HomeTECHNOLOGYTechpreneurs develop platform to address poor savings culture in informal economy

Techpreneurs develop platform to address poor savings culture in informal economy

The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable prerequisite for success.

These were the words by American Investor Warren Buffet that served as a source of inspiration for 3 college friends when they undertook to build an application encouraging people to invest whatever little they could, as even small sums of money have the potential to accumulate into large amounts over time.

Before launching the application, the three Titus Marenye, Njogu Kinyanjui and Samuel Njuguna, had done some research that led them to discover a huge savings and investment gap in the country.

“While the continental average of those engaged in saving was 17 percent in 2020, only about 13 percent of the population in Kenya was engaged in saving, according to EFG Hermes,” noted Samuel Njuguna, co-founder of Chumz.

Meanwhile data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) revealed that about 13.9 million Kenyans had no form of retirement savings scheme, a majority of whom were in the informal sector.

Towards the end of 2020, the three approached an angel investor to support them with the financial resources they would require to build a prototype of the application as well as set up the business.

“A big part of the Kenyan population works in the informal economy, where earnings average Sh50, 000 and below. Most investment platforms have initial investment requirements that the average person may feel are too high for them. On the Chumz platform, people could invest with as low as five shillings,” noted Njuguna.

In early 2022, he and his colleagues secured an operating license from the Capital Markets Authority (CMA), to allow them to channel funds deposited by investors to a licensed fund manager who would generate returns on the fund and thereafter distribute the interests to individual clients.

The platform would use behavioural psychology to guide clients on when and how to save and invest. When a user gets a discount on a purchase for instance, the app prompts the user to invest the money they have received as a discount, instead of spending it elsewhere.

“For example, if cooking oil was going for Sh500 but a customer finds it is on discount for Sh400, they can save the Sh100 difference. The same applies when users negotiate for lower prices. They can save the difference between the marked price and the negotiated price. Psychology wise this makes sense because the user had planned to spend the money anyway,” noted Njuguna.

The app sends alerts to users when they are in places where they are likely to overspend, such as on outings. It has a group functionality for merry go rounds (chamas), that sends an alert once one member makes a deposit, to encourage other members to follow suit.

“A user in a pub for instance can get an alert which will help him or her to avoid over indulging in consumerism. We also send reminders at strategic times during the month to encourage users to save and invest so that they can make the most out of their income,” noted Njogu Kinyanjui, co-founder of Chumz.

About two years since they started operating, the Chumz team has managed to onboard more than 100, 000 retail users to the platform, who collectively have invested over Sh500 million. Some of these are people who have never thought of investing, as they were even unable to save.

“We have a user called Maina, a shoe designer based in Ngara, who has been saving Sh50 every day. He tells us the returns he has been getting are what have enabled him to buy tools of trade such as leather fabrics, which he would always purchase using mobile loans,” noted Kinyanjui.

Titus Marenye, co-founder of Chumz, says that while the milestones they have achieved are noteworthy, the journey has not been without its fair share of challenges. For instance, getting people who have relied heavily on predatory mobile loans for quick cash to change spending habits, and instead focus on saving small amounts of money that could in the long run guarantee financial independence has been tough.

“A lot of people have been kept from investing due to complex financial jargon. We have had to create simplified financial literacy content and partner with entities that do financial literacy. We’ve also tried to gamify the saving experience by challenging people to start saving small and increase the amount that they save weekly, over a 52-week span,” noted Marenye.

They are also conducting sensitization campaigns, especially among parents, encouraging them to train their children on how to save, and teach them the benefits of delayed gratification.

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