Turns out there’s good money to be made cutting through the complex packages and tariff plans of South Africa’s mobile operators.
Start-up Phonefinder, which TechCentral profiled when it launched a year ago, now has as many as 5 000 different plans available on its website, and thousands of people are visiting the site each day to compare options.
Co-founder Lance Krom got the idea for the website when he arrived back in South Africa after a five-year stint in the UK and found it hard to find the right mobile deal.
Phonefinder is self-funded by its four co-founders — Krom, Danny Aaron, Devin Karpes and Tom Goldgamer — and was launched in November last year after an 8 month planning and development phase.
The website allows consumers to search for a cellular package across operators, phone manufacturers and price ranges. There are search filters for voice and data deals. Customers can even “build a package” by compiling a wishlist of features that is then sent through to the operators who will then try to match that deal.
Krom says working directly with the operators is important to ensuring Phonefinder gets information on the latest deals on the website. The start-up does not just list the packages but also signs an agreement with the operators to ensure all leads are tracked. It has deals with Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, and recently secured a contract with Telkom, too.
Key to the business model is getting the latest deals from the operators and updating the site as often as new deals are available.
This is not always easy, says Krom, as there are many weekend deals that only last for a day or two. “On occasion we miss those, but we do keep the site as updated as much as possible.”
Monetising the company was always going to be about lead generation for the operators, says Krom. “It’s about creating a demand for a particular product and then passing it on to the service provider who will then sell the product.”
However, advertising has also become an important income stream.
Starting next year, Phonefinder will begin selling airtime, too, and is working with Blue Label Telecoms to do this. Blue Label is South Africa’s largest distributor of prepaid airtime.
Another project that Phonefinder is working on is buying old phones, refurbishing them and selling them through the website as a package deal, or selling them into other markets. — © 2014 NewsCentral Media