Africa Business Communities

[Startup Interview] Emmanuel Oshone, Co-Founder, Zoto, Nigeria

Zoto, a Nigerian technology company has been leveraging Nigeria’s ICT boom to provide quick and seamless payment facility to its customers ranging from airtime recharges, bill payments and movie ticketing, which helps reduce the need for carrying cash.

It has been ranked position one on app store in the shopping category. The co-founder Emmanuel Oshone spoke to Africa Business Communities.

 Would you please introduce your company?

The payment experience in Nigeria is broken with lengthy queues for bill payment and clumsy airtime recharges taking up customer’s time and money.  Zoto fills this gap with its mobile based solution providing fast and hassle-free payments.

It has made payments simpler, cheaper and faster, and more importantly, accessible to anybody with a smart phone.  Our strategy is to leverage Nigeria’s mobile revolution to facilitate anytime, anywhere payments.

Some of the key services include airtime recharge, data recharge, postpaid bills, TV subscription, broadband bills, electricity, movie tickets & betting. In near future we plan to disrupt merchant payments, credit ecosystem, P2P transfers and other financial service categories.

When and why was it set up?

Zoto was started in mid-2015 with the aim to provide quick and seamless payment facility in Nigeria.   

The use of cash is inefficient, as well as time taking. For example, it takes many hours to pay for utility bills because of the long queues. Similarly, airtime recharges are inefficient as they rely on scratch card/USSD.

Zoto saves time and is convenient, allowing the customer to pay from the comfort of their home. 

It channelizes digital payments, which is picking up in Nigeria, with $177 billion worth of electronic transactions recorded in the period Jan- Dec 2016 (NIBSS) paid through cards, ATM’s and electronic POS.

What is your company’s unique selling point?

Zoto leverages the latest in ICT and payments to provide a seamless experience to its customers.

Zoto leverages the ubiquity of mobile networks to provide payment facility from any location. It supports a variety of payments, including airtime recharges, bill payments, movie ticketing, which helps to reduce the need of carrying cash.

In the mobile payment application space we are the market leaders with the highest app store rating and user count. We consider banks such as Diamond, GT and Eco Bank as competition.

Have you founded any other companies?

I would say I gained most of my entrepreneurial experience early on, from starting up IT companies that managed and completed several projects for some major clients including Afrinvest and Nigerian Stock Exchange.

Following that, I was part of the team that set up and grew it as CEO to a certain height before moving ahead to focus on a couple of other projects.

The journey to Zoto started in between all of my prior endeavors, sometime in 2010, under Hedonmark; which was at the time a family owned and run business. I had learned about MPesa a mobile money company in Kenya and I immediately saw the value proposition for the Nigerian market.

What support, if any, did you receive from the foreign or local community when starting your company?

Zoto users have showered all their love to help us achieve the one million milestone. Zoto has recently been in news for being the No1 app on app stores (shopping category), it is also rated 4.6 on the play store. These are visible proofs that people have adopted Zoto with open arms.

Our partners in Nigeria have been tremendously supportive. They understood the product value proposition and saw the opportunity to grow their business with us and opened their API’s for integrations. Our initial direct partnerships with Telco’s and banks are strong allowing us to provide seamless payment experience to our users. 

Is your company publicly or privately funded?

We are backed by Mahindra group, a $19 billion Indian Conglomerate. Mahindra is a global leader in mobility solutions with an expansive suite of products & solutions catering to over two billion mobile users globally and clients in more than 90 countries.  In between conversations of raising series B funding.

What can you say about the changes and developments your company has undergone since its inception?

We started off as a mobile recharge platform for the 70 million mobile internet users in Nigeria. Over the last 2 year we have launched categories like electricity, TV, Broadband, Betting, movie bookings & mobile data. In near future we are planning to introduce more categories to improve existing user experience and making Zoto the central platform for all utility and leisure payments.

We have observed that close to 70% of new users come to us because of word of mouth and referrals from friends and family. We have constantly focused on this learning to improve the existing user experience, giving the users more reasons to use us as their primary channel of payments. This way we have grown at a steady CAGR of 11% without burning a lot on acquisitions.

Forming new partnerships every day and reducing failures has allowed higher retention of service compared to global standards. Logos, Port Harcourt and Abuja  are some of the key markets for us with highest population density.

We have surely learned a lot/ gained maturity in understanding the power of people in making or breaking a business. As a result, we have worked hard on people, culture, and our purpose.

Deep customer focus has been a core to us from the beginning – be it merchant partners or customers. I think we are 10% there and a long way to go hence. But I am very sure we will set the platinum standard for a phenomenal customer experience in the payment segment. “I personally believe that management is about leveraging the best in people”

What can be expected of your company in 2018?

Zoto is a Nigerian home grown company which has been built keeping in mind the challenges of Nigerians. The market is vast and offers a lot of opportunities for us, hence we will be focusing on Nigeria only for now.

We have only marketed Zoto in Lagos till date because 80% of our users are from that location. The learning and product can be easily replicated for West African countries in near future for expansion.

In near future we plan to expand vertically and horizontally by adding more categories and increasing the number of merchants in each category, this will help us provide better payment experience to our users and make us an indispensable channel for payments.

We also plan to disrupt merchant payments, credit ecosystem, P2P transfers and other financial service categories in years to come.

How would you assess your country’s economic performance in 2017?

I would say that 2017 was a mixed year for Nigeria’s economy, with a number of highs as well as lows. The fall in oil prices was definitely worrying for all of us, as it led to job losses and inflation.

On the brighter side, the falling oil prices increased the focus on Nigeria’s informal economy, which contributes 65% to its GDP. Nigeria’s informal sector is very promising and I think the right support and infrastructure can help in bringing out their talent and can-do spirit. In this context the government must be commended for laying a roadmap for digitizing Nigeria. 

As somebody working in the technology sector, I think startups will continue to play a big role in Africa, in its economy, and in the day to life of ordinary Africans.        

Which African countries do you predict will perform best in 2018?

With oil prices rising, Africa’s economy is all set for a revival in 2018.  Nigeria is going to be one of the beneficiaries, with the economy projected to grow at 2.5%.

However, the countries that have invested in digitization are expected to grow at a faster rate, with mobile money acting as a catalyst for this growth. It is no wonder, that the world Bank has marked Tanzania , Kenya, Ethiopia as high growth trajectory countries.


Also read:

[Startup Interview] Austin Zungu, Founder, Sengwayo, South Africa

[Startup Interview] Emeka Akano, CEO, Jara Mobile Ltd, Nigeria

[Startup Interview] Roshaan Kulpoo, Founder, United Pay Ltd, Mauritius

[Startup Interview] David Mbuta, CEO, Ubuntu Meal Delivery Services, Zambia

[Startup Interview] Happy Koffi Djebou, Co-Founder, Afriscanlink I/S


Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with startup businesses in Africa.

Are you a startup in Africa and interested in an interview? Great! Send an e-mail to



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