SA’s Nomanini boosting entrepreneurs and rural connectivity through Google App Engine

South African startup Nomanini is doing its part to encourage entrepreneurship and rural connectivity in the country by using Google’s App Engine as a backend system for its “Lula” (isiZulu for “easy”) portable mobile services voucher sales terminal.

Nomanini, based in Cape Town, built the Lula mobile terminal device to enable local entrepreneurs to sell prepaid mobile services vouchers. The Lula generates and prints codes which customers can use for a variety of services, like prepaid electricity and prepaid mobile airtime.

In November 2012 alone Nomanini sold airtime to 40,000 people through the Lula, while the team are targeting an increase to one million per month in 2013.

Vahid Monadjem, co-founder of Nomanini, said they wanted to make mobile services widely available in rural areas and encourage enterpreneurship through the low-cost mobile sales terminal, but now needed to scale further.

“We’re a uniquely born and bred African solution, and we have great potential to take this to the rest of Africa and wider emerging markets. We could not easily scale this fast without running on Google App Engine.”

Google App Engine’s Zafir Khan said: “In rural areas, it’s common to use prepaid vouchers to pay for basic services such as electricity, insurance and airtime for mobile phones. But it’s often difficult to distribute physical vouchers because of the risk of theft and fraud.”

“Today, Vuyile (one of the local entrepreneurs) sells vouchers on the train for cash payment, and earns a commission weekly. Since he started using the Lula, he’s seen his monthly income increase by 20 percent.”

Khan explained “In order to build a scalable and reliable backend system to keep the Lula running, Nomanini chose to run on Google App Engine. Their development team doesn’t have to spend time setting up their own servers and can instead run on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s own applications.

“They can focus on building their backend systems and easily deploy code to Google’s data centers. When Vuyile makes a sale, he presses a few buttons, App Engine processes the request, and the voucher prints in seconds.”

Khan further explained why this is a unique innovation and use of the Google App Engine. “While platforms like App Engine are typically used to build web or smartphone apps, entrepreneurs like Vahid and Ali are finding innovative ways to leverage this technology by building their own devices and connecting them to App Engine.”

Posted in: Startups

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