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Data speed, coverage and mobile money transfers are only some of the factors that Kenyans need from their mobile network operators. A single network might not have the best offerings in all these areas so it’s therefore commonplace to see some people own more than one SIM card.
That is where Chura comes in. Chura (which means frog in Swahili) is built on the idea of leaping from one network to the other, seamlessly switching between airtime providers.
The company was started by five students from the University of Nairobi in 2012 out of the desire to stop “poor, expensive and at worst, unavailable” service delivery by some of Kenya’s telecoms. They wanted to play on the strengths of all the network providers while giving users the upper hand to maximise all their benefits in one location.
“Currently you have all your SIM cards and when you want to shift from Orange to Safaricom, you just go to our website chura.co.ke. Say you want to switch airtime from network A to network B, the system will prompt you and once you’ve sent it to the other line, you will receive the airtime,” explains 21-year-old Samuel Njuguna, who is the team leader of the startup. “It’s just you keying in the information.”
A second service allows a user to exchange his airtime for money. Through this service a user can send airtime to Chura, and Chura will send back money via a mobile money transfer service. Customers can also buy airtime on the site.
In an attempt to grow its user base, Chura is also developing a mobile app. “The app will ensure easy accessibility to all our services,” says Njuguna. The startup has 1 600 users and hopes to grow that number to 2 500 over the next two months.
Njuguna is also among twelve engineers shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize. Njuguna is confident in winning the US$38 000 prize money which he says will go into marketing Chura.