When Taha Jiwaji first stepped into his father’s computer retail shop in bustling Dar es Salaam city, the old man did not imagine over a decade later he would be in Nairobi watching his son bring into Kenya a tech solution that helps businesses declutter social media platforms.
Last week, Taha’s father, Mr Mustafa Jiwaji, sat beaming with pride at the back of a conference room in Nairobi’s Radison Blu Hotel. He watched as his son eloquently explained this sophisticated concept to potential customers and the media. For Mustafa, it must have felt like a surreal trip down memory lane.
Back in the day, when Taha joined his father’s computer business, Mustafa simply hoped that his son would follow in his footsteps and help run the family enterprise. However, Taha had a different vision.
Armed with nothing more than a Nokia 3310, Taha embarked on a journey to create a manual short messaging service (SMS) database for their customers, primarily composed of students. This database allowed them to send promotions and special offers for their computers, resulting in an immediate boost in sales.
It didn’t take long for Taha to recognize the potential of this innovative model. While still working in his father’s shop, he laid the foundation for Bongo Live, a bulk SMS business initially aimed at the entertainment industry.
Over the course of a decade, Taha’s brainchild has thrived and expanded exponentially. It moved beyond the entertainment sector, reaching out to small businesses, non-governmental organizations, and eventually, even banks. These institutions sought out Bongo Live’s solutions for sending bulk messages, implementing short-codes, and facilitating USSD transactions, cementing its position as a pioneering force in the tech industry.
As the company rapidly expanded its footprint across the region, stretching from West Africa to South Africa, it also embarked on a journey of diversification into the realms of payments and web-based messaging through social media platforms. This strategic shift necessitated a move beyond the borders of Tanzania.
In 2021, the company underwent a transformative rebranding, emerging as “Beem.” Munira Karimjee, the head of marketing in Tanzania, explains that this name was inspired by a “beam” of light, reflecting the company’s focus on illuminating the interactive platform they were constructing. Their visual identity also shifted to a vibrant teal, designed to resonate with the engaging nature of their evolving services.
The pivotal moment arrived when Beem unveiled their premium offering, “Moja.” This innovative omni-channel communication platform seamlessly integrated USSD, Airtime, Mobile Payments, SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram channels. It empowered businesses to engage, verify, authenticate, notify, or make payments to their customers through a unified interface.
Nairobi, Kenya’s heartbeat with its dynamic messaging landscape and WhatsApp’s penetration at 97 percent, beckoned as a natural expansion target. WhatsApp has amassed nearly three billion users worldwide, creating an enticing market for Beem’s services. Alifiyah Ganijee, the Country Manager for Kenya, recalls that even during their Tanzania operations, they had already begun onboarding Kenyan clients who eagerly anticipated their expansion northward.
Moja product stirs Kenya
“Someone else has also asked me that same question on why it took so long to come here, but we already had clients from Kenya. Kenya is a very competitive market and we felt with the Moja product we are ready to come here,” she said.
The company feels it has what it takes to compete in Kenya by leveraging their unique model that allows both tech companies and ordinary medium to large companies with no tech background to use its curated platform to serve customers optimally.
This company offers a versatile solution that fits like a well-tailored suit. Beem Africa’s customizable bot is capable of addressing common inquiries, processing sales, gathering feedback, and delivering promotions. This versatile tool finds its ideal application among players in the logistics, hospitality, fintech, and media industries.
This strategic approach sets them apart from competitors such as Infobip and Africa Talking, both multinational players who rely heavily on tech-centric API solutions. Additionally, they outshine the numerous local bulk SMS providers who lack integration with web-based and social media applications.