Sasai, which is a chats and payments mobile app, was released onto app stores on the 28th of February. It was then officially launched in July so it has basically been around for at least 3 months. I have taken sometime before to do a walkthrough of the app discussing how it works. In earnest, the idea behind the app and what it offers is quite catchy but there is a lot more to consider. The app was developed by Cassava Smartech which is a subsidiary of Econet Global. It seems somehow that they had anticipated a disruptive entry of the app into the market but it has not exactly been so. In this article, I will discuss some things regarding how Sasai has been faring so far highlighting some interesting insights.

The Stolen Idea Saga

We might not be able to quantify how this issue affected public perception of Sasai but it did. Just before Sasai was officially launched a young man by the name Artwell Makumbe claimed the idea had been stolen from him. I actually did an article detailing that whole story. Though up to now Artwell Makumbe has not done anything definitive especially considering that he had threatened to sue Cassava Smartech it was quite an issue. I have no doubt in my mind that this affected the likeability of Sasai to begin with. This was even exacerbated by the fact that there have been such claims pertaining to other Econet innovations in the past.

The Promotional SMS Saga

This one was a serious nationwide outrage whose memories are still fresh. I also took some time to discuss this just after it occurred. Those who might not be aware this was when Econet was incessantly sending SMSes to its subscribers promoting Sasai. It got so extreme to a point where people complained on social media until POTRAZ had to intervene. There are two noteworthy things this saga showed and did. It showed a certain element of desperation on the part of Econet to push for Sasai to be known. This, I think, was indicative of admittance that the app is not taking off as expected. Then as to what it did, well, it further drowned any prospects for a positive public perception of Sasai.

Currently, they have been trying to do amends by promoting the app using, for instance, the Braai Yo Cow T’ll You Drop promotion and the Chakachaya paSasai promotion. The former involves a challenge where those who manage to create the biggest group chat on Sasai stand a chance to win a cow weekly. Promotion started on the 23rd of October and will run till the 20th of November. The latter is about earning points for every 2MB you use on Sasai and stand a chance to win anything from 5 houses, 50 Samsung Galaxy A30s, weekly data worth ZWL$100, 50 Samsung Tabs and more.

Functionality Issues

From the onset, there have been functionality issues that affected the public interest in the app. The first one had to do with many people failing to go through the registration process. Then there was the issue of some people not getting the promised freebie data after initial registration. Personally I did not have issues with registration and I have also tested some of the in-app payment features. I have tried purchasing airtime and it was successful though I noticed that the Bundles and Airtime Credit features are still inactive. I have tried to send money to someone and it was successful. So it seems that in-app payment features do work well. However, I did notice that network issues tend to somehow affect the speed of doing a transaction. I think this stems from the fact that you will be using an internet connection and a mobile connection. The thing is, you start a transaction in-app (that needs an internet connection) then it is processed using the USSD system (that needs a mobile connection). So I suppose that if either or both of those two are erratic then the speed of doing transactions is affected. I say so because at times transactions I did were instant whilst at times I had to retry several times.

Early Adoption Has Been Low Key

One of the pivotal elements in driving an emphatic market entry for any product or service is widespread early adoption. For Sasai this has been a murky road due to several reasons some of which I have highlighted herein and also in other articles I have referenced. One of the important factors that fuel early adoption is having a strong and unique selling or value proposition. Personally, I think that Sasai does have that but it failed to execute its first baby steps properly. That has led to a scenario where people have just downplayed the app without even giving it a try. When I wanted to test out the in-app payment features I had a hard time because the majority of my contacts are not on Sasai. That goes to show that early adoption has been extremely low key. So far Sasai has been downloaded over 100 000 times which is quite insignificant in comparison to the broader market it is targeting.

We cannot write off Sasai as yet; there is still room for them to make it – though room to break it is also menacingly abundant. The Kwese failure should serve as a warning to them that failure is possible again if they are not careful. On the brighter side, there is huge potential for the app to be widely adopted – the app is great actually. However, there is some stiff competition to contend with e.g. WhatsApp. So let us give them more time and see where they will get to in the coming months.