investor is the reason we made a lot of effort to ensure that 95% of the NSE Ticker’s functions are available offline. “All you can eat data plans” are not the norm for Nigerian mobile subscribers as is the case abroad.  Designing a mobile app was not going to be enough. It had to be an app that was friendly to the Nigerian user.    It meant more time to market, but we believed it was necessary.    Our dream is for NSE Ticker to spark the development of similar quality apps for the NSE.  We believe this attention to a significant part of our economy will make a shift in the ratio mentioned above more likely.

How will this app reshape the bias which arises from investors pulling back as a result of panic by foreign investors?

Didn’t you know? NSE ticker is the magic pill that will solve all investment – related issues. With NSE Ticker, the confidence of foreign investors will be restored and panic will be history..(laughs)!

On a serious note, the bias is a result of a complex combination of many different issues.  Resolving those issues will help reshape the bias but it will take time.  NSE Ticker cannot singlehandedly reshape the bias.  It would be naive to think it can.  NSE Ticker only attempts to address a few of these issues. For instance people are more likely to panic when they are in the dark.  NSE Ticker addresses this by creating one more channel for investors and potential investors to be in touch (literally and figuratively) with the goings- on in the stock market. There is no longer the need to go back to your computer to verify some rumour.  Just reach into your pocket, check your phone and tell the rumourmonger – “na lie you dey talk”….(laughs).

If NSE Ticker inspires the development of more apps (and we strongly believe it will) things will only get better.

The NSE had a target to hit $1 trillion market cap. How do you think this app will help spur the NSE in that direction?

Again, it’s all about improved accessibility to NSE data.  If more people have access to NSE’s data, there will be a higher chance of more people making investments.  The NSE will benefit a lot from improved access to its data.  Search for “NYSE” on the App Store and you’d get over 100 relevant results.  Do the same for the Nigerian Stock Exchange and you’d only get two relevant results! I’ll say it again – improved accessibility can only be good for The NSE.

How do you intend to commercialize this product? 

The current version is Free with full functionality but with banner ads. Users can pay a fee to remove the banners.  We would rather not have banners in our app as they detract from its aesthetic quality but we had to include banners to meet some of the running costs. That said, it is early days and we’re still making strides in the direction of commercialization. The important thing for us at the moment is giving users access to the unique functionalities of the NSE Ticker and gaining their confidence. You can’t have a commercially viable product if you don’t have demand so that’s what we’re focused on – making our users raving fans of the NSE Ticker.

*DISCLAIMER: NSE Ticker is an independently developed third party app. It does not belong to and was not developed by The Nigerian Stock Exchange.

With additional reporting from Felicia Omari Ochelle

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