With the tech revolution that hit Ghana in the early 2000s came the resurrection of the 18th Century batter trade.
By the mid 2000s the craze for technological gadgets like mobile phones, MP3 players, Nintendo Game Boys and, later laptop computers, had beseeched Ghana, taking a long with it the vast majority of Ghana's youthful population.
Looking back, that was, perhaps, the beginning of Ghana's wildfire-mobile penetration, and the educated class' taste for trendy technology which, however came at such expensive cost. Mobile phones for example, were at least trice as expensive as they are today, but Ghanaians bought them. And yet again, there was another problem- keeping up with the trends.
The models, types, and specifications of these gadgets were ever so fluid. By the time you saved enough money to buy a Nokia 1100, which in itself was a sleeker improvement on Nokia's popular 3310, there was another model out.
I can vividly remember the whole transition from monophonic tones to polyphonic tones. That must have caused a lot of headache for parents, youngsters and tech lovers generally. You dared not allow anyone hear your monophonic tone ring. It was social suicide!
The rest of the historical accounts of Ghana's tech user culture is a story for another day.
It, however, became obvious that people could not keep paying cash to replace a perfectly functioning phone with a trendier one. But that satisfaction of being in tune with the times could not be sacrificed either. So certainly, there must be a solution, and boy was there a perfect one- The good old barter. Who says cash is always king?
Tip- toe- lane, a section of the Kwame Nkrumah circle where all kinds of tech gadget were bought and sold, was the hotspot of the tech gadget barter trade in Accra. Here, the principle was simple, you turn in two of an older model mobile phone to a vendor for a newer version.
Or you turn in an older version with a little cash top- up for a newer phone. The value of your item was easily calculable.
The concept was scaled- up to all kinds of items, phones, computers, MP3 players and ipods.
Unfortunately, today, the barter trade at tip-toe lane is gradually dying off. Many people would much rather walk to into a shop and spend a fortune on a new phone than swap their old ones for one because of the security risks. Too many times people have been given fake phones, bars of soap that looked like a phone amongst others. And this is where Swappaholics.com comes in.
The Swappaholics Solution
"So for example,You have an Iphone 6 and you want a Samsung Note 3. All you need to do is go on the app, swappaholics, and create a profile for free, where you specify in the "I have section" an Iphone 6 and in the "I want Section", you specify Samsung Note 3. You then answer a few questions about the manufacturing date from which the app automatically values the phone. The valuation makes it clear if the other person has to top up in order to match your value, or you have to top up to match up the value of his Samsung Note 3, all depends on market prices and the manufacturing date" explains, co- founder of Swappaholics, Francis Obirikorang.
Swappaholics takes inspiration from the tip-toe- lane barter concept. The core reasons why people swapped in the early 2000s still pertain today.
Francis and Michael have, however completely revolutionarised it such that it transcends all kinds of mind-boggling value.
" One of the interesting things I have seen people try to swap on our platform, was someone who wanted to swap his sister for GHC10,000 because, according to him, she just eats and sleeps at home."
Though an analysis of the activities of users of swappaholics identifies electronics as the category of highest interest, some users have actually done some iconic value swaps that are business related and very classic.
" Swappaholics is fast become a platform for serious swaps across all spheres of life. For example we have had a few people swap some plots of land for a Range Rover. And that kind of value exchange makes us very happy."
Swappaholics' value has skyrocketed quiet recently because of a new innovative addition to the long list of things people can swap.
Francis Obirinkorang and his partner Michael Ocansey got a wonderful idea earlier this year during their time at the Turn 8 accelerator programme in the United Arab Emirates.
They realised that people could really do meaningful swaps in services. A doctor could swap his services in return for a landscaping or an architectural design.
This has been really helpful for startups who may not have a lot of money to hire all the human resource or pay for all the services they need.
" We are now facilitating the swapping of services. It sounds interesting, but works very well. So take, for example, a software startup that needs legal services but cannot afford the thousands of cedis to contract a lawyer. However, this lawyer may also need a website. So swappaholics.com will help the two trade their services to each other. So the startup get their legal services, and the lawyer gets his website."
Dealing with competition
"Competition is a reality that will hit any young entrepreneur" Francis says.
"It only means you are doing something right, when people try to copy or replicate what you do. But your ability to keep above competition depends on how original you are and how innovative you allow your team to be. Innovation is key here." Francis said.
He narrates one instance where a potential investor pretended to be interested in investing in their idea only to steal the idea.
" So we were privileged to be a part of the Turn 8 accelerator program in Dubai this year. Here we are given the chance to meet world- class investors and business people. So in one of such meetings, we met an investor from one of the Asian countries who seemed interested in our idea. We had very intensive discussions about Swappaholics. Unfortunately for us, a few months on, we heard that the gentleman had started the idea in India. But for us that's fine. Once we have the original idea, no one can replicate what we intend to do."
Unique Selling Proposition.
What Swappaholics has been able to do is to turn a simple concept into a brilliant innovative solution that creates convinience.
Above all however, is a strong Selling Proposition that makes sense to every investor. This has to do with how the app makes money. That is a potent secret that no one has been able to figure out.
" This puts us at ease. We make a lot of money. But no one knows how. I would say that's why we have not had lot's of people copying us already. Of course there's the normal adversing on site, but that definitely will not cut it."
What the future holds for Swappaholics?
" We are looking to scale and scale really quick. We are entering three countries simultaneously.
" From what we see, the future is really bright. Starting a business is like a seed that is planted and germinates to form an oak tree. Its the same for Swappaholics. We see ourselves dominating the emerging markets and Africa."
Swappaholics.com is your destination if you want to swap value for value be it goods for goods, or services for services.