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FIP 79: Lessons from a data driven social enterprise with Mina Shahid

This is our first in an episode series on data and social enterprises. Today’s guest is Mina Shahid of Numida who shares his thoughts on how to effectively incorporate data into social enterprises.

On this episode you’ll learn:

  • How Mina and Numida started to incorporate customer-provided data to both develop digital tools that their customers themselves can use to improve their financial literacy and serve as the information backbone for Numida’s credit decision making.
  • In terms of steps in building a data driven enterprise, Mina highlights:
    • First, figuring out what type and quality of data an enterprise needs to make its business model work (which may be a trial and error process).
    • Second, the importance of focusing on what channels you are going to use to get that information. Mina notes access can be a huge challenge, as a company may need to create new data sets in order to be successful.
    • Third, the need of having a strong product development team and being very rigorous in the design process. He imports that a lot of app or technology features that Westerns think are intuitive are not actually “easy to use” for first time smart phone users. From that perspective, Numida feels like it is really at the forefront of creating the market for digital tools for African small business users.
  • Building on the last point, Mina also talks about all the information that Numida tracks for its enterprise customers and how to make those reports easy to understand and actionable for its clients. In terms of developing and improving “usability”, every action in the application is tracked – meaning that Numida can see how many steps or how much time it takes for its users to use different features. For example, they shaved off a minute of time from their process to register their new transaction flow. Mina underscores that this laser focus on app “usability” can be key to getting and maintaining customers in a digital-first business.
  • Mina highlights how being a data driven company has in the end helped conserve precious resources by allowing the company to focus on what is most important for its business. This includes quantifying the impact of its products on its customers, further supporting the value proposition of Numida.
  • Mina also touches on privacy – noting that a lot of people in the developing world are not really focused on privacy – and that Numida does not use data mining practices that it finds unethical. They are very upfront with their clients on the type of information they are using and why they are asking for it.
  • He notes that while Numida still has some manual tasks, making it clear that not everything has to be entirely digitalized from day one to be efficient and scalable.
  • Finally, Mina’s advice to other social entrepreneurs that want to leverage data in their business model is to just do it and take the opportunity to be data driven if it is there. He highlights the importance of really thinking about how you want to use data to make decisions in the future and to make that a cultural element in the company from day one.

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