KAMPALA —When Uganda was put into a total lockdown in March 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19, my stylist’s hair salon came to a grand halt.
She was forced to close business six months later because she could not afford to pay the rent arrears demanded by her landlord despite the fact that the salon was not operating for that entire period.
But my hair stylist’s predicament would soon become a blessing in disguise as I came up with a digital solution that would save her and many more. Belle Beauty Uganda is the first digital platform that connects beauty service providers to clients.
According to Alice Sharon Namugerwa, Belle Beauty’s founder and team lead, this platform acts like a middle-man that connects clients to service providers in the beauty industry.
“We realized that if you do hair styling, nails, make-up and are sure of what you do, you just need a platform that connects you to customers, just like Uber connects drivers and passengers,” she says.
“When I talked to Namale (my hair stylist), I realized that she was not alone. There are many people like her who are single mothers trying to fend for their children but their businesses were affected by Covid-19.
How were they surviving? So, I wanted to come up with a solution that could give women in the informal sector a place where they could work.”
She adds that this application is therefore, women-centric, with the view that women are actually the backbone of the economy without noticing that they are.
To get services, one just needs to download the application or visit the Belle Beauty website and make orders.
On the side of service providers, Namugerwa notes that they first conduct due diligence on all applicants before onboarding them.
“They are required to provide certain documents and they sign contracts and we train them. We do not set prices for service providers….we just provide a rating system,” she says.
HOW IT WORKS
After downloading the application, the customer can make an order and the app will show the service providers that are in close proximity. The client makes a choice and pays using mobile money.
“The order always has specifics of what the client wants and where they want it to be done. If the customer wants the service urgently and the selected provider cannot meet the timelines, we are able to go in the system and reallocate the deal to another available provider. The client has to get the service at the time they want,” Namugerwa says.
After a service is completed, then the service provider is paid electronically by Belle Beauty in less than 24 hours.
Namugerwa adds that they are now planning on creating a beauty hub where all service providers who do not have physical salons/workstations can converge and work.
“We will give them a chance where you don’t have to have a saloon. You just come with your client, as long as they have booked through Belle Beauty and work on them from there. This will eliminate the extra cost of running a business on their part as women,” she says.
They also plan on helping women come up with saving schemes and investment plans.
Namugerwa appreciates the chance offered by the 40 days 40 FinTechs initiative to showcase tech startups because such opportunities offer visibility and exposure.
“If you are a startup, everything costs money. So, we appreciate HiPipo for giving us a chance to showcase our product for free… It also highlights the ecosystem of the FinTech space. You get to learn from other FinTechs and E-Commerce players and what they are offering,” she says.
Belle Beauty is the 8th participant in the 2022 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative.
Now in its third edition, #40Days40FinTechs has quickly grown into one of the world’s premier showcase events for the innovations that are enabling ever more people to join the digital economy space. That is surely going to remain the case, in large part due to the inspiration and collaboration that our partners Level One Project, Mojaloop, ModusBox, and Crosslake Technologies generate, but mostly because of the continuing generous support of the Gates Foundation.
Digital Innovators and FinTechs around East Africa should be more eager to embrace 40 Days 40 FinTechs as Season three covers physical destinations in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
Run under HiPipo’s Include Everyone program that also encompasses other initiatives such as FinTech Landscape Exhibition, Women in FinTech Hackathon, Summit & Incubator and the Digital and Financial Inclusion Summit and Digital Impact Awards Africa; the #40Days40FinTechs platform aptly provides a setting for the various players and stakeholders involved in digital and financial technology to exhibit their products & Services and also share their ideas on how more of us, especially those unserved and underserved by the present financial systems, can be brought into the fold.
The 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative offers participants useful tools and an introduction to the industry’s emerging technologies, such as Mojaloop Open Source Software, and guidance from Level One Project foundational material.
The skills gained from this initiative cover Level One Project Principles, Instant and Inclusive Payment Systems (IIPS), Inclusive Finance and FinTech in general.
According to HiPipo CEO Innocent Kawooya, this year’s edition will cement achievements of the previous editions – where over 60 FinTechs have been transformed – but also build on them to leverage digital financial inclusion in East Africa and beyond.
“As HiPipo, our extensive effort and advocacy is partly for the intention of championing digital innovation and interoperable instant and inclusive payment systems (IIPS) in Africa to a point where our innovators enjoy and achieve sound profit margins to help them keep designing and deploying affordable and inclusive financial services for the poor,” Kawooya said.