You get your first job but after paying essential bills such as rent and putting aside bus fare, there is nothing left of your salary to get yourself that fancy phone you have been eyeing.
If this describes you, then Lipa Later was conceived with you in mind. When Eric Muli, 25, started conceptualising the idea of Odyssey Capital in 2015, what he envisioned was a credit-lending facility whose operation was similar to traditional formats where you give ‘security’ to the lender, who then lends you money.
“I initially wanted to start what would be similar to the many lending facilities that already exist, but before I could go far with this idea, I realised that there was a gap in the market, and so I went back to the drawing board,” Eric says.
He saw challenges in the ability of most young people to access loans because they do not own property, hence cannot use it to secure loans. His interest then shifted to setting up a facility that enables youth, especially, to access different types of electronic devices on loan and repay later at affordable instalments.
“We have started with electronic items such as phones, laptops, home theatres and kitchen appliances,” he explains. This is how Lipa Later works: Log on to lipalater.com and apply for the product you would like to own. You then fill the response form, after which you will be notified whether you qualify for the item or not. If you do, you pay the stipulated deposit for the product and take it home with you. You pay the remaining amount in monthly installments, which are determined by your income.
“We work with a proprietary algorithm for every individual that approaches us. This algorithm is what enables us to determine the creditworthiness of an individual and whether or not we can trust the borrower with the item he wants,” he explains. Their clientele is mainly between 23-30 years, individuals Eric figures are mostly on their first jobs, and who may not have a healthy bank history.
VIABLE BUSINESS IDEA
Phone data, mobile money usage, how much income one makes in a month and estimated expenses are just some of the close to 200 data points that are built into different algorithms that make up the key points used to decide an individual’s creditworthiness. Eric adds, “It only makes sense to cater for your basic needs first before buying a device such as a phone or home theater, but if you can get these items at an affordable cost that does not require you to compromise your living standards, why not?”
Like with all startups, the beginning was challenging. The first headache was capital, but Eric found a way around it. “I realised that if I relied on one source to get the money I needed to kick start the company, I might get disappointed – it is easier to borrow someone Sh40, 000 than it is to ask for Sh400, 000. Once I determined how much money I would need, I split that up into little portions and asked people in my network, including my friends, to contribute,” he says.
He however points out that people will only lend you money if you convince them that your business idea is viable, and so he had to give lots of thought to his selling points and be aggressive in his pitching. As you read this, Lipa Later has managed to bring on board brands such as Tecno, Sony, Huawei, Samsung and Oppo. Eric explains that convincing these companies to work with him was also not a stroll in the park.
“We had to prove ourselves by generating sales. We are stabilised now, and are taking off – the only way to go now is up.” Odyssey Capital relies on a team of 40 young people to market its products all over the country, as well as sell their business vision to potential partners.
TOP 40 UNDER 40
For Eric, the greatest lesson he has learnt in the past two years that he has been at the helm of Odyssey Capital is the importance of patience – patience to allow his company to grow. He is reaping the fruits of this patience: he is one of Business Daily’s 2015 Top 40 under 40, a selection largely due to Alpha Force Security, an organisation he started while still in school and which is still operational.
He has appointed a team to manage it as he concentrates on building Odyssey Capital. Besides the recognition by Business Daily, he was also listed as one of the top 20 growing college entrepreneurs by the Business Insider in 2012. The impact of the business so far? He pin points three areas – one is that his company has provided tech support to new business by making the expenses that they spend on acquiring electronic items manageable, driving sales for SMEs and bridging the digital divide, especially in rural communities.
“Our main goal is to make essential commodities affordable so that the youth especially are able to concentrate on improving their skills and make their lives better,” he concludes. Eric is a graduate of Babson College in the US. He holds a BSc in Finance and Economics. His alma mater, he says, which heavily focuses on business, did a great job at shaping his career by placing him in an environment that pushed him to begin to build his skills while still learning.
“In 2011 while still in university, together with a couple of friends at school, we started an action marketing company, Jossle. We packaged marketing strategies for companies such as Microsoft and Uber and handled activations and marketing campaigns for them across campuses. Though I left when I graduated and returned home, that experience was a great eye-opener for me.” This is definitely a man to watch.