Uzoma Dozie, one of Nigeria’s leaders in the financial sector and the last Group Managing Director of Diamond Bank, Nigeria, recently announced that he is launching a new financial technology community and ecosystem, Sparkle; a mobile-first platform focused on the country’s retail sector.
Sparkle will tackle how retailers can achieve their daily objectives and scale their businesses, providing a suite of innovative lifestyle services, in addition to typical current and savings accounts that exist in the market. In particular, Sparkle will deliver customer experience-led support services, ranging from inventory management and invoicing statements to foreign exchange services and a POS-via-mobile function.
Powered by AI and Machine Learning, Sparkle is building a dynamic community around Nigeria’s retailers and consumers, influencing purchasing decisions based on user-generated behavioral purchase data. This will actively support retailers in navigating a better route to market by directing the right consumers their way. In a bid to drive wider financial inclusion and regulatory reform in the market, the team is also building a digital framework for retailers to register their companies, register for tax and register domains, as it looks to plug the gap in terms of business advisory and regulatory services for retail SMEs in the country.
Uzoma Dozie, Founder and CEO, Sparkle says “Retailers and consumers in Nigeria are currently disconnected; Sparkle is building the solution around its understanding of the challenges of small businesses, which will help reduce the operational risks small businesses are exposed to in their infancy. Sparkle is a product, a community, born out of necessity for Nigeria’s retail landscape. We will connect millions of retailers on a digital platform, providing a service they can trust, that is seamless, and that allows for frictionless transactions across all activities and business services”.
“Having spent more than 20 years building out the retail arm of Diamond Bank, it is clear that there is a significant gap in the market to incubate and roll out a new approach to services for retailers, and at scale; they need a financial & business services partner, not another finance platform. This is where we stand out from all others. Sparkle is a collaboration between retailer and customer – a support system that will ensure far greater financial inclusion and much improved access to market, built for many, built to scale”.
Set to launch in 2019, Sparkle will release plug-in APIs for the platform, to enhance convenience & service, whereby outside developers can contribute & build solutions. The company has also entered into partnerships with Visa, Network International, as well as PricewaterHouseCoopers. They will also be working with Microsoft.
Retailers contribute 33% to total GDP and 45% of total employment in Nigeria and are a critical part of powering the Nigerian economy, however services available to small businesses have not been best suited. Sparkle has identified lack of funding, poor access to market/network and lack of business training as the primary challenges for the sector, which is why the new platform will also provide access to mentorship and development.
Keen to pioneer diversity and financial inclusion, the Sparkle team has also identified women as a key demographic to collaborate with, as they play a key role in the new economy, with high adoption of tech to leverage on the flexibility of driving new businesses. Women are also essential in staying in touch and connecting with their millennial families.
During his tenure at Diamond Bank, Uzoma was responsible for ensuring technological innovation was central to the institution’s growth strategy. From 2014-2018, Diamond Bank’s mobile app adoption rates grew from 206,000 to 3.3M, and he simultaneously focused on aggressively growing the bank’s retail arm to include 18M MSME customers.
He concludes, “Technology adoption is the only way retail can scale in Nigeria. We are in a new, digital economy. Retailers, individuals and businesses need the space and bandwidth to be creative and to build their business; we are building Sparkle as a wrap around for what they are already doing and we are levelling the playing field for all Nigerians, democratizing access and helping SMEs create their own luck. Sparkle is for the many, not for the few and as we continue to build out the platform”.