How high school project gave birth to fintech venture


Mr Collins Kathuli, founder of Kyanda, a company that offer financial technology services for business to customer and business to business. PHOTO | POOL

Collins Kathuli's love for technology started way back in high school where he studied computers. The studies enabled him to come up with innovative ideas that wowed schoolmates and teachers alike.

One of the innovations was a system that enabled customers using networks such as Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom to buy airtimes digitally, reducing the hassles of visiting physical shops every now and then.

After finishing school in 2019, he upgraded the idea by starting Kyanda, an online fintech company that offers digital financial services for business to customer (B2C) and business to business (B2B).

"Ideally, I started Kyanda in my last year in high school, as part of my computer projects. The app was meant to process only airtime purchases,” he says.

"Once done with high school in November 2019, it took me only three months to fully develop a working mobile app. With Sh15,000 pocket money I had saved, I managed to fully deploy Kyanda to the market and rolled out in February 2020," the 20-year-old says.

Some of the services that the platform offers include individual mobile platform, mobile agency networks and application programing interface (API) gateway.

Under the individual mobile platform, which is available on Google Play Store, the platform offers essential financial services such as bill payments (airtime, TV, electricity and water), peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer, (C2B, B2B, & B2C payments) as well as cash in/out at any of their countrywide agents.

Through its network of mobile agents, he says Kyanda accesses the unbanked and under-banked through mobile point of sale (POS) technology. Agents are able to collect payments across all mobile networks through card transactions and disburse them to their suppliers, employees among others.

Currently, they are in partnership with various banks, utility firms and Chinese manufacturers.

"With API gateway, businesses are able to integrate into their systems and access utility vending, payment collection and disbursement to/from mobile wallets and banks. For the first time, Kyanda offers an open API that allows real-time disbursement of funds to all 42 banks in Kenya," he says.

The firm’s customer base has grown to over 300,000 from 20 it started with. In the last two years, it has processed over 1.3 million transactions.

"Additionally, merchants access our services through our Android held POS technology. They can perform real-time payment collection from clients and disbursements to their suppliers and employees. They only need to register with Kyanda, undergo KYC checks and get access to our POS(s)," says the second-year student pursuing Software Engineering at KCA University.

Some of the challenges he faces are inadequate funds for expansion, regulatory changes in the fintech space and accessing untapped areas nationwide.

Another big challenge is the stiff competition from established brands such as M-Pesa and M-banking platforms.

"Both M-Pesa and M-banking offering can be classified as essential service that is solving mobile payment concern. However, the difference is, how easy can platform followers and collaborators connect to the platform?” he poses.

"Smart difference from our competitors is what we will make; covering all loopholes that may be left uncovered in the run to obtain a large market share. The financial success of our clients will define our success."

The tech startup plans to expand to South Africa early next year in partnership with Kenya South-Africa Chamber of Business (KESACB), an organisation that seeks to promote business opportunities between the two countries.

"This will help us enhance how businesses are conducted between the two countries. We will later expand in East Africa and Southern Africa by the close of this year."

He says the adoption of digital payment solutions has been boosted by the Covid-19 pandemic as more people shop online and are cashless.