Since 2023, Safaricom has used Maplewave’s Point of Sale solution to modernize their IT operations, improve the efficiency of their transactions and administration, and enhance their customer experience.
Safaricom is the largest telecommunications provider in Kenya with 35.6 million subscribers and is one of the most profitable companies in East/Central Africa. They’re known for developing M-PESA, an SMS-based mobile banking service that allows people without banking services to send and receive money, top-up airtime, make bill payments, etc. M-PESA is used by 51 million people across 7 countries in Africa.
Safaricom’s existing Point of Sale was causing many IT challenges. Their existing solution was difficult to maintain, which made it challenging to adapt to new requirements as business processes evolved. Because their POS was tightly coupled with their CRM & ERP, replacing it was a significant challenge. To make matters worse, the POS had permission issues that made it incompatible with newer operating systems, which meant retail stores were tied to using very old Windows 7 computers. Due to their age, these machines were no longer supported by Microsoft.
Safaricom wanted a modern solution that could work on both desktop and mobile to give them the maximum amount of flexibility. They needed a POS that was more efficient, cloud-based, and compliant with TM Forum standards to support their future growth, including franchising and omnichannel strategies.
As part of the project, Safaricom wanted their new POS to be able to address several other pain points. Long lineups are the norm in Kenya, and it was not uncommon to see queues extend out of the store and around the block. Safaricom needed a solution that could deliver fast transaction times to improve their customer experience.
On the efficiency front, Safaricom wanted the solution to be able to perform bulk top-ups and bulk bill payments for their corporate customers. This would allow them to process thousands of actions (top ups or bill payments), with differing amounts, within one single transaction.
Their existing end of day procedures were also inefficient, taking well over an hour to complete. This process was not effective either, as there were often variances in the amount of cash collected.
Despite developing M-PESA, Safaricom also did not have the ability to reverse an M-PESA payment from within the POS. They wanted this feature to provide a robust functionality to their customers.
Another annoyance with their existing POS was how long it would take to set up a new branch. This process could take days to complete.
One unique requirement was that the solution had to integrate with three different PIN Pads at each terminal. Typically, a POS will integrate to only one PIN Pad. We had to make changes in our code to be able to accommodate this unique set up.
There were changes to the project scope, which is not unexpected with a project of this size. Originally, the solution was intended to be deployed to virtual machines, but that plan changed. It was also originally meant to be hosted in a private cloud but hosting was moved to Amazon AWS due to better support options. Our agile approach allowed us to accommodate these changes.
Maplewave deployed our Transact Point of Sale and Business Intelligence reporting solution to 52 Safaricom locations.
Safaricom’s existing POS, CRM and ERP were supplied by the same provider and were tightly coupled together. To implement our POS, we had to undertake a lot of technical work on the middleware to decouple these systems so that the new POS could be installed without impacting their other existing systems.
Open APIs that align with TM Forum standards were used so this work could be extended to other channels as part of an omnichannel experience, and not just be limited to the retail channel alone. We also employed modern architecture strategies, like deploying Kubernetes as a container management solution. Our solution is built using microservices. This building block approach makes it simple to make modifications in the future without rewriting the whole solution if business needs change.
Our POS is the first large-scale enterprise solution to be successfully hosted on the cloud for Safaricom. The initial requirement was to run Kubernetes clusters on Safaricom’s servers in Nairobi. After some support challenges, these clusters were moved to Amazon AWS hosting to ensure access to best practices and continuous improvement.
With our bulk actions functionality built into the front-end, store staff can apply bulk top-ups and bulk bill payments to thousands of corporate accounts in one step. They simply import a tab delimited Excel file with the appropriate phone numbers and amounts, and these are instantly applied.
End of day procedures are built into the POS, including cash pickup reminders, as well as cashier and drawer balancing reports to eliminate variances.
Our solution also expanded the M-PESA functionality that was available at the POS. If a customer pays for something using M-PESA, the POS triggers a push notification the customer’s phone to prompt the payment. If an error occurred, it was now possible to reverse the transaction within the POS. The cashier can now see a list of all transactions and initiate the reversal with one click.
Our built-in branch setup functionality made it possible to set up new stores in minutes instead of days.
In future phases, we will also deploy our Paperless Transactions solution to give Safaricom digital contract signing capabilities.
With our new POS installed, Safaricom was finally able to replace their unsupported workstations and upgrade to a modern operating system. Our POS works on both desktop and mobile, so tablet transactions are also now possible.
• Our POS has given Safaricom a solution that more closely matches their business processes and has increased the efficiency of many actions:
• The time to complete SIM swaps and bundle purchases fell by over 20%, reducing lineups and delighting customers!
• Their stock turnover rate fell to below 60 days, a massive improvement which positively impacted the balance sheet.
• New shops, dealers and franchisees are easily onboarded in minutes vs days and can be centrally managed.
• The time required to complete end of day procedures has been cut in half. There are also no more variances in the amount of cash collected.
• Our bulk actions functionality made it possible to apply payments to 5000 serials in one minute, which would previously take 30+ hours. This saved thousands of man hours a year alone.
• Our integrated M-PESA reversals process also eliminated this administrative burden, again improving the amount of admin hours needed.
• Our solution has improved Safaricom’s customer experience by offering dynamic promotions, real-time price synchronization, and a 360-degree customer view. Sales have increased as a result of the new capability.
The biggest benefit to Safaricom was that the new POS system is designed for telco, so it’s less costly and easier to maintain. Our “out of the box” solutions meet their requirements without needing costly and time-consuming change requests. The cloud-ready solution also aligns with their long-term strategy.
Store staff have embraced Maplewave’s solutions, citing its ease of adoption. Two days post-implementation, many staff told us that they felt like they’d been using the system for years. The initial feedback has been extremely positive, especially around the ease of reconciliation.
George Mungah Ruirie, Safaricom’s product manager for project, sees the benefits of working with a single integrated platform, saying “In the previous system, we had quite a number of systems to interact with. We had ERP, CRM, the POS itself, and the POS had another 4 systems within it. So, we are happy to work with one system”.
Maplewave’s Point of Sale solution has resolved Safaricom’s IT challenges, brought a new level of efficiency to store operations, and improved their customer experience. Our futureproofed solution will easily adapt to new business requirements and support Safaricom in their growth ambitions.