[At the Kiramuruzi Market on Feb. 6th, 2010 ........... From inside the mobile branch ....................]
Finally, UOB has launched its first mobile branch!
It has been produced in Rwanda for the first time. So there was some learning curve. Normally, such mobile branches are built and imported from either Kenya or South Africa.
The first mobile branch has been in the works for several months, built on the Toyota Land Cruiser hard body model. As we added weight to the vehicle, the frame had to be fortified, tires had to be strengthened and weight had to be balanced. After a few test drives for the cornering and weight balancing, we finally felt that it may be deployed even in challenging terrains of Rwanda a few weeks ago.
When we were about to launch it, however, the inverter issue was revealed. The inverter is the vehicle engine charging system for the batteries to support computers and printers. We had to make it self-sustainable, not depending on unreliable and inconsistent land power. The issue that was revealed at the last minute was that the inverter was functioning irregularly. We had to find a replacement for it after searching for a week in Kigali City. We had to run another round of test drive to see how long the battery lasts and how long it will take to recharge it. We even test operated at Home Office serving the Kigali clients.
So far, so good. So it will be officially launched this coming Saturday. It was launched last Saturday for a few hours, but it was a test operationg. This coming Saturday, it will be officially launched with a soft-opening, meaning that we will not have a formal opening ceremony or a reception. (By the time this is posted, it has actually launched on Saturday February 6th and its photos are included herein.)
The first mobile brach will operate with three banking staff, a driver with customer service training and an armed guard. It will be equipped with "Opensky" and mobile printer. (Please see a separate blogpost on "Opensky.") With the "Opensky" we could conduct banking transactions under a mango tree where no power and no internet connection is available! That is, it is possible even in Rwanda!
The first mobile branch will be stationed at Rwamagana Branch in the Eastern Province and its first operation site will be Kiramuruzi, a village approximately 30 km away from the Rwamagana Branch. The mobile branch will be open for business on Saturdays and Mondays, the village's market days when all farmers around the area come for their trades. We will employ a couple of village mobilizers who will recruit the potential clients and get them ready for transactions on the market days.
Once this operation goes smoothly, then we will add other villages. Also, we will begin the fabrication of the second mobile branch. It is an expensive delivery channel, but we would like to have at least two mobile branches and run them for a year before we make a decision on any additional launching. It is wonderful that we may be able to reach out to the under- or unserved farmers in the villages with credits and deposit services.
I thank God for His faithfulness in bringing the project to this point. - Jeffrey