The founders of Ratio, the duo of Olanrewaju Jawando and Bowale Joseph, over the week shared their aspirations and take on the approach that the one-month old company is taking improve the currency exchange industry in the country.
Launched on April 28, 2015, Ratio is definitely the youngest startup on our weekly series. However, despite being a very young company, the price is becoming a market leader in the near future.
In the beginning: The Challenge
Apparently, the challenges that Ratio is trying to address all borders around the people, especially users of road-side Bureau de Change, popularly called ‘Mallams.’
First on the list is the issue of fake currency that the road-side traders usually exchange for people, even considering that some people may not be able differentiate between a fake dollar and a genuine one.
The next item has to do with security of people using road-side traders of currency. And for those that might want to check out BDCs up online, most of Bureau de Change (BDC) don’t have a website. “Only the big players have online presence.”
Trust one won’t be wrong to conclude that Ratio is sounding a note of warning to road-side currency traders while also riding on the affirmation that the Central Bank of Nigeria doesn’t recognise them as well.
“We just want to create a platform where people are linked directly to BDCs, eliminating unnecessary middlemen.”
In addressing the challenges, making exchange easy for people and giving operators more visibility, Ratio currently maintains a directory of all CBN-approved BDCs, 2618 in 27 states of the federation. This listing has name, contact details and even images of all BDC operators.
The platform, the founders believe, will save people from unscrupulous dealings characterized by some road-side traders. The platform also filters operators based on location, giving people an option of going for the ones closer to them.
The idea behind the startup is to make currency exchange easier and through the right and approved channel by the apex bank. For Ratio, it’s about bypassing the road-side currency traders and using the rise channel.
Competitors and Ratio’s Advantage
“As a young company, the end users are our priority, as we try to curb the ills associated with currency exchange.”
It might interest you to know that Ratio doesn’t see the road-side traders as their competitors. For the startup, Vconnect can be seen as a competitor. And for its advantage over the acclaimed number local search engine in Nigeria, Ratio boast of an up-to-date list of licensed BDC operators.
However, well-structured BDCs are also perceived as competitors as some of the big players are actively online and even support online transactions. But while the big players could only have information about themselves on the online assets, Ratio has a comprehensive list.
Top of it all, Ratio maintains a currency exchange table on the platform which allow users compare rates that are being offered by operators across the country.
And talk about getting out the message of Ratio, the startup boasts of a unique marketing strategy.
As a company still very much in its infant stage and whose source of funding has been bootstrapping, the question whether the startup has broken-even is out of it. Ratio, however have eyes on a couple of revenue models to drive the business.
And before, finally launching in April 28, 2015, Ratio was for a period of six months in the research and development stage in order to fully understand the market and its system.
“We look forward to making exchange of currency more formal, faster and more efficient.”
In a bid to capture the market, Ratio is looking at developing relationship with operators to better serve users both on the part of the BDCs as well as Ratio. And the relationship, is to sort of certify Ratio as a marketing channel through which people can book transactions with any listed operators.
In the pipeline for users is a rating system, providing the likes of ‘top 10 BDC operators’ in a particular location or state. The rating system, according to Lanre would be user-centric in that users would be the ones doing the rating.
“Our short-term projection is to get people excited about the potentials of the directory.”
The young company looks forward to growing its user base within the next couple of months. For its long term projection, it’s being the market leader as there would be full exploitation of the first mover advantage.
It’s a world of possibilities, Ratio in the nearest future could have the road-side currency traders listed on the platform.
Olanrewaju Jawando is a graduate of Economics and Political Science from the University of Ghana while Bowale Joseph is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University. The two founders are currently the all-in-all of the company.