TopUpDesk: helping west Africa purchase airtime online

By Helen Ngoh on June 13, 2012

Otto Beseka is the 27 year-old entrepreneur behind ventures like Carbon Group Ltd and Omni Capital Ltd. Now we meet him about his most recent venture, TopUpDesk, a web platform that allows people to purchase airtime online without credit (or debit cards) and paypal accounts.

What is TopUpDesk?

TopUpDesk is a web utility. It enables members to buy airtime online without the need of a credit card, debit card or PayPal account. Upon registration, our users are given credit limits which they use to make purchases. Once a week, we visit our clients at their offices for them to make payments of their previous transactions.

TopUpDesk was initiated in January 2012 and a test of the concept was carried out in March 2012. From the test, we got a lot of insights that we used to redesign the service and relaunched in June. We currently have paying clients in Buea.

What is unique about this venture, how have you gone beyond your competition?

TopUpDesk enables people without credit cards, debit cards or PayPal accounts to make airtime purchases online. By enabling people without credit cards, debit cards or PayPal accounts to be able to make purchases online, we are creating a new class of activities that can be performed online – trade. This also creates a niche that never existed before.

Though, there are many websites that sell Cameroon-bound airtime using credit card, debit card or PayPal. These payment methods are not available for average working Cameroonians, thus the services are mostly designed for and used by the Diaspora to top up telephones of friends and families back home. By eliminating the need for PayPal or credit cards, we are answering to the needs of thousands of clients and at the same, introducing a new concept to the market.

Who are your targets?

Our target customers are internet users who have prepaid mobile telephone subscriptions.

Tell us about the team working on TopUpDesk?

Currently we are a trio working on TopUpDesk, myself in addition to; Zen Willeme is a web developer who joined us recently. He is very talented, highly recommended and has worked on many projects including the new interface of VC4Africa. Otto Paul is a multi-talented web developer versed with social media marketing, business operations and logistics. He moved from a web development business to join us and make TopUpDesk a success.

What’s it like, starting a business in Cameroon?

Simply put, it is very challenging. Though this is my second venture in Cameroon, the challenges remain the same. However, I’m grateful for my past experiences, they provided the basis for us to avoid some of the obvious mistakes associated with start-ups.

What are some of the obstacles you came across when setting up this venture?

From the early days, my main challenge was the product development. Then, I had no skill in web design or development, and without the cash to pay for an in-house person, I could not easily translate my ideas to a working model.

Thanks Otto. We look forward to following your progress. See the venture profile for more information and feel free to contact the team if interested in their work.

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