The demand for a functional address system has become a critical element in the management of rapidly developing cities, particularly in Africa, where most cities lack a complete and standardized smart addressing system.

From banking to emergency services to last-mile delivery, the lack of an addressing system impacts almost every industry. Customers are frequently called more than three times by last-mile delivery companies in order to locate their homes. Banks are required to send representatives to prospective customers’ homes to verify their addresses, limiting access to financial services. Emergency services get lost most times trying to locate people resulting in the loss of lives.

Timbo Drayson co-founded OkHi in 2014 to build technology that allows any business to gather an accurate address from a client, validate it, and navigate to it. Drayson previously worked at Google. During his time at Google, he oversaw the launch of Google Maps in emerging markets and helped develop Chromecast. In an Interview with Nairametrics, Drayson shared how a smart addressing system will be beneficial to businesses in Nigeria.

Why a country should have a smart addressing system

According to him, “A study by MIT revealed that lack of addressing in India cost 0.5% of GDP per year equating to $14 billion. We estimate lack of addressing costs businesses $200 billion a year in inefficiency.

So, the macro benefit is creating a digital infrastructure that Nigeria’s entire economy will leverage to increase efficiency and ultimately GDP growth. Think about financial services being able to lend more money because they know where their customer lives; ecommerce, food delivery, ride-hailing – all those mobility industries will be able to flourish because they will have accurate addressing information. While this will create jobs and economic growth on a national level, it will also improve the average person’s daily life.

Today specifically, we are focused on address verification. We make it easy for businesses to verify addresses through their customer’s smartphones, replacing manual processes like utility bills and physical visits. This reduces the cost and time to verify where people live for businesses.”

Drayson noted that their mission at inception was to enable the 4 billion people without a physical address to #beincluded.

Initially in Kenya, we focused on solving mobility – we built products that enabled ecommerce and delivery businesses to collect an accurate address and navigate to it as quickly and efficiently as possible. It was the most obvious problem space to solve. We created 300k addresses and proved we reduced Uber’s pick-up time by 40% (pilot study), reduced KFC’s cost per delivery by $0.20, and increased Jumia’s net promoter score by 35%.

However, we pivoted the business to focus on address verification in Nigeria in 2020 and have now launched with our strategic partner, Interswitch Group.”

How okHi Works

okHi’s address collecting and verification tools are integrated into its users’ mobile apps (which are mostly business owners). The business can then obtain a digital address from the user and verify it using their phone.

The business can then deliver items to their address – for example, a bank might use okHI’s smart addressing system to send cards or chequebooks.

Businesses are charged each time they use OkHi to verify an address.  Consumers are able to use their addresses for free.

The company has 3 products that enable those functions:

OkCollect collects an accurate OkHi address with a GPS and photo
OkVerify verifies your customer’s address using data from their phone
OkGo enables anyone to navigate to an OkHi address without getting lost

The adoption rate so far

Drayson said that their verification product is still brand new. “We did a pilot with Stanbic IBTC back in the summer and proved that we increase the accuracy of verification by 29%, increase the speed by 4x and reduce the cost by 52%. We will be going live with our first customer, Quickteller, next week. We have a strong cohort of the largest fintech that will be going live in November, so watch this space.”

Challenges okHI faced since launching in Nigeria

Launching a business in a new country typically comes with a lot of challenges. Drayson highlighted 3 challenges okHi has faced since expanding to Nigeria

Trust – as a new business and technology that the world has never seen before, we have had to work hard to earn the trust of our early adopters who are the pioneers taking our solution to market.
Privacy – for any technology business interacting with users and collecting data, privacy is always a sensitive space. We take it very seriously and our policy is to ensure that the user owns their OkHi address and has control over who they share it with.
Mapping literacy – beyond people using Uber or Bolt, mapping literacy is low so we work hard to build simple and intuitive products.