Chinedu Onyeaso is the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Jara Mobile, a tech startup in Lagos that rewards Nigerian consumers with discount vouchers when they buy airtime. These rewards include discounts on food, movie tickets, shopping, taxi rides and entertainment.
This is Jara's proposition to consumers: you pay your routine bills conveniently through their platform, and they’ll give you some discounts on their other lifestyle activities. Jara also has a social mission in mind - a portion of their proceeds from commissions earned through the app is donated towards the education of less privileged children in the society. That way, Jara users can do some good for others by using the app.
Before venturing into entrepreneurship, Chinedu worked as an IT Analyst at True Design, a creative design agency in the United Kingdom, and at Chevron Nigeria as a Graduate Engineer. He has an MSc in Electrical Electronics Engineering and Entrepreneurship from the University of Nottingham.
"I am passionate about two things - entrepreneurship and social impact",Chinedu explains, "and I feel quite fortunate to be doing both of these through Jara Mobile."
“Sometime in 2014", Chinedu adds, "my co-founders and I came across a report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics that revealed that Nigerians spent in the prior year roughly $2.2Bn monthly on mobile phone airtime. According to the report, Nigerians spent more talking than they did on household items. Catching our interest, and we decided to look closely into this market."
Chinedu and the other Jara founders saw this as an opportunity to build a solution to enable them to do so.
"Though the market seemed quite saturated", he goes on to explain, "we saw an opportunity to offer a better solution to consumers. Most Nigerians top up their phones by buying physical vouchers from roadside vendors. They were some problems with this – they often had to go out of their way to get airtime, and sometimes they wouldn’t find a seller to buy from, especially during emergencies. These problems quickly solved with technology. We saw that with the increase in internet penetration and smartphone adoption, more and more people should be able to get airtime conveniently from their mobile phones.”
However, Jara was not meant to be just another online bill payment platform. The founders needed to clearly differentiate themselves, and they hoped to do this by giving consumers a better value proposition than any other player in the space.
"After months of brainstorming and research," Chinedu says, "we eventually found a model that would enable us to give consumers more value when they buy airtime. We partnered with retail brands who were looking out for innovative ways to reach these consumers, and Jara was born."
Jara could become one of Nigeria's most popular bill payment platforms, and they are targeting other African countries.
The app has received a number of accolades, as Chinedu explains. They were selected among 100 startups across Africa for Speedup Africa in June 2016. They were also chosen among 16 startups to represent Nigeria at the GITEX Conference held in Dubai in October 2016.
Jara is not Chinedu's only project. He also organizes the Founder2be co-founder event in Nigeria, a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs to find potential co-founders for their business and learn from more established entrepreneurs. They have held some successful events over the last three years partnering with organizations such as Enterprise Development Center, Lagos Angel Network, GE Garages and Stanbic IBTC Bank.
Chinedu concludes by saying that he derives his inspiration from many people. If he had to pick someone, though, it would be Elon Musk. "I'd say Elon Musk is one of my biggest inspirations right now. From humble beginnings in South Africa, he has gone on to tackle some of the greatest problems in the world across different industries. He makes it feel like nothing is impossible."