Today, Thursday, October 10, 2013 marks a memorable day for Zoona. At 8am this morning Zoona officially began its partnership with telecom giant, Airtel. Airtel is an international telecoms company with over 270 million users. It is presently in 18 countries throughout Africa and has 4.2 million registered users in Zambia alone. For the past eight weeks Airtel and Zoona have been in negotiations over a partnership between Airtel money (e-wallet) and Zoona. The partnership is mutually beneficial as it allows both companies to collaborate together to provide more comprehensive mobile money financial services to Zambian consumers. Now any of Airtel’s 4.2 million users can register for an Airtel money account via a Zoona Agent. They can also deposit, withdrawal, and pay bills via Zoona Agents with their Airtel e-wallets. An e-wallet is basically a mini-bank in your mobile phone. You can deposit money into your account through an Agent and send money to other Airtel customers in Zambia via your mobile phone. Once someone sends money to a friend or family member they will receive a text message notifying them of the transaction. At this point they can pick up the money at any one of the 150+ Zoona Agent outlets throughout Zambia. Another example is someone now can go to a Zoona Agent, deposit money into their Airtel e-wallet and pay their water, electricity, and DSTV bills through their mobile phone. This allows more local Zambians to make cashless financial transactions. The reason why Zoona entered into this partnership with Airtel is for a variety of reasons. However, this partnership aligns well with Zoona’s core beliefs of entrepreneurship, growth, change, and impact. 1) Entrepreneurship: This partnership will allow Zoona to stay at the forefront of developing and empowering our Agent network. We specialize in making businesses grow, and we believe the data shows in the long run mobile wallet adoption is the future for branchless banking in emerging markets. Rather than wait for this to slowly develop in Zambia, we at Zoona want to be at the forefront of creating the successful mobile wallet. 2) Growth: We invest in skills and technology that drive growth in our company for our customers and stakeholders. This partnership with Airtel gives us the opportunity to gain 4 million new customers in Zambia alone. 3) Change: We challenge the status quo in the name of progress and development. Currently, Zoona is growing and doing well in the money transfer business. However, we foresee the future of branchless banking moving towards the adoption of the e-wallet, which will have more services and cheaper costs for consumers. We are not afraid of change and will continue to adapt in the name of progress. 4) Impact: We will develop solutions that will scale across industries and markets. At Zoona we are always striving to stay one step ahead of the competition, driving innovation and early adoption in the name of creating sustainable impact. This partnership with Airtel will allow us to have a more significant impact on the Zambian market and beyond. The past few weeks the staffs in Lusaka and Cape Town have been working long hours preparing for the launch. On my end I have been working to put together a training packet for Agents and tellers to walk them through the new features that will be on the Zoona interface. This partnership will benefit Zoona the most if we sign up a large number of Airtel’s 4 + million subscribers and have them begin transacting with Airtel money. Keeping this in mind, we understand our Agent network is the key to having this venture be successful. The Agent is Zoona’s customer, as we derive value from Agent performance. We strive to provide our Agent network with the tools they need to succeed and grow their businesses. We do this through trainings, marketing/branding, prompt customer care, and real-time payments/commissions to name a few. At Zoona we believe we have a top-notch Agent network. This is why we believe we can sign up one million new Airtel money subscribers by January 1st, 2014. Now that the launch has begun, it’s all about execution. Like CCO Brad Magrath said yesterday, “Today the real work begins everybody.” I often joke with my friends back in America that I feel as though I won the lottery to have the opportunity to intern at Zoona. The organization is at a pivotal point right now in its growing phase and I am working diligently to add value to Zoona during my time. The next month I hope to continue to travel around the country like I have the past few weeks training Agents and getting valuable feedback on how we can improve the system for them. Now, it will be more about listening to our Agents and customer feedback. Then we will do our best to have systems and processes in place to meet the challenges we will face as the new product grows. We are confident in our Agent network to sell Airtel money. However, we are most excited about the opportunity this brings local Zambians. We are striving to innovate and grow the mobile money financial services market in Zambia. Now, Zoona is offering more services, for a cheaper price, to more potential customers. This feeds directly into our vision of a world of cashless growing businesses… Everywhere.