For Telepin Software, emerging markets are a mainstay.
It’s a strategy that buoyed them during the global recession, and is contributing to an annual growth rate of up to 30 per cent. Here’s how.
In emerging markets, banks and other infrastructure can be in short supply. Telepin Software fills that gap, giving mobile operators an efficient and cost-effective way to provide mobile financial services to their mobile phone customers, as well as other innovative mobile financial applications.
Thanks in part to this emphasis on emerging markets, Telepin was virtually untouched by the global recession, and has been enjoying growth of up to 30 per cent annually. “Much of this recent growth is due to winning a large contract with a Luxembourg-based mobile operator with operations in Africa,” says Vincent Kadar, CEO of Telepin, “and a large amount of our upcoming growth is earmarked for Africa, Tanzania, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
Kadar explains that Telepin’s growth strategy also includes an intense focus on partnerships. He describes a recent example with Singtel Mobile in Singapore. “Like many countries, Singapore has a large foreign migrant population who come to the country to work, and then send part of their wages home. Utilizing the Singtel Group network of companies operating in Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, India, and China, Singtel saw an opportunity to compete with Western Union and Moneygram, by providing money remittance services at less cost to the sender.”
SingTel reviewed where the migrant workers originated and, working with Telepin, built a global payment and remittance system that could charge a flat, $3 fee to send up to $1,000 through these corridors.
“SingTel not only bought the software from Telepin, but also contracted us to manage the entire technical operation for them, so they can just focus on the business and the marketing,” says Kadar.
Dash is another product Telepin has provided to SingTel. Similar to mobile financial products in developed countries, Dash enables consumers to use their smartphone to pay for taxis, retail goods, and the like. Uptake of the service was so enthusiastic that only four months after launch, there were 40,000 points of purchase in Singapore where Dash could be used.
Lessons learned from dealing in emerging markets
Kadar says that managing projects in emerging markets is more challenging. “The North American mobile market is more mature, so there’s a set procedure to follow,” he says. “In developing markets the vendor is often more experienced than the customer and really has to manage the project for them. That added expense took us by surprise the first time.”
Another challenge is payments. “You can do all your paperwork precisely, and yet your payments get stuck; you’ll be told someone didn’t sign off on something, or the finance person is off sick—for a very, very long time,” Kadar explains. “But we have insurance with Export Development Canada (EDC), so we can say to them, fine, but if you don’t pay us then you’ll have to deal with EDC. That usually gets them moving and keeps our relationship on a positive note.”
Kadar adds that Telepin also uses EDC for match-making. “EDC has helped us set up meetings with major telephonics companies so we can meet with the actual decision-makers.”
And despite having more than 132 million subscribers and more than a million merchants, Telepin maintains the flexibility and nimbleness of a young start-up. “Part of our success stems from being a flat organization. There are no ivory towers. I sit on the floor in an open environment with everyone else, and this supports discussion of ideas on how we can achieve even more growth.”