The City of Johannesburg has told ratepayers that we are left with less than three years before the city runs out of space at landfill sites. The consequences of this could be dire for residents, as they would be forced to carry the costs of having their refuse taken to other provinces.
The amount of paper used by consumers is staggering. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs’ South African Waste Information Centre, more than 19.2 million tons of general waste went to the country’s 133 landfill sites in 2017.
It was with this in mind, coupled with the administrative inconvenience of having to keep paper receipts that motivated Solutions Architect and Systems Developer, Henco Schoeman, to develop a cloud-based solution called EcoSlips. The app converts ordinary slips into digital, eco-friendly slips that can be accessed from any smart device, anywhere, anytime.
The system integrates with point-of-sale and other transactional systems to convert and send EcoSlips to a customer’s cellphone on request.
“Paper transaction slips issued in the retail industry are expensive, impractical and outdated. They pollute the environment, fade over time, go missing and are an irritation to everybody. EcoSlips can be used for several different tasks such as storing electronic transaction slips, sending prescriptions to pharmacies, submitting expense claims and storing shopping cards. This is very convenient because the EcoSlips are always available no matter where you are. Paper slips will soon be a thing of the past, with digital transaction slips becoming the new norm,” says Schoeman.
He has every reason to be confident about the uptake of the app, which took one of the top spots in the prestigious MTN Business App of the Year Awards for Best Incubated Mobile Solution in 2017.
“Since winning at the MTN Business App of the Year, we’ve been working on the main platform, which provides the necessary interfaces for integration to large retailers and banks. We are fortunate in that we have the technical skills to develop the system, so all the work thus far has been done in-house. It took around 18 months to develop the system into a product that’s ready for pilot implementation,” said Schoeman.
He admits that the development of the app was a learning curve in itself, as every process during the development stage came with its own set of challenges. “We received very positive feedback, especially from people who understand where we want to go with the business, how we want to roll it out into the market, and the benefits that it will provide to retailers and consumers,” he said.
Schoeman says winning one of the sought after MTN Business App of the Year awards went a long way towards raising EcoSlips’ public profile and boosting the business.
“The app was available on the ecoSlips.com website since 2017, but only launched on Google Play store in February 2018. It is now ranked in the top three positions for our main search term (Digital Receipts). We were very pleased to have taken one of the accolades in the competition last year, because it was still early days and we did not really expect to win. This was a great confidence booster and we realised that EcoSlips is an exceptional product that will have a huge impact on the retail sector. We receive regular enquiries from exhibitions and the tech media who want to know more or write about EcoSlips.”
“We’ve also received invitations from other international competitions to participate. Everyone seems to think EcoSlips is a great product. By being in a competition where you compete against the best of the best, we’ve established excellent credibility in the market. Prospective clients already know about EcoSlips when we start talking to them,” said Schoeman.
Schoeman is not resting on his laurels though, and is already hard at work to take EcoSlips to the next level. He reveals that he is engaging with prospective clients to implement the first automated pilot projects.
His advice to app developers and innovators wanting to develop a successful app is simple, yet profound. He advises them to first conduct market research to ensure that there is market appetite for the app.
“Once you’ve identified a gap in the market for your solution, you can then design and develop a minimum viable product that can be tested in the market, before you develop the full solution. It often happens that our assumptions are wrong and more significant problems are identified during this process, which could have an impact on the final product,” said Schoeman.
EcoSlips may not be the solution to address the shortage of landfill sites in Gauteng, but it presents a viable solution for both consumers and retailers to cut down on paper pollution.
EcoSlips is available on both Google Play store and the Apple App Store. Winners in various categories in the 2018 edition of the MTN Business App of the Year competition will be announced at a gala event in October 2018.