A Boost to Purchasing Power

Imagine for a moment you are in the countryside, far from a store, and you have an emergency. Imagine you need help as quickly as you can get it. Or, imagine you are a student in the city and your teacher sends you last minute information about your final exam location and you need to let your classmates know of this change. In both situations, you are surprised to find that you’ve got great reception, but…you are out of credit on your phone. You cannot make a call or send a message to anyone.
Enter LIK, a Winner in the 2016 African Entrepreneurship Award. Omar Kadiri and his co-founders designed LIK to solve these persistent problems of phone credit. In day to day events to the gravest emergencies, LIK provides a way for customers to use their phones, without needing to constantly buy costly pre-paid credit. In many parts of the developing world, phone users buy pre-paid credit for their calling, text messaging, and data. When this credit runs out, the phone is rendered useless.
LIK’s solution is simple. Customers download the app, and in exchange for free phone credit, they watch and interact with advertisements, targeted to their interests. For users, Omar says that “LIK is a small boost for their purchasing power, giving them free phone credit in exchange of watching ads and receiving something interesting for them. We are helping them in their daily life. They are used to having advertisements all around them, but thanks to LIK they win something meaningful.” For phone users with very limited purchasing power, free phone credit is more money in their pockets, saving them the cost of buying credit.

“New Tools to Conquer New Markets”

In the 2016 African Entrepreneurship Award, round mentors and Presidential Jurists found Omar’s business to be relevant, meaningful, and as one mentor said, “very well thought through.” By the end of Presidential Jury deliberations in December, LIK was awarded with $50,000 of targeted seed funding from the Award’s $1 million prize. Omar says that winning the Award has developed much more “credibility and trust” with big companies with whom he hopes to do business. Along the journey, Omar learned a lot from his mentors and gained “new tools to conquer new markets.”

First and foremost, Omar remembers the confidence that his first online mentor gave him in believing in his idea and telling him so. He also remembers the rigorous, but very useful application process, a process that he says, “provided very rich learnings for us,” as LIK developed their startup. He remembers his global mentor who recommended he provide more details on the cost of customer acquisition, an important question, especially as he prepared for the Presidential Jury and their questions on financial projections.

Pitching like a Conqueror

Omar did not have to travel far for life-changing advice. In December of 2016, the native of Casablanca received world-class mentoring on pitching his business idea just a few kilometers away at the Award’s customized Boot Camp sessions. He says that his work with his coach “was some of the best mentoring I’ve had during my adventures with LIK. He really encouraged me and motivated me to show more passion, more ambition, and more confidence about the project. I’m really grateful for my coach and I do believe that without him, I wouldn’t have won.” He says his coach taught him “how to be like a conqueror” and the difference from his first pitch to his winning pitch was a “deep change!” He says that his mentor was just what he needed as he was not lacking in ideas, merely in confidence.

On the journey since he delivered the winning pitch, Award mentors have rightly encouraged Omar to invest some of the money won on future business growth, and not just growing LIK’s immediate user community. Omar says, “they were really, really accurate and right,” and since this advice LIK has “finalized a big contract with a big marketing player” that will help the business grow more strategically.

The lion’s share of Award funding has gone toward technological product development, as a result of information gleaned from market surveys. This investment in market research allows LIK to generate more relevant content and a better platform for brand sponsorships. This advice gave Omar, who is constantly thinking and generating ideas, concrete action steps. And, the implementation of these market studies has generated direct employment opportunities for interns.

 

From 70,000 to 700,000

 

Omar says that “all my life I was surrounded by billboards and ads, and I never won anything from it! LIK seems too beautiful to be true!” With LIK, users are not inundated with static, useless advertisements, but instead, they get in on the value, earning free credit.

Since winning the Award in December of 2016, as of August 2017, LIK has grown by some 70,000 new clients. LIK now reaches 700,000 users and is spread out all over the Kingdom of Morocco with 30% of users in the Rabat/Mohammedia/Casablanca corridor. Another 25% are spread between Agadir, Fes and Marrakesh. The remaining are in other big cities (Tangier, Meknes), and a total of 80,000 users (about 11%) are in small villages scattered all over the country. Omar says that LIK “has an important presence in all of the Kingdom, and we are proud of that.”

 

Impact beyond Free Calling

 

The impact of LIK goes beyond purchasing power for more WhatsApp messages. LIK has a corporate social responsibility effort used to promote various campaigns. During recent election cycles, LIK sent users information on voting centers, and generally encourages people to get out and vote. They have worked to educate the public on water saving techniques. For women, they send breast cancer screening notifications. Omar believes that LIK provides an “environmentally friendly flier,” that can be sent over the phone. In the future, Omar hopes to increase the impact, working with non-profits and NGOs to continue providing information to the public.

Winning the African Entrepreneurship Award allowed Omar to develop a network of like-minded entrepreneurs all over Africa; other entrepreneurs passionate about their ideas, other entrepreneurs who are on the entrepreneurial journey; and other entrepreneurs who are improving lives in their countries. Omar says this experience “gives you wings!” and he sees these networks not only as good opportunities for future business expansion, but also one of the great gifts from the journey.