Oko Finance: Story, Founders, Investors & Funding Rounds
Founded in 2017 by Simon Schwall (a French national) and Shehzad Lokhandwall (an Indian national), OKO develops affordable mobile-based crop insurance products to provide smallholder farmers with the financial security they need, regardless of unstable climate trends.
The startup operates in Mali and Uganda and has so far brought insurance to more than 15,000 farmers.
OKO saw an impressive six times growth in the number of paying customers from 2020 to 2021 and is continuing to expand its reach in 2022, with new crops covered, and new partnerships signed with financial institutions providing agricultural loans to insured farmers.
OKO uses satellite information to define the risk and create insurance products for farmers in emerging markets. These products are then distributed using mobile technologies.
These also enable the collection of premiums and payment of claims.
OKO takes pride in being the most inclusive crop insurance available.
All farmers need to connect to OKO is a phone (no smartphone required): they can dial a short code to obtain more information and pay through mobile money services. To achieve this level of accessibility, the company partners with mobile operators.
The company already has approximately 7,000 paying customers in Mali and compensated more than 1,000 farmers last year, who were affected by floods. OKO’s customers typically grow maize, cotton, sesame, or millet.
OKO also works with agro-industries to help them with their sustainability goals and secure their relationships with suppliers. Successful pilots were completed with ABInBev and Touton in Uganda.
How it Works
Mobile Network Operator
They offer a differentiating product to your users because Mobile Financial Services are booming, and customers are looking for meaningful services to access from their mobile wallets.
With a majority of mobile users in emerging economies working in farming, it only makes sense to offer dedicated solutions for agriculture.
OKO will partner with you to design products that:
– Make the most of your existing infrastructure and distribution network
– Require no upfront investment
– Generate new revenue streams
– Encourage brand loyalty
Micro Finance Institution
Reduce your exposure and reach a new category of customers
Farmers have irregular incomes, which often disqualifies them from financing solutions.
A huge potential can be unlocked if you reduce your risk exposure, and address a market that is in demand of investment solutions.
OKO’s crop insurance products are designed to come at a very low price, and protect against the main risk the farmers are exposed to.
By coupling crop insurance with an adequate loan offering, you will contribute to the growth of rural communities, and generate new revenues from your existing business.
Governments and NGOs
Supporting agriculture is one of the most efficient ways to create opportunities for rural populations, give jobs to the youth, and avoid rapid urban migration.
OKO will help you to build resilience for farmers, and prevent humanitarian emergencies due to extreme weather.
They also Secure your production chain and help your partner. As an agro-industry, you care about your partners in the value chain. You want to be their preferred partner and their preferred choice.
OKO can help you achieve just that by:
– including insurance in the input you are selling/distributing
– including insurance as a perk of selling products to your company
– participate in your CSR activities in a meaningful and impactful way
Index insurance product creation
OKO partners with the most advanced weather information providers, using satellite or microwave technologies to obtain hyper-local data that can be used to:
– define the risk with high precision, and therefore optimize the premium price
– automate the claim validation process by analysis of the historical data
OKO creates innovative tools to distribute insurance in remote areas and to unbanked farmers. These tools include:
– a USSD menu that allows farmers to manage their policies from any mobile device
– a mobile app, which provides a second-to-none customer experience, and is usable offline
– an API that lets partners (micro-finance institutions, for example) access relevant information securely
Insurance policy management
With a dedicated tool that connects to mobile payment platforms, weather information providers, and our distribution tools, managing hundreds of sales agents and millions of policies becomes easy.
OKO’s solution includes:
– Performance monitoring tool
– Secured policy archiving
– Reporting tools for regulators
and much more
Simon Schwall is the Co-Founder and CEO of OKO.
He previously worked at (MILVIK) BIMA as a New Market Launch Manager (Africa).
After graduating with a Master’s in Management from HEC Paris and a Master’s in International Management from CEMS, he worked a few years in management consulting from London and Dubai, specializing in Telecom.
He then joined BIMA in 2014, having the mission to roll out a micro-insurance service in the Pacific. After successfully launching and managing BIMA in Papua New Guinea and Fiji, he later joined the Business Development team of BIMA for Africa and the Middle-East.
After several projects led successfully at BIMA, he then decided to create OKO and bring crop insurance to the 2bn farmers in the world who feed us and now wants to replicate these successes with crop-insurance, and therefore created OKO, a company aiming at providing smallholder farmers with adequate tools to protect their crop, access financing and ultimately grow their business.
Shehzad Lokhandwalla is the Co-Founder and CTO of OKO.
He previously worked at One Acre Fund as a Program Associate -Technology.
Shehzad Lokhandwalla attended the University of California, Davis.
Investors & Funding Rounds
Newfund Capital, RésiliAnce, Mercy Corps, Techstars, ImpactAssets, RaSa Future Fund.
OKO has closed a Seed investment of $1.2 million. The funding round was led by Newfund and ResiliAnce, with Mercy Corps Venture, Techstars, ImpactAssets, and RaSa also participating.
It currently operates in Mali and Uganda. With the new funding, OKO aims to strengthen its presence in Mali and Uganda and expand its offerings to more African markets, starting with Ivory Coast.
Additionally, the recent advancement in IoT and data availability will lead to the rise of parametric insurance in Africa for the benefit of the local population.
The entire OKO team has built solid bases in Mali from which they can now expand to new countries and offer new insurance products.
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