Rwazi is a market intelligence platform that provides companies with actionable data from developing markets on who is buying what, for how much, from where, when, and why, to help them drive revenue and expand. They utilize a network of qualified mappers spread across urban 40+ countries in Africa and South Asia, to collect data from their localities. In this feature with Joseph Rutakangwa, he shares their founding journey, how they access and use these mappers, and the company's future. Read on
As a creator, I've often found myself on a relentless quest for data, searching for elusive content insights and user metrics. In this age of information, the paradox of being data-starved is all too real. Data banks are often backed by fragmented information, and extracting real-time, relevant data often feels impossible.
Rwazi is changing the narrative by giving people like me, who are hungry for data, access to real-time, spot-on information. This startup is reshaping the future for emerging markets and, quite frankly, for data-starved creators like myself.
Explore the story of Rwazi, a platform that promises to liberate us from data scarcity and propel us into a future of informed decision-making.
Joseph Rutakangwa and co-founder Eric Sewankambo crossed paths during their college years in Mauritius. Joseph's background includes post-graduate studies in Pennsylvania, followed by consulting for multinational companies seeking to expand into emerging markets.
The pivotal issue Joseph repeatedly encountered was the scarcity of consumer data in these markets. This lack of information hindered companies' ability to make informed decisions about where to expand, which products to promote, and who their consumers were.
The challenge was amplified by the fact that 98% of African consumers transacted in cash, leaving no digital trail. Traditional data sources like government ministries and market research firms often provided outdated or inadequate information. Their models failed to capture the diverse and rapidly changing consumer behaviour.
After eight years of grappling with this data issue, Joseph and Eric decided to take action. They founded Rwazi, a groundbreaking market intelligence platform. This platform empowers international companies with access to crucial consumer demand data from emerging markets.
Rwazi's approach is innovative and effective. They've created a vast network of local consumers across Latin America, Africa, and South Asia who use mobile apps to log their purchases and consumption. In return, they're compensated for their data. Companies subscribing to Rwazi gain access to dashboards filled with invaluable insights into consumer behaviour, enabling them to make data-driven decisions.
The impact has been remarkable. Companies have experienced substantial revenue growth within the cities Rwazi tracks, sometimes achieving an astonishing 85% increase in new sales within three to six months. This data-driven approach helps companies identify sales channels, deliver hyperlocal pricing and messaging, and optimize product packaging to match diverse consumer preferences.
Joseph, your approach to using a network of qualified mappers across multiple countries is unique. How did you invent this idea?
We were actually the customers ourselves, looking for data and facing issues of inaccurate data and high costs. So, we started experimenting to find a model that works. Africa is quite fragmented, with multiple languages and border restrictions, so the challenge was finding the right approach.
First, we tried using sales teams to collect data, but it wasn't scalable or cost-effective. Then we tried working with retailers, but auditing their data was a problem. Finally, we realized we should get data directly from consumers, just like Facebook does with ads.
However, we needed to provide incentives for consumers, and we found that cash was the most appealing incentive. We built a proprietary model to optimize this approach. The challenge then shifted to how to pay consumers across different African countries efficiently. Luckily, by 2021, we had the infrastructure in place to scale and expand our network to over 100,000 people across the continent.
Can you emphasize how you ensure the accuracy and liability of the data that you collect from all these countries and regions?
Absolutely. We take verification very seriously. In fact, we have some of the most verified data in the market. This is why we have large, Fortune 500 companies as our customers. When we developed our product, verification was a top priority.
We use various methods for verification, but the primary ones are geo-related. We track every data point with extreme precision. When users capture data, we record their location down to a fraction of a second. This ensures that users capture data as part of their routine when making purchases at retail outlets.
Our data logs also come with images, taken in real-time through the app, with timestamps and geo-tags. To prevent cheating, we have robust VPN and IP blockers in place. We've even added face ID and identity verification.
We verify users' IDs, ages, education, and demographics. If a user claims to have a bachelor's degree from a specific university, they must provide proof by uploading their certificate, which is then verified using image-to-text recognition. We've also added language localization, supporting 147 different languages. This ensures there are no language barriers hindering user engagement.
All this is made possible through AI, which we use to create new addresses for different locations using satellite imagery and user-taken images to reconcile location verification. Our AI infrastructure works in the background to ensure users have a smooth experience while maintaining data accuracy at an impressive speed.
Our verification process involves multiple layers of checks and only verified data reaches our customers' dashboards. Users are paid only after their data has been thoroughly tested and verified.
I also want to ask about security because data privacy is a significant concern, especially when dealing with sensitive market information. Can you tell me more about the measures you have in place to address these concerns?
We have a large engineering team dedicated to security. We primarily use AWS and have dedicated resources for tightening security, including identity and personally identifiable data like names and birthdates. We also take data security seriously, whether it's consumer data or market data. While the latter may seem readily available, once we capture it, it becomes our responsibility to secure it. We've invested heavily in security to ensure the utmost protection for all data, be it our customers', consumers', or market data.
I would like to know if Rwazi is compliant with any of the data regulations across African countries i.e. NGPR from Nigeria? or if you have any data protection standards in place like IS0 2700. Can you please provide more details on how Rwazi meets up with these standards or hopes to acquire them in the future?
Rwazi fully supports the recent increase in data protection regulations across Africa and is committed to doing its part in protecting the rights of African citizens and residents alike by maintaining compliance. We subscribe to the best practices outlined in ISO 27000 and are preparing to obtain official certification.
Joseph shared an upcoming AI interactive feature that will revolutionize how customers interact with their data. This feature will enable customers to have meaningful conversations about their dashboard data, receive insightful recommendations, and make informed business decisions.
Right now, we have AI insights, and we'll be adding an AI interactive feature. It will allow customers to have a conversation about the data in their dashboard and discover the most impactful moves they can make.
Rwazi's goal is to reach one million consumers by the next year, expanding their reach across various countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. Joseph hinted at adding more utility value functions to the consumer app, promising an exciting announcement in the near future.
He also unveiled the launch of a new trade platform. This platform will connect businesses of all sizes, catering to their specific needs and budgets. It's designed to be a streamlined and efficient way for businesses to access the data and insights Rwazi provides.
These developments reflect Rwazi's commitment to enhancing its services and making data-driven decision-making accessible to businesses of all sizes.
This article was updated with new information on the 4th September, 2023.