Mobile Applications

HisaPlay: Kenyan 'stock market game' teaches investing

The majority of people in East Africa – especially the youth – have little or no knowledge of the stock exchange. However, a large number of these individuals are very interested in investing and might readily adopt the stock market if they had the understanding.

HisaPlay aims to make this easier by providing information and experience via a no-risk, easily comprehensible app. You can now play a stock exchange game, immersing yourself into the intricacies, operations and challenges of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) without losing anything. 

“We are a Kenyan based startup tech company that aims to educate, equip and familiarise young people with practical the financial literacy skills required to trade on the Securities Exchange by using a mobile gaming application,” Jamlick Maina the HisaPlay CEO and founder explains. “Our target audience segment is 16-35 year-olds [who love] smart phones and are into social networks.”

“The HisaPlay app seeks to deepen the users’ understanding of how to invest,” says Maina. “The app is a virtual stock simulation game that mirrors the intense trading activities at the securities market. It runs on numerous android platforms and can be played either individually or as a group.”

The app beta version was officially released in December 2014. The improved and paid-for version was released in March 2015.

How did the idea come about?

Coming from an animation and computer science background, the founder was working with his brother as a multimedia developer in 2012 when they built a gaming app called “Tough Jungle”. This app won the best Kenyan app in the Safaricom AppStar Challenge and later the same year was awarded the best app in Africa in the Vodafone Challenge against many other contestants.

However, when the advice to invest the winnings (about $10,000) in the stock market was given, Maina was sceptical, as he did not have the slightest understanding of the NSE or stock markets. And was confused by the words used and the process in general.   

“After several tries and lots of advice I managed to invest,” he says. “[And] I realised every other person was going through the same predicament and thought there might be an easier way to go about it.”

HisaPlay is focused on the end user. “We are trying to eradicate poverty and give knowledge in fun easy way that is relatable,” he explains.

Deriving its name from “Hisa” Swahili for “Shares”, the app has been designed to simulate NSE in the most literal sense. “First our servers are able to feed live data to users with seamless support, we have over 100 tutorials and lessons that the user can access which are both text and voice responsive. Also we have daily stock lessons that are sent through push notifications,” the CEO tells us.

In addition to these, the app also allows the users to monitor changes in selected stocks and see the market trends. Through the use of social network engines, users are able to communicate and compete with each other or with selected users. The app can be downloaded from their website and is available on Google Play.

“We monitor user activities to show them how they have been performing thereby helping them learn whether their activities [investments] have been productive,” the founder informs. “[Because] we offer real live NSE data, the data keeps on changing and may pose some difficulties if the user stays offline; to counter this we keep the data packets to a bare minimum.”

How does it work?

With the concept of virtual cash and mobile money services, the app gives the users a chance to engage in a virtual NSE reality without any risks. All you need is to buy virtual cash using Safaricom’s Mpesa or airtime credit.

“The idea of virtual currency is to give the user the opportunity of putting himself as a competent trader with shares to buy. It allows the user to perceive how it would feel if he had let’s say Ksh 100,000 ($1,000) and a month to make some earning in the NSE. Would he be competent to make returns or make a loss? This pushes the user to learn and make logical decisions on which share would suit him best. Currently we charge a monthly subscription fee of $1 for Ksh 100,000 worth of virtual money. After the month we deduct the 100,000 and the remainder is pushed to the next month as profit [or loss].”

In addition to subscription fees, the app also gets revenue from in-app adverts and push notifications as well as partnership with stock brokers. In 2014, the founder won cash from Business Daily’s The Next Big Thing Competition and has contribution support from friends and family.

With 594 paying users’ subscription, Maina is confident that the startup is moving to the right direction and would really like to partner with corporate entities for CSR campaigns on financial and investor education to cast the net even wider.

HisaPlay is full of optimism. In addition to bringing on board other mobile service providers in Kenya, the startup is spreading its wings further afield; “Our short term goal is to change perception and build a society that takes investment opportunities seriously. In the long term we want to venture out in March 2016 to other East African countries such as Rwanda and Tanzania,” says Maina.


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Daniel Muraga

Daniel Muraga is an experienced online writer and communications professional based in Kenya.

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