“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” — Steve Jobs
VENTURES AFRICA – Ideas rule the world and in this age, innovation is key. Businesses thrive on Eureka! moments, as innovation has become the benchmark for excellence. For most businesses/entrepreneurs the effective application of ideas determines whether a startup progresses to a multi-billion dollar company, a la Google, Facebook, Apple, or goes bust! African entrepreneurs have also tapped into the endless stream of Eureka! moments and have turned ideas to million-dollar businesses – ask iROKOtv, Justin Stanford or Kamal Budhabatti to name a few.
On Africa’s Most Innovative Companies today, we feature Rasello, a company which helps you “manage, understand and communicate better to the people that matter most to your business.” There is no major reason behind the name Rasello besides from the fact that “Ras” in Swahili means the peninsular and “ello” from Hello – put them together and you’ve got Rasello.” The company began as a business directory with the ideology that businesses in Africa don’t have and need an online presence and we wanted to get them online to be reached by the rest of the world. Not only are we providing insight into Rasello, but we have used the platform and tested its practicality. It is very simple to use, but also effective. For a platform holding the details, profiles and activity of over 500,000 users, it is smooth.
Rasello offers businesses the unique opportunity to simplify how their business units and professionals better manage, understand and communicate to the people that matter most to them. This amplifies their results and customer service levels. With over 500 users now managing over 500,000 of their customers on the platform, the business has fast grown with a balance pragmatic strategy and service excellence.
One of the challenges that small businesses in particular encounter is the ability to communicate immediately, cost effectively and broadly. However, with Rasello they can be instantly informed when that business has something great to say. The company exudes a communication platform that enables businesses to broadcast updates, news and offers directly to the people who matter most; their clients and followers who choose to follow updates from their businesses on their mobile phone via SMS. The best way to stay in the loop is through our mobile broadcasts – they are instant, direct, and always keeping you updated on your favourite bars, hotels, stores and the likes.
Rasello focuses on the two sides of the spectrum: the businesses and that of their clients/followers. A business starts by logging on, writing a note for broadcast, publishes it to their online public page, and instantly pushes the broadcast to the mobile phones of their followers. The mobile broadcasts retain strong anti-spam features enabling users to navigate and secure information from businesses they follow.
Rasello also took part in the world’s leading accelerator program, seedstartups. The opportunity paved the way for Rasello to dedicate focused efforts to develop and commercialize the platform. On the way, the the business has access to an array of experts and industry specialists. The user base extends to the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), USA and Europe who have found a liking to the simple yet very practical user interface and experience.
We took some time to fine out a few other facts from a co-founder, Natalino Mwenda.
What triggered the concept?
Initially the co-founder (Puspa) and myself wanted to enable people to follow businesses they liked to receive SMS based updates from those businesses. As we evolved Rasello and enabled our users (business owners initially) to add their customers to do the same (send SMS updates) we discovered that most usage came from business owners adding their customers to send SMS updates in relation to sales and marketing initiatives.
This motivated us to develop additional tools to help them better retain customers such as data analytics and the many ways you can use business intelligence to serve targeted communication. Our focus is giving our users game changing features that simplify and advance how they form better relationships with their customers; A good example is the new automatic customer care that that provides Rasello users with daily reminders on customers to send birthday reminders to, service cycle renewals, clients to enrol on loyalty programs and much more.
How long did it take to develop the platform?
Rasello initially started in mid-2011 (1.5 years ago) and here we are today but this is just the start. Every time we advance the technology we create a more stable infrastructure to achieve new ground breaking developments such as the ones we have cooking at the Rasello lab.
In terms of your customer base, where are most of the users located i.e. Africa etc?
Our primary market is Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt and Morocco) and Asia follows. New users in the first quarter of 2013 over exceeded those in 2012 in total, so by the end of 2013 we might see totally new trends in active markets.
How do you manage the sms system if in different time zones (this is also an platform development Idea – throwing in for free:) i.e. different mobile phone networks if my client is overseas or even on the same continent but different country and mobile network.
Time zones do not affect the SMS system, you can compose SMS templates and send them at your convenience wherever you are as the communication is delivered real time to the recipient’s mobile phone.
Do you work with any specific ICT Corporate for conceptual development and or idea incubation?
We work with our users, they tell us what they like, what they need to be improved, what new things they want to achieve using Rasello and we develop based on what our users want and what they think could be useful to them.
What are some of the barriers for a typical SME in Africa to benefit from the Rasello RMS?
We had a major barrier in 2012; not all our users had PCs to use the Rasello RMS. So we went mobile with a beautiful design that adapts based on the devices you are using. So if you have a mobile phone, tablet, PC, at work, on holiday you can use Rasello which made us even more accessible.
In 2013 we recognized a new barrier, that not all SMEs in Africa want to communicate via SMS to their customers because their customers are becoming more sophisticated and at times prefer Email updates rather than SMS. So we developed an Email communication channel that we are soon to introduce to our users.
Is there anything in the pipeline you are able to share with us?
The existing infrastructure that enables our users to access Rasello with any mobile device and real time data analytics, we have received an increase of Non-profit organizations using Rasello for data collection and data analytics which simplifies and accelerates how they understand their initiatives (real time analytics).
We are motivated to help them make the world a better place by advancing their Rasello usage with more refined tools, especially because they can also drive awareness using the SMS channel to the people they help in their initiatives.