Apple Music, Spotify, Spinlet – wait, does the last name sound familiar to you? In several cases probably it won’t and that’s the reason why I decided to go ahead and be in conversation with our own “tech chick”, the CEO of Spinlet, Nkiru Balonwu. Being a technology enthusiast, especially where mobile apps are concerned, I always go around telling people that Diamond Bank’s mobile apps are the best in the market globally. So whenever there’s a new app that seems to have potential, I need to download it and use it, to see if it offers any fascinating features which can be imbibed into ours. So, I wanted to confirm if Spinlet will qualify the “geek test,” and downloaded the app both on iOS and Android. So this is what I actually ended up doing – even before the conversation started, I became Spinlet’s new customer! And, by the time the discussions ended, Nkiru promised the option of free subscriptions for all our employees and customers! Now that’s what I call, time well spent!
My purpose of these really short and yet appealing conversations with new startups or companies that have flourished in Nigeria is, to make people realize how closely our lives are intertwined with technology, how people in Nigeria are bringing home new technologies and are experimenting with the future, and what the youth can look forward to in the long run.
Tailoring to niche tastes
The interesting part about Spinlet is that they never wanted to be present everywhere. From the outset they knew they wanted to be niche. They knew who their customers are, what they need, and developed a product that caters to their exclusive tastes. Spinlet as such is no Spotify or Apple Music, but a platform celebrating African music for the people of Africa and the Diaspora. And that’s what makes Spinlet exclusive – its ability to curate music for its targeted market, giving it competitive edge over Apple Music or any other.
As Nkiru pointed out, Apple Music definitely had music that Spinlet has, but Spinlet is catering exclusively to African taste. And that’s what I believe is the demand of the present market – tailoring to niche tastes.
Challenges from Global Competitors
It is estimated that Spinlet has approximately 2 million downloads, with over 1,500 new subscribers every day. That’s an impressive number when you think of customers, but the question is how many people have actually heard of Spinlet? Simply put, how is it that there is not too much “buzz” about Spinlet? Why is it that as a brand they have not yet formed associations with others?
As my smart friend most optimistically and intelligently replied, “But I am here! I am here because you heard about us.” The point is competition in the music streaming market is intense. There are global players who offer more lucrative subscriptions and choice of music, making it challenging for domestic organizations to match up.
There is also the challenge that stems from the attitude of the industry- their unwillingness to give their music to Spinlet whereas they would readily give it to iTunes and Spotify. The problem is that most people think of Spinlet as an exclusive brand in Nigeria, and hence worry about revenues. But what they miss out on is that the music is accessible across countries. It is a Nigerian company, but its customer base, subscriptions, streaming and download is not restricted to Nigeria – it’s global. The only solution therefore is to be patient, educate people and be hopeful of building a culture of protecting your home companies.
So, the main reason why Spinlet chose to “stay low” is not because of challenges – It’s a planned business decision to stay low till the time is right. As Nkiru explained, it is now at the end of 2015 that they are convinced that they have a great product to offer their customers. Being in a competitive market, a low quality product is the last thing that customers should be offered. It will only lead to a bunch of dissatisfied and non-returning customers and loss of market reputation. The pride I take while speaking of Diamond Bank’s mobile apps and internet banking facilities is because I know we are offering our customers a product that is as good as any other in the global arena. So I guess Nkiru’s sentiments and business calls resonates mine!
2016 therefore is the year for Spinlet to make their mark. They have already partnered with other brands, banks and telecom companies, and personally for me it will be an interesting story to follow.
The crux of every business: Making money
If you are not a non-profit organization, then at the end of the day revenue matters and that’s how you justify your existence. Though having 2 million downloads is an impressive number it does little to earn revenue for the company. Considering that payments has always been challenging in Nigeria, how is it that Spinlet handles this obstacle?
Nkiru was quite prompt in admitting that payments is actually one of the most pressing concerns for them, especially when dealing with it in Nigeria and the continent. Since Spinlet is accessible from anywhere across the world, it has international customers as well. Payments for week-long or monthly subscriptions from global customers are convenient considering that there is PayPal and other bank platforms. But in Nigeria it’s a challenging process in getting payments. Not only is it required to have more payment options but options that didn’t fail.
Spinlet as such is exploring options to identify better payment options. They have integrated with banks and even got MiGS, so that customers pay directly to banks and have an error free and hassle less transaction experience.
Looking towards the Future
Nkiru’s quick wit and humor had me again, when she opined that if banks are doing their jobs well then all payment related challenges will be fixed. As a banker I know this is a challenge that we as a nation will have to work towards. In my discussion with the CEO of Vanso, Nigeria, Mr. Denis O’ Brien this was one area we had looked brought up – the future of payments. And once again with Nkiru too this was a common topic.
But coming back to Spinlet’s business challenges, Nkiru is optimistic that a lot of present challenges like music piracy, lesser number of customers, stable and fixed bank rates – all of the current challenges will be dealt with.
And it also means that Spinlet will add more to its portfolio than music, videos and its own content. The competition in the global arena is intense and that simply gives one the opportunity to do better. What needs to be done is educate the market. There are several new concepts that have emerged in Nigeria such as eCommers, brands like iROKOtv, and as a brand Spinlet can learn from their mistakes and imbibe what they have done well.
The fact remains that challenges will always be there – but fortunately that’s not something that’s stopping the real entrepreneur’s to go ahead and explore. At Diamond Bank we encourage such endeavors and have also partnered with brands where we see potential and the zeal to prosper. In a nutshell, I feel Spinlet is a new concept for a Nigerian company, and working collaboratively, it can do as well as any other brands.