What if we all had Femi Akinde’s keen curiosity and willingness to effect change in certain areas of of our work? That was the question I was left with after speaking to this Nigerian engineer who is determined to get the best out of business and technology in sub-Saharan Africa. The story of the young electrical engineer, who has introduced a whole new way to establish and build customer loyalty, is only just beginning.
Morewardz club is a rewards programme featured on SlimTrader’s e-commerce platform, Mobiashara (‘more business’ in Swahili), for hotel guests in Africa who can earn points for every penny they spend in recurring stays at the hotels registered on the company’s platform. More specifically, when loyal customers earn points, they can get rewarded in three ways; airline tickets, cash and all-expense paid future stays at the hotel. “We created morewardz club to solve three client problems; how to acquire and retain customers, how to influence customer spending and how to get customers to spend more with them”, he says.
According to Akinde, it is the first of its kind in the industry as no one provides a similar loyalty programme for indigenous hotels in sub-Saharan Africa. “While I cannot name all our clients, I will say we have various hotels and guesthouses registered on our platform. We have created the platform, all the hotels need to do is make it their own by branding it with their name, for instance, Hotelnownow is one of our clients, when they utilize the loyalty programme version, they become Hotelnownow morewardz club loyalty programme”, he said.
Notably, the loyalty programme isn’t focused on ‘exclusivity’ as Akinde is determined to integrate the loyalty feature with all hotels and guest houses that are willing to be registered on the platform for free. “We need to take advantage of the untapped market, elsewhere in the world, especially in the west, hotel guests benefit from loyalty programmes. In the first quarter of 2015, 1.4 million foreigners traveled in and out of Nigeria, while in the second quarter of 2015, 1.04 million foreigners did the same thing. Most of the time, they would rather stay in international hotels due to the fact that they have loyalty programmes but local hotels do not have such and that is what we are changing”, he noted.
According to him, sub-Saharan Africa previously had no business model that rewarded travelers who stay in hotels frequently. “For instance, during the first quarter of 2015 in Nigeria alone, 2.35 million people flew in and out of various states within the country on domestic flights. Then in the second quarter of 2015, 2.37 million people did the same on local flights alone. I am thinking a great percentage of these travelers will stay in hotels, where they spend money, it is only a good business initiative to reward them for their loyalty, that’s where morewardz club comes in”, he said.
Mobiashara is not just limited to a loyalty programme, Akinde said the platform will conduct point of sale and inventory as well as facilitate transactions. “Businesses navigate the whole thing, all we do is give it out to them, we operate on a white label standard, organizations on the platform can rebrand with their name, the platform is in-built and we offer it for free”, he said. When we discuss how businesses are set up for profit and a his return on investment in between bouts of laughter, he replies, “of course they are, as an industry agnostic, SlimTrader attracts all kinds of businesses, however, for the morewardz club platform, we let our clients make their money then we get a revenue share from it, a commission of sorts.”
For Akinde, the morewardz club is just good business due to the fact that there is steady growth in the hospitality sector within sub-Saharan Africa. “In Nigeria alone, the hotel sector is worth $3 billion, which is why morewardz club will succeed. In the past, we have been encouraged by the kind of clients we work with. The feedback has been great for one reason, we are merging technology and business together, it’s not just about the money, we build relationships, we talk to our clients a lot and they love that”, he stated.
Akinde had always been curious about how technology impacts business and this interest made him quit his job at Microsoft, Seattle, Washington, to start Slim Trader. Prior to that, he was the Senior Systems Design Engineer at T-mobile USA, after which he attended business school at the University of Chicago. After business school, he was recruited by Microsoft as a Senior Finance Manager in their Entertainment and Devices division.
“When I was done, I felt I had learnt enough and decided to be a part of the evolving narrative on business and technology. In the course of running SlimTrader for the past five years, I crowdsource for information to make me a better business man. The one thing that has stuck however, is the will to under-promise but over-deliver”, he concluded.