South African "Karri" App For School Payments Is Set To Expand Its Successful Collections Offering

The Karri app, launched in April last year, has grown to just under 300 South African schools driven by parent and teacher demand for a solution to school payments. Due to the success of this collections platform, Karri has expanded its offering to include collections for just about any purpose or organisation that wants to collect from its members.

 Doug Hoernle, the founder of Karri

Doug Hoernle, the founder of Karri

Heavy Chef CEO, Fred Roed caught up with Doug Hoernle, the founder of Karri, and inquire more about the success of Karri app.

Is there a plan for international expansion? - when?

Most certainly, Karri is already accepting payments in Australia, and is soon to launch in the US, Canada and UK. Karri is also working with Nedbank to extend its product into the rest of Africa.

Where was the idea originated?

I was working in the schools space prior to founding Karri, and noticed how much of a pain collecting payments from parents can be for a teacher and bursar. Due to this, I wanted to build a solution that solved this problem. I searched for a similar product in other markets, but could not come across an app-based solution that solved the collections problem. After discovering there was no built-for-purpose solution internationally, I spent some time finding a banking partner who wanted to build their brand in the schools space, and help us facilitate payments through our app. All SA banks expressed interest, but we chose to partner with Nedbank, as they are really trying to make a difference to the education space and provide interesting solutions to SA schools.

What was the biggest struggle to growth in the beginning?

The FinTech space is highly regulated, so closing a reputable banking partner was definitely a key requirement to launch the solution. After finding the correct partner, our team put an enormous amount of effort into sales, so we could get the platform into every SA school. Sales remains a key focus and driver for our business.

At what point did you see an inflection point? - What was the reason for that inflection point?

We scaled quickly in 2017, but our original Karri platform could not handle the growth of users. We made a strategic decision to bring on some highly experienced engineers in August 2017 to rebuild the platform, with a focus on internationalisation and scale. After launching the new system in March 2018, every metric on our platform has been rocketing, including user growth, schools penetration and transaction volume. This has been due to our relentless energy in the sales space, being backed up by a scalable and robust technical platform and team.

Doug goes on to explain why he developed this home-grown solution: “After working in the schools space for the past few years, I noticed what an incredible nightmare it is for a school to collect funds from parents. Schools send countless e-mails, SMSes and other communication to parents to remind them to pay for various collections. Parents often don’t carry the right change and forget about the collection. I decided to build a solution to solve this problem so that teachers focus on teaching instead of being the class debt collector. Karri has been extraordinarily successful over the past year, removing millions of rands in cash from school campuses across South Africa to make schools a safer place for students, teachers and parents. We are looking forward to providing the same service to many other community organisations as the app continues to grow.”

Karri is powered by Nedbank, but users can use any bank for payments. “We are an accredited payments provider,” explains Hoernle, “and we wanted to meet bank level regulation and compliance requirements to increase our credibility and ensure secure use of the app. In addition, users can load their credit cards and benefit from their bank’s reward programmes when paying. Karri also has a useful mobile wallet functionality that we see our parents use as a budgeting tool to make sure there are funds available to pay their school.”

Thomas Muller, Head of Nedbank Business banking innovation comments, “Karri solves a real customer pain point, unlocking customer value and providing us with a mechanism to engage with customers across the banking industry. Karri is a safe and effective solution, enabling meaningful payments and collections for schools and communities.”

Hoernle explains, “Karri has provided a phenomenal solution to any school collecting funds for school outings, tours, civvies days and school fees. Instead of parents sending envelopes full of cash to their school, they can make a quick, safe and convenient payment direct from their mobile phone.”

“The obvious next step was to expand the use of Karri to churches, camps, extra mural activities, sports clubs, universities, rate payers associations, support groups and even fundraising campaigns. Karri can be used in just about any situation when funds need to be collected from a community. We have seen repeatedly that more people pay faster because Karri makes it so much easier for them. Because Karri sends a message to members about collection requests, and reminds members to pay when they forget, we have found our schools and organisations collect far more from their parents and members with Karri than they did previously.”

Karri is a gold member of AlphaCode, a club for fintech entrepreneurs powered by Rand Merchant Investment Holdings. Dominique Collett, head of AlphaCode, says, “This is a good example of a fintech working with a financial institution to the advantage of the institution, the startup and all the users of the app. Clearly, based on its growth, Karri has paid very careful attention to the needs of its users.”

Schools that use Karri include Grey College, Westerford High, The Grove Primary, Rhenish High and Primary, St Johns College, Jeppe Boys High, Bishop Bavin, Our Lady of Fatima, Paarl Girls High and many other private and public schools across South Africa. Other organisations that have started to use the app include scouts groups, churches and Karri is about to welcome its first university onto the Karri app.

Hoernle concludes: “We have set up for scale and are ready for further growth.”

To find out more about the app, visit here.