Focus on Innovations and Disruptions | Disruptive Telecoms
Reloadly is a telecom startup based in Barcelona, Spain – that lets users top-up mobile phone plans. It was born out of a need for immigrants to ensure relatives back home had phone service on their unblocked, prepaid phones.
And while most Americans opt for post-paid plans, prepaid phone plans are also an excellent option for students, travelers, and customers with low credit scores, like young adults still establishing themselves. The Reloadly app, allows parents to top up their children’s prepaid airtime, data, and even digital goods with almost every mobile operator across over 140 countries.
Being an immigrant himself, Michel Francis, CEO and co-founder of Reloadly speaks with Zia Askari about the need for starting Reloadly App and how it is bringing innovative experience for telecom operators.
Please introduce Reloadly to us?
Emmanuel Piard and I both grew up in Miami, Florida but are originally from Haiti, where 99% of mobile subscribers have prepaid phones with archaic, brick-and-mortar systems to recharge phone credit. So we decided to create a way to make the user experience as easy as possible. As you probably know, telecom companies are notoriously difficult to build for.
We enable 6 billion mobile users around the world to stay connected on our APIs. Our mission is to fuel the future of connectivity and digital mobile payments across all emerging regions. We do this by connecting telcos with millions of developers in order to send prepaid mobile credits across a multitude of digital platforms.
What’s the story behind starting this app?
Frustrated by how complicated and laborious it was to send mobile airtime to loved ones back in Haiti, Emmanuel and I created Reloadly as an opportunity to build a developer-friendly platform that applies API technology to an antiquated system of mobile operators to boost cellular connectivity worldwide.
How difficult is it to be an immigrant – to create something out of scratch?
I do think it has its challenges, but specifically with Reloadly, it allowed us to spot a real need that wasn’t being addressed by companies without our background. For us it has been a real asset.
What are your big learnings so far? And what’s one message that you want to give to the immigrant community looking to innovate in the telecom segment?
I really think the immigrant community knows what the mobile market looks like. Many of them have worked exclusively on a mobile device for all of their daily needs, whereas in the west you tend to sit down at a computer. That means that immigrants inherently know what experience should look like for any mobile applications.
What is your go to market strategy and how do you look at partnering with telecom operators for your products?
Our market strategy is to be the go-to app for consumers. That, of course, means partnerships with the larger telecom industry. Most of our partnerships to date have come from word of mouth. Telecom companies are often the first to initiate contact. What we look for is a trusted partner that will help us do well by our customers.
Operators always look for innovative ways to engage with their customers. How can Reloadly enable innovation for the telecoms community?
Though many markets have been revolutionized by this new approach to technological integration, the $1.4 trillion-a-year mobile communications market remains behind this forward-thinking movement. Indeed, mobile operators have so far been slow to open their APIs to developers and deploy digital products, with many still operating on legacy BSS infrastructure. This has led to a divide in this field between mobile network operators and potential innovators.
This particular climate means that Reloadly’s API toolkit both democratizes the mobile operator field for developers, and opens a pioneering sales channel for mobile network operators that will boost average revenue per user for those companies. Against the backdrop of monolithic tech infrastructures giving way to multiple, shared alternatives, the new Reloadly mobile operator API platform strips away the heavy lifting and complicated set-up for developers to make the integration of technologies more straightforward than ever before.
We’re working on a few things to help our partners engage with their partners. When you think of mobile, an obvious starting point is the SMS system that is already baked into every device, but there are so many other ways that we’d really like to explore. The main point for us would be that it adds value to our customers’ experience. That’s our priority
What are your key geographies of operation today and what are your plans for the near future?
We are a global company and we have HQs in the USA, Canada, Spain, and France and operate all around the world. Our goal is to improve connectivity, especially in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most people in the west forget that the vast majority of people on the planet do almost all of their business on a phone, rather than a computer. Servicing these countries through new partnerships will remain a top priority. But there is also a large immigrant community in the west that still continues to do business in this way. We also want to be able to service those communities as well.
What kind of product innovations can we expect from your organization in the near future?
The GIFT CARDS Product. Fast, flexible and easy to manage. We enable gift card transfers that arrive to recipients’ mobile phones within 5 seconds, no matter where they are located. Users can easily manage their wallet balances using over 100 currencies through one convenient dashboard that integrates with payment services like Stripe or PayPal. And it provides the advantage of sending automatic bulk gift card orders to put incentives and rewards programs on auto-pilot.