[Interview] Shane Leahy, CEO, Tola Mobile
Tola Mobile has positioned itself as a one stop shop for merchants to connect with different types of mobile wallets, offering an easy process to take payments from across several markets and industries.
In Africa it has leveraged on the meteoric rise of mobile money and currently boasts of processing over 25 million monthly transactions, a fivefold increase from 5 million transactions this time last year.
Shane Leahy, the company’s CEO talked to Africa Business Communities about the impressive penetration in the African market and the expansion plans going forward.
Tell us about your company
Tola Mobile is a mobile payment service provider. We take the hassle, cost and risk out of paying for goods and services by allowing consumers to pay directly from their mobile, charging transactions to a mobile money account.
Unlike other commercial models, our proposition adds value to all parties in the mobile payments ecosystem – merchant, MNO, and consumer.
The business has now grown to become one of the premier mobile payment intermediaries in Africa and a key partner in the European market.
Our customer base reaches no ends, from banks and insurers to sports betting and gambling.
When and why was it set up?
Founded in 2006, Tola mobile was created with the ambition to connect to every type of mobile wallet in Africa with one single API. Tola’s simple API is easy to deploy and use, which is why it’s one of the fastest growing mobile payment providers in Africa.
What would you say gives Tola Mobile the competitive edge?
Tola Mobile provides a ‘one stop shop’ for merchants to connect with different types of mobile wallets, offering an easy process to take payments from across several markets and industries.
Tola provides huge convenience for merchants across the entire market with our solutions making it easier for customers to pay more securely, boosting mobile conversion rate.
Our existing merchants can easily expand into other markets with Tola’s platforms that provides them with immediate access to take payments in new markets when licensed to do so.
How has the market responded to your services? Why do you think that is so?
Tola has had a hugely positive response in Africa where we now process over 25 million monthly transactions; a fivefold increase from 5 million transactions this time last year, and we are always working to launch in new territories.
Africa is by far the best market for mobile wallet operation, where one billion residents are unbanked but do have a mobile phone.
Tola wallet makes it easy to increase loyalty and drive revenue in this market as mobile are payments are so advanced compared to the rest of the world.
It has allowed for the gambling industry, for example, to ensure there is a minimum delay for gamblers to receive payouts into their betting accounts, despite unfortunate network outages and downtime.
We have noticed in the UK, where we work with a number of MNOs, the adoption has been slow in comparison to Africa.
What can you say about the changes and developments your company has undergone since its inception?
Change is constant factor for us. The main changes we have experienced stem from adapting to our customers’ needs.
We have expanded our technical team in the UK and overseas in order to help us remain agile and constantly innovate with the ever-changing market conditions.
In Africa, our tola.wallet offering has grown significantly with the increase in mobile money adoption and as an alternative form of payment for merchants.
We are continuously driving our penetration in African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, Tanzania with wider plans to expand into new countries with mobile networks.
Additionally to the growth in Africa, in the UK we are continuing to invest in Tola.mobilepay with our e-money licence, focusing on key target markets such as ticketing, publishing and hospitality.
How is competition in the e-commerce space and how are you weathering it?
The competition is currently fierce within the e-commerce space especially as it is still heavily concentrated on bank payments.
Tola’s proposition is completely different and our focus is on educating the market on the different options available to consumers such as e-money and mobile payments that are charged to the carrier, rather than a bank account.
We are working with a number of payment platforms and mobile operators and hope to see changes in the market, very soon.
What is the greatest threat to your business and industry?
In the UK there is a lack of education and understanding around direct carrier billing, and we are hoping that PSD2 will start to have more of an impact and provide greater understanding to customers and merchants.
This is quite different in comparison with Africa. In this region it actually is the time to market that creates the biggest threat to us, as we work with a number of mobile carriers that have different payment flows and timelines.
What are your company’s plans in 2018?
We are looking to expand on our product offering with additional products that will go to market and layer on top of the PSP service.
For example, providing automated processes for salaries that are paid into mobile wallets, via money transfers and subscriptions.
We are expanding rapidly in Africa and are seeing significant success in that region. Our goal is to become a pre-eminent payments provider on the continent of Africa. Expansion to Southeast Asia and South America is also very much in our plan for the future too.
What disruptive technologies do you feel markets need to look out for in 2018?
With the implementation of PSD2 back in January, whilst it was initially reported to be disruptive, it has allowed for a real opportunity to move out of digital services and into a new era or payment services.
The market will need to be looking out for the rise of mobile payments as they become a more streamlined and mainstream process, and this isn’t just in Africa.
We are increasingly becoming a more cashless society, and with the digital culture of the industry increasing customer expectations, businesses need to ensure they are innovating to stay ahead in the market.