[Interview] Inderpal Singh Mumick, Founder and CEO, Kirusa
Inderpal Singh Mumick is an entrepreneur with over two decades of experience in the telecom environment, and the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Kirusa, provider of voice messaging and social media mobile apps to mobile carriers and subscribers in emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East and in Asia.
What does Kirusa do, specifically in Africa?
Kirusa provides communication solutions over data networks for consumers and enterprises across Africa. We are headquartered in New Jersey and have 18 offices in four continents. In Africa, we have offices in Nigeria, Ghana, DRC, Zambia, Uganda, Senegal, Rwanda, Morocco, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Our range of innovative products include:
InstaVoice – a unique call completion solution to help users see their voicemails and missed calls in a mobile app, while helping mobile carriers monetize missed calls in their networks
InstaVoice ReachMe – a voice-over-data solution to help users lower their roaming costs by receiving their GSM calls over data in a mobile app, while helping carriers leverage the power of data to enrich the calling experience of their subscribers.
Kirusa Channels – offers users access to voice blogs from their favorite celebrities, sports clubs, news portals and other content streams. For carriers, it is a new avenue for generating revenue and increasing customer loyalty
Kirusa Konnect – an omni-channel Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS), for enterprises that helps improve their marketing.
When was Kirusa started and by who?
In 2001 a handful of technocrats from AT&T and Bell Labs came together with a goal of making mobile phones easier to use with the power of voice.
How is Kirusa funded?
Top VC firms like Accel, Helion, Qualcomm and Nexus have invested in Kirusa.
Who are your clients?
Kirusa caters to the needs of emerging markets in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where Kirusa’s products are used by over 100 million users on a monthly basis. Our solutions are deployed in 46 countries, 22 of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
We have partnerships with 50 mobile carriers including MTN, Airtel, Tigo, Orange, Vodafone, Idea, etc. In the enterprise space, we have worked with the likes of Uber, Stanbic, Unibank and Govt of Ghana to name a few.
What are your best selling points as regards your operations in the African market?
Our products have been extremely well received across Africa and our businesss is very healthy. We have always had an Africa first approach for innovation which gives us an edge over other global players who invariably struggle to adapt to African conditions. We realised early on that missed calls were a popular way of communicating in Africa and so we developed InstaVoice to enable people to receive missed calls, voicemail and voice SMS over a seamless app-powered platform. InstaVoice has gained immense popularity in the Sub-Saharan region.
We also observed that in Africa people tend to have 3-4 sim cards each and that led us to build linked numbers on InstaVoice. 40% of Ghana’s population have used InstaVoice!
Our apps are hybrid-OTT in nature, allowing for a highly inclusive market penetration and retention strategy.
Did you find the market in Africa well positioned to accommodate your services?
Kirusa has innovated and disrupted technology by offering first of its kind products. While this led to us being a game-changer in voice over data solutions, it also poses a challenge of category acceptance for our products.
Sometimes it has been difficult for the target audience and various stakeholders to be completely aware of how our products will change their business – and create new consumer behaviour. This was a significant challenge we faced in Africa. When we first started with InstaVoice, we found that the mobile operators were not aligned to a high capex model for consumer services. Hence, it required us to change our entire business model for voicemails to succeed in Africa.
However, these days operators are increasingly seeking to offer new services that will generate the next wave of growth.
What are the growth plans of the company going forward?
For 2019, our aim is to scale up adoption of our voice-over-data solutions and expand in markets beyond our current focus. InstaVoice ReachMe, our hybrid-OTT roaming app is already being used by customers of MTN Zambia. We look forward to expanding the service into several other markets in 2019.
Additionally, the growing popularity of omnichannel messaging will lead to the proliferation of new ways for enterprises to engage with their audience. For instance:
- RCS is creating an evolution in mobile messaging and will shape up to be a dominant force in the enterprise messaging space worldwide.
- Nigeria and Ghana have shown impressive growth predictions for the API economy, driven by the uptake in the number of developers and technology evangelists. We plan to leverage this by launching APIs for developers which will be available as assets under Kirusa Konnect to engage with audiences over SMS, voice, and rich media bots.
What's the latest news from Kirusa?
At the recently held Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, Kirusa announced its move into enterprise RCS solutions with Google's Program for RCS Business Messaging. As part of the program, we have built an RBM Agent for Orange and showcased a demo of the application. We believe RCS is a potent tool for enterprise communication and would be an additional avenue for audience-engagement.
RCS is a relatively new concept in Africa and the continent is comparatively unexposed to it. So far, there have been 13 launches in Africa done by Orange, Vodacom and Vodafone.
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