“When a $2 Trillion company like Microsoft is interested in a three and half-year-old startup from the southern tip of Africa, we must be producing innovative world class products that they believe their customers are looking for and would want to buy,” said Ajay Lalu, Co-founder of CIRT.

A Q-Hop client using the App to transact at a supermarket.

NAIROBI, Kenya: Brand South Africa last week announced the Consumption Information Real-Time (CIRT) as the winner of the Innovator of the Year Award in the ongoing Play Your Part Awards 2021 due to the success of its retail app, Q-Hop.

The Q-Hop [https://www.cirt.co.za/q-hop] developed and launched in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, is a contactless cashless digital instore shopping experience where customers simply scan, pay and go.

The Q-Hop has received significant recognition in South Africa and accepted into the GSD Global Accelerated program in Silicon Valley where its currently mentored by US tech giant Microsoft.

Elvis Mboya, Founder and Managing Editor of Smart Africa Media asked Ajay Lalu, Co-founder of CIRT, to tell readers a bit more about his journey so far and why global tech giants in Silicon Valley, including Microsoft are giving his 3-year-old retail app so much attention.

Why do you think your startup won Brand South Africa Innovator of the Year Award against equally strong competition?

There were three main reasons in my opinion. One, the solution is currently being implemented internationally including in Saudi Arabia. Two, the fact that we have advisory Board Members like Rick Orloff, John Agate and Susy Monford all of  whom are industry heavyweights in the US. Three, that Microsoft has signed a multi-year global strategic alliance with us. This means that the solutions we develop like Q-Hop are globally competitive but based on South Africa technology.

The inventive app was developed under unprecedented restriction in the face of the pandemic. Give us a glimpse of the business environment in South Africa during that period.

The environment was extremely difficult. There was significant anxiety, and everybody was really home bound. So, for us to develop an entire contactless cashless retail checkout solution virtually with hardware and software teams working concurrently under those circumstances were firstly challenging but we overcame those challenges and went from ideation to MVP in 8 weeks.

What are the real problems you identified during that period that inspired your entrepreneurial spirit and how best is your invention already solving them?

According to Barclaycard 24% of customers globally abandoned basket due to long check out queues. It costs global retailers $4.6 Trillion annually. That’s the problem we are solving. We want customers to be able to get in and out of the store without standing in the queue hence the name Q-Hop.

One of the Awards judges, Paul Modjadji, said that your startup is a proudly South African tech giant, with humble beginnings and global aspirations. Give us a glimpse of your growth trajectory to meet these local expectations.

Our growth has really been phenomenon. We have had enormous success from retailers internationally. We were accepted into the GSD Global Accelerated program in Silicon Valley. Two former Unicon exiters and co-founders of GSD identified Q-Hop as the next African Unicorn.

So, we do believe that we are the next African tech giant. We have won a number of awards including the South African Innovation Summit Top 3 tech company in Africa, Global Startup Award for Commerce Category in Southern Africa, as well as Brand South Africa’s Innovator of the Year 2021. So, we do believe that we are poised for even more growth in the years to come.

Your startup recently inked a milestone strategic partnership with Microsoft. Tell us a bit more about this success story.

This is really a feather and a cap, when a $2 Trillion company like Microsoft is interested in a three and half-year-old startup from the southern tip of Africa, we must be producing innovative world class products that they believe their customers are looking for and would want to buy.

We get significant resources from Microsoft, including a dedicated business development director, access to product development team in Seattle. So, when developing new features, we are on their radar to test for features and we have access to senior solutions architects internationally that look at our solutions and optimise it from Microsoft tech stack perspective.

Lead photo: Ajay Lalu, Co-founder of CIRT.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here