Recently, Nigeria’s digital finances services company, Carbon, launched its iOS app. This made it the first digital lender in Africa to be able to initiate and complete an entire loan cycle on iOS.
Formerly known as Paylater, the startup pioneered instant lending services via mobile apps to its users, allowing them request and get quick loans within minutes.
But since inception, it had only provided loans for Android users in Nigeria and its other markets.
This according to the startup, was because of the large market share in those markets that Android has. In Nigeria, about 81% of smartphone users use an Android device. This number is as high as 86.8% in Ghana and about 84% in Kenya.
As such, it is no surprise that Carbon, just like every other loan app in Africa, chose to distribute its products by building its app for Android and taking advantage of the growing smartphone penetration in Africa.
And so far, the startup has had an amazing run, amassing over 2.1 million users and disbursed over $120 million as instant loans in the process.
However, since 2019, the startup has been expanding its digital financial services to include payments, digital wallet and investments. This drive saw it change its name from Paylater to Carbon.
As a result of this, there was need provide an app for iOS users to access these services.
“As our product scaled and we diversified our product into payments, investments and our digital wallet – we started to see a lot more demand from existing and prospective customers for an iOS app. In 2020, a key focus of ours (see ‘what’s next’ section here) is rolling out Carbon across all platforms and in multiple countries “
Why no iOS app from inception?
But you may have thought, why didn’t Carbon just build for both iOS and android since inception?
Beyond market size, African payday lenders find it difficult to build for iOS because of the way Apple handles its user’s privacy and permissions that apps can access.
Unlike Google that gives lenders these broad and sometimes erratic permissions to access some user data, Apple doesn’t. And these permissions/data are vital to how the payday lenders make their loan decisions.
How did Carbon pull it off?
If it was ever going to launch on iOS Carbon had to improvise and go about its credit rating and methods of loan recovery differently. Henry Uku, the Growth Lead at Carbon said that the startup had to build an algorithm that accesses risk a lot more efficiently, without being privy to user’s data on their devices.
With our learnings over the last 4 years, we’ve built out one of the most sophisticated lending algorithms on the continent that allows us to be platform-agnostic and assess risk a lot more efficiently.Henry Uku, Growth Lead at Carbon
This algorithm will also be what backs the startup’s services on feature phone users via USSD when it rolls out in the next few days.
For now the new iOS can only be downloaded from Apple Store in Nigeria. This is as the platform is getting users feedback on the new app to further improve it before rolling out to its other markets in the coming months.