How I started Groupcash.club. - Mr Vikram Joseph (Group CEO - Group Cash Club, Rome Italy)
It was the warm summer afternoon and the chit chat of passers-by could be heard from the street through the slightly opened windows. The wind was rocking the white shades in drum like rhythm. In the background was the whistling of the tea pot... Pssstttt... Slightly filling the atmosphere.
Sitting comfortably in his leather recliner is Mr. Vikram Oscar Joseph. Looking rather unbothered by the presence of the camera and the inquisitive stare of our production team, he shoved his hands to gesture me to sit right beside him.
I have wanted to meet Mr. Vikram since he proposed the massive change that led Uber to it's first change. Mr. Vikram ever private always wants to be in the background, however today much to our astonishment, he was willing to talk and answer most of the questions we had about his project(s).
Here is excerpt of our interview:
Rachel: Thank you for having us
Vikram: The pleasure is all mine.
Rachel: How is the transition from Silicon Valley to Rome Italy?
Vikram: It is as expected. I like the Italian way of life and it is much calmer here than usual. To directly answer your question, it is great!
Rachel: Silicon valley has its reputation for being the hub for global web/tech developments, being here do you ever feel a lack of technical manpower to pursue projects or do you have everything here as good as in Silicon valley?
Vikram: People are diverse in their pursuit. The Italians are more determined to break into the global IT market, so it is not surprising that you will always find people having more than just curiosity to people actually knowing what to do but need the right guidance and direction. I consider my self to very lucky to be here. I am in the midst of great minds looking for an opportunity to shoot out and do awesome. It is only a privilege to be the one helping them to balance desire with action.
Rachel: Groupcash.club Why did you name it so? Considering the convention behind domain names where anything not .com takes quite some time to catch up?
Vikram: Groupcash.club is a club. Being so, I feel the need to properly name it and hopefully also get the consumers to warm up to domain naming conventions as is very literal these days. You can find .life, .press .everything, so it is actually time that people connect with these naming conventions and leave the .com to the actual commercial enterprises it is designed for. So I am actually doing what is right by pitching the name .club to associate the club status of the company. It might be a challenge for people to catch up, but I am willing to wait it out.
Rachel: Groupcash.club how did it all begin?
Vikram: I was in Oslo a few years back when I met one Mr. Joseph. My name sake and also a very interesting person. He had the same views and opinions as myself and he mostly really wanted to find a solution to poverty in Africa where he was from. We talked about a few things and decided to deploy a cashless society in West Africa giving people mobile payment alternatives to Visa and Mastercard pay points which is quite rare in that market.
We started a mobile payment platform called "Slot Money" and soon found that we could not penetrate the market because of the low quality of mobile devices in the market - we weren't patient with the slow pace of things around there. Hardware became a challenge and thus we went back to the drawing board to deploy hardwares in mega stores in cities across West Africa. We re-branded created a payment platform which has gained significant traction in the market in Nigeria and Ghana. However I won't name which it is because we sold it and have a gag order on the history of it.
We made quite a tidy sum of money and then we started a lending service company - a microfinance bank. Soon we faced the challenge of technology and mobile application as merely 2% of our customers had reliable mobile phones viz a viz Android or iOs.
So we continued and when it got too hard, we sold the micro finance bank to a commercial bank in Ghana and then we moved back to do other things. I moved to Uber and just carried on with life.
Naturally, the need to return to Africa came and with it a desire to actually break market there. So we started researching how to run financial institution that will genuinely help people; without necessarily having a commercial bank license. It was during this time that we stumbled upon the Thrift and Credit Society market. Almost all offices, markets and groups of people gathered together with a common interest in Africa has a thrift society. Also there weren't bogus legislations or permits required to run one. The business model of the thrift society was pretty transparent and we also saw the potential to grow.
I sold the idea to Joseph while I returned back to my day job. Joseph developed the company and started a system to run multiple thrift societies in one platform. He hired local staff and then tested it with some users. It was massive. The system was so easy, you plug into the app, make your donations, fund your wallet. Payments was instant to each members account - gold mine.
The greatest part of Groupcash.club is the fact that we do not handle any cash or electronic money transaction. Everything goes from one party directly to the other using the technology of Paystack.
Rachel: What are your hopes for the future?
Vikram: Groupcash.club may seem like a small and modest business model, however it isnt. It is larger than it appears. We have run an estimate of over $500 billion dollars that we would process within our first 5 years of operation. Just on the test platform, we have processed over $1m in transactions between a group of just 300 dedicated users. The future then is bright, we are working extensively on developing a more unique user friendly interface. The website and app will completely change from what it is now. The website application is currently being re-developed by our in-house tem and a bunch of Silicon Valley enthusiast (as your pointed our earlier). **Smiles. What we are building is not just a website, it is a program that interacts with a hardware and does much of the functions I mentioned and even more. We have filed for a UK patent.
Rachel: $5Billion in less than 5 years? isn't that ambitious?
Vikram: Rachel look, you have a savings you handle with others, you simply plug in, set the amount you are comfortable to set aside, set period to debit and that is it. You go on with life. You don't have to bother about anything else, Groupcash.club does all the work. Credits you when it is your turn and you simply just click only a few buttons to get involved. Looking at the simplicity of it, we estimate a million users within our first year from January 2018. A million users will give us mileage to grow. Everyone needs this.
Rachel: I quite agree. So where will you base your headquarters?
Vikram: We are currently running our servers on a leased architecture in Dubai Silicon Oasis, based on the fact that our major market is in Africa and Asia, we will run our operations in Dubai. The company licensing is still on the way in Dubai and once it pulls through, we will move all our operations to Downtown Dubai.
Rachel: Wow! that is amazing. Thank you for your time and we wish you the very best of luck in your endeavour, not that you need it.
Vikram: Haha. I do need it. Thanks all the same.
We closed the interview and as we packed our gear to leave, I am reminded of the words of T.E. Lawrence "All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible."
Mr. Vikram Oscar Joseph, was one of such day dreamers, I concluded!