Izifin is an Artificial Intelligence focused embedded software provider, empowering all businesses, of all sizes in a number of sectors, in leveraging data to improve customer service provision.
Embedded intelligence is not just for large corporations, hence the company’s mission is to ensure better use of data to help SMEs scale through its suite of artificial intelligence-driven products with simple API integrations, to expand on their existing business propositions to their customers.
The application of data and AI can revolutionize the scaling of businesses across Africa and we had a chat with Dumebi Okwechime, Co-founder of Izifin, who took us through the important role of data in making a real difference in financial inclusion for both consumers and businesses.
A quick background
Izifin is a configurable and affordable Embedded Intelligence Operating System, enabling a range of easy to integrate Artificial Intelligent (A.I.) Apps, helping SMEs scale, and optimize, without needing specialized data and analytical skills, or incurring prohibitive costs for setup.
Its Intelligent Apps empower businesses with a number of sophisticated digital capabilities, including but not limited to – automatic credit-risk decisioning, market leads prioritization, anomaly detection (transaction monitoring), loan collection scoring, KYC image verification, and conversational finance (natural language processing).
As a value add, the Intelligent Apps come as a Managed Service where we monitor and iteratively improve performance to keep them optimized.
An Analytics Dashboard is also provided for all Apps, giving businesses access to digestible and actionable insights.
Izifin was co-founded by Dr Dumebi Okwechime and Hossein Ghaffari in November 2021. Dumebi has a Ph.D. in Computer Vision and Machine Learning with several years of experience in Data & Analytics Advisory and Consulting for major banks in the UK and Europe, eventually holding the position of Head of Data Science at Barclaycard UK before moving to Nigeria.
This gave him a wide range of experience on applying various A.I techniques in solving different problems. Dumebi also holds an Executive MBA at Imperial College Business School in London, winning both the “MBA Finance Prize”, and the “MBA IBM Innovation Entrepreneurship & Design Project Prize”.
Hossein, has several years of experience in tech, having started as a software engineer on the first native smartphone OS (Symbian), and later moving to Android in the ecommerce space, eventually taking the role of Solution Strategist for projects on SaaS Commerce Cloud platforms.
These roles involved the end-to-end delivery of software, both native and cloud-based, often including multiple platforms, systems and vendors.
This experience can be drawn on from architecture and delivery perspectives and fits well with the IZI OS cloud-based platform, driven by microservices and the multi-channel landscape with which it is designed to integrate.
Izifin was born out of our desire to support SMEs growing their business with easy to integrate AI and Analytical products.
According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, there are over 17.4 million SMEs in Nigeria, contributing 48% of national GDP in the last 5 years.
With expectations for the SME sector to rapidly grow, there is an increasing need for SME’s to fully leverage data to remain relevant and competitive. Izifin aims to be the first choice for SMEs’ AI needs, an essential ingredient to all SME’s growth plans and projections.
The choice of artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is amongst the fastest growing sector in the world, with a global CAGR of 55.6% from 2018 to 2025, projected to be valued at $15.7 trillion globally by 2030.
AI is relevant to virtually all industries and sectors where there is data and processes, enabling companies to enhance the speed, precision, and effectiveness of human efforts.
We are now living in the digital era where consumers expect faster and more customized products and services.
AI is amongst the most impactful enabler of this progression, allowing companies to streamline processes, and use historical trends from data to perform predictive analytics, providing customers exactly what they need, and at times before they realize.
The insights derived from A.I. solutions are becoming commonplace in senior leadership planning and strategy sessions, enhancing our ability to understand, reason, plan, communicate, and perceive, without which, critical decisions would be more difficult to make.
AI also enables the execution of complex tasks without a significant increase in cost and workforce; can operate 24/7 without interruption, breaks, or downtime; and can significantly drive down the time taken to perform tasks, saving money whilst also enhancing customer’s experience.
How data improves customer service provision
Data is an essential tool when dealing with customers. No matter what business you’re in, data is how customers, as a group or individuals, communicate with your brand, product, or service.
This can be in a direct way, either via customer feedback, reviews, social media comments, contact centre interactions, etc. In these direct channels, customers are very clear on what they think about your product or services, an invaluable way to review, iterate and improve your business.
The indirect way implies data collected from avenues of customer engagement with your business. Things such as sales, churn, retention, Life-Time Value, etc, mostly beneficial when reviewed in larger cohorts, and can provide an understanding on what aspect of your business is working well or not, dictated by how much customers are engaging with those avenues.
These kinds of data can be harvested, reviewed, and analyzed to provide actionable insights on your business’s performance, customer sentiments, target market penetration, product market fit etc.
This can then lead to several different growth strategies, using these metrics to measure impact and progression. When these growth strategies sufficiently impact customer service improvements, there will be more notable direct positive feedback which will also show gains in the indirect growth accounting metrics.
This is how the best companies in the world grow and retain valuable customers. When customers feel like your business listens to them, tailors to their needs, and looks to be continuously improving, they remain loyal, provide repeat business, and help your business by attracting referrals.
Startups leveraging data to scale
AI is a very convenient tool for start-ups to grow and scale rapidly. Most startups are entering the market with limited capital to compete on infrastructure, resources, and manpower.
AI can automate and scale complex processes, without the need of prohibitive costs, which can give start-ups the upper hand.
By focusing early on building a robust and sustainable digital channel, performing good data acquisition, data cleaning and maintenance, and basic data warehousing, a start-up, as early as 3 months old, can already leverage AI’s capabilities.
The added advantage start-ups will have is in building their business culture around AI., difficult for some bigger and well-established companies to introduce. This will better enable them to collect feedback on an A.I. solution’s performance and iterate quickly.
There are many avenues that A.I. can support start-ups to scale, including but not limited to:
- ChatBots – automated chats to managing large-scale customer communication
- Automated Decisioning – including credit risk, collections, and marketing (leads), without needed to increase the workforce
- Text Analytics – Natural Language Processing
- Robotic Process Automation – Automate human actions to support efficient business processes
The role of data in financial inclusion
Approximately 46% of Nigerians live below the poverty level, with the average annual income at £3,900. Most of the population at 56%, are not part of any formal financial institution.
Banks are incapable of resolving this, as they are not mass-market focused. With the average balance held by Nigerians at £8, banks cannot afford to service, acquire, and manage these customers.
Nigeria has a lot of untapped potentials to adopt mobile banking and micro-credit facilities. With over 200 million citizens, approximately half the population is under the age of 19, being the world’s youngest population.
Amongst many other benefits, a young population improves the overall penetration of technology adoption, which is evident from the rise in mobile phone penetration in recent years, expected to reach 65% by 2025, and the rise in mobile internet penetration to 32% in 2019, and this is despite rising internet costs.
There is enough evidence to suggest that Nigeria, as well as the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, is moving toward technology-enabled financial services.
However, one major element that is lagging is access to quality data, necessary in serving customers in this digital channel.
Credit bureaus in Nigeria have tried to tackle the issue, but as most borrowing channels are informal, credit bureau coverage for adults is just below 14%.
Results have shown that using an autonomous Decision Engine can facilitate risk assessment without the need for human intervention.
The combination of a Decision Engine for credit lending with mobile banking facilities would increase customer adoption, alleviating the entry barriers caused by a lack of access and extensive manual processing and physical documentation.
Data would enable this, by providing:
- A holistic view of customer profile and credit capacity, minimizing blind spots
- KYC verification by multiple channels, accelerating customers’ digital onboarding
- Pre-approval of multiple financial products and services (no need for a waiting period for new customers)
- Inter/Intra-sector communication, reducing fraud, and false claims, and providing additional layers of due diligence for business processes
- Inter/Intra-sector collaboration, allowing companies to expand product offerings to their customers
The importance of embedded intelligence
Better Customer Experience – Automation to reduce touchpoints and human intervention
Additional Revenue Stream – Automation means a reduction in the workforce for repetitive tasks, and more efficient processes reducing cost, as well as better customer conversion rates and an increase in sales
More Customer Data – You can gain depth of customer data by owning the end-to-end process. This will facilitate better marketing and sales conversion, as well as insightful analytics to boost your business growth
Lower Setup Costs – Easy to integrate APIs, and easy to digest analytics dashboard, means low setup costs without needing specialized data and analytical skills
Embeds in any system – Seamless API integration layer makes it easy to embed our apps into any software system, or process.
Featured Image: Dumebi Okwechime, Founder & Chief Data Scientist
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