College is a time when most students take charge of their spending and begin the search for financial freedom.
For those enrolled in public institutions and living off campuses, the high cost of living soon becomes a reality and they learn to save every extra penny.
With this experience Tony Kuchio quit his job in search of a solution for cheaper student shopping.
Together with his two friends, John Adams and James Bukusi, the trio applied to join Ibizafrica incubator programme at Strathmore University in a bid to transform their idea into a sustainable venture. They then founded Buymore Limited.
“The idea came up in my Fourth Year in 2012 while I was doing a research project on loyalty programmes in the country. I found out that most times customers get the short hand of the stick, there was need to come up with more customer-friendly programmes,” said Mr Kuchio.
His experience of grappling with a shortage of money while at university came in handy, said the 25-year-old Mathematics and Statistics graduate.
“There were certain places that I wanted to go to, things to buy and events to attend but I ended up lacking entrance fee or the price tag was too high,” he said.
A year after the Buymore Limited start-up was set up, the three co-founders are beginning to realise their dream.
The firm intents to make shopping cheaper for students by offering them the most competitive products and an opportunity to get better value for their money.
To do so, the start-up has come up with a Buymore card with which students can access discounts at selected enterprises.
“Student discounts have been tested successfully the world over; students love discounts. We are focusing on an interactive platform that offers more retailing options,” Adams said.
Buymore has two employees and eight brand ambassadors in addition to the founders. Brand ambassadors are students in different tertiary institutes in Nairobi whose main role is to promote the uptake and use of the cards among their peers.
Despite the fact that the co-founders do not take a salary, they were optimistic that the rising number of client will result in better business.
“We are taking the card to both public and private universities because we know the benefits that students stand to gain in accessing discounted services,” Mr Adams said.
Students enrol by filling a pre-order form on the company’s website which jumpstarts the process of getting the card.
Students with brand ambassadors within their institutions can sign up through them. They must provide evidence before being issued with electronic discount cards within 24 hours.
Once a card has been activated, a student can enjoy discounts at stores which the company has partnered with including IMAX, Pizza World at T-Mall, Pete’s Café and Burrito Haven.
“We look for different levels of businesses to partner with. At the first level we look at businesses near particular institutions whose services are attractive to students, then we also look for universal brands or places where students frequent even though they may not be close to their campuses,” Mr Kuchio said.
The Buymore card uses the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, a short-range radio transmission which allows data exchange when devices are within close proximity, similar to the tap and go card system which is being introduced for public transport payments.
Each of the businesses that the company has partnered with has a smartphone installed with the Buymore application.
Students are required to swipe their cards onto the phone which acts as a card reader in order to identify them.
“Students can be able to choose from an array of discounted services depending on the cash that they want to top up with, and at the same time be able to have redeemable loyalty points assigned to them dependent on the frequency of use of the card,” said Mr Adams.
In the initial stage the trio was able to develop 5,000 cards and setup the Buymore system in addition to catering for their operational costs.
While the initial annual subscription fee of Sh300 goes towards the card production cost, the start-up makes money from subsequent renewal fees.
The company is gearing up for round two of investments in a bid to expand to institutions outside Nairobi.
“Some of the challenges we face include getting quality programme developers which has delayed implementation, but we have to cope with managing user expectations. Students are dynamic and we need to keep looking for more partners who will offer discounted prices to accommodate their shifting interests,” Mr Kuchio said.