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Nomanini, the company behind the little orange device that empowers individuals to earn an income while selling prepaid vouchers, recently raised US$600 000 in series-A funding from Netherlands based eVentures Africa Fund (eVA Fund) as well as Esther Dyson — the angel investor who sits on the board of companies such as 23andMe, Evernote and Meetup.
Nomanini — “anytime” in Zulu — plans to scale up operations in South Africa and begin further pilots across Africa. CEO Vahid Monadjem estimates that his business will have facilitated over one-million transactions in South Africa’s informal economy by March next year.
The company distributes and manages the devices, which are essentially “mini-businesses”, and allow individuals to make a living or augment their existing micro-enterprise income. Nomanini is targeting share-taxi drivers, street vendors or informal retailers to use Nomanini terminals to sell prepaid vouchers and earn on-going profit.
How does the system work? “The new vendor registers their terminal and then deposits cash into their sales wallet linked to their terminal. As the vendor prints vouchers, they deplete their sales wallet and gain cash. Eventually, they deposit the cash back into their sales wallet (at banks and grocery stores) and keep selling. This cycle repeats. Each week Nomanini calculates how much sales commission the vendor has earned from sales and then deposits that commission directly into the vendor’s sales wallet. The next time they deposit, they can keep some cash in their wallet,” says Monadjem.
Nomanini’s business model is straightforward. “We keep a little bit of margin on each transaction — this is easier for us, as most airtime in the informal trade is distributed through distribution networks three to six layers deep, while we go direct. As we grow, we want to shift our focus to the interest income on the terms that the voucher providers give us so we can give more profit to the vendor in the field,” says Monadjem.
Monadjem says that he started the company to bring the power of the mobile revolution to the communities that have the most to gain from it. Prepaid vouchers, typically used in mobile telecommunications, can be used to provide access to other services such as electricity, insurance and savings plans. Nomanini is currently serving prepaid mobile airtime and is testing the service with prepaid electricity vouchers.
Nomanini’s progress to date shows that prepaid vouchers are an effective way to collect micro-payments for the provision of services in emerging markets. The company says that its services mitigates inflated prices caused by the often difficult task of distributing vouchers in informal and rural markets.
Monadjem says that the Nomanini terminal is currently in use by 50 entrepreneurs in South Africa.