Cell phone airtime can now be dispensed by all Pilot customers, directly from their point-of-sale (POS) software, another industry first for hospitality and retail (POS) software specialist Pilot Software.
"This is all about convenience for the millions of prepaid cell phone users in South Africa who pay up an average of R1.9-billion a month for the service and account for some 80% of the active cell phone SIM cards in South Africa," says Pilot Software MD Stephen Corrigan.
"Importantly, it provides another revenue stream for our clients. The fact that they do not need to buy the airtime upfront or place large deposits as cover is a huge benefit. It will also encourage new vendors to enter the market as it is easy to dispense airtime when the sales process is fully integrated to the POS system, eliminating the need for a separate cash-up and the management of airtime revenue in a separate cash-box."
Corrigan adds that it would be a major convenience for restaurants and other consumer retail outlets to be able to vend airtime in "the same way that they vend a plate of food or a bar of chocolate with the same controls and securities".
Pilot recently concluded an agreement with Comm Express, a subsidiary of JSE-listed Blue Label Telecoms, which produces and distributes a wide variety of prepaid secure electronic tokens of value and transactional services, including prepaid airtime.
"Our agreement opens up opportunities for all manner of retailers – from restaurants to bottle stores- who use a Pilot Hospitality or Retail Software solution," says Corrigan.
Blue Label Telecoms is an independent distributor of prepaid secure electronic tokens of value and transactional products and services, including airtime and starter packs. In South Africa its distribution channels extend to the major retail groups, petroleum forecourts and associated convenience stores, independent retailers, wholesalers and also directly to end-users. The group has operations across several continents, including the Indian sub-continent.
"We view this as a win/win scenario as Pilot clients are able to make additional profit from selling airtime to their customers without any investment outlay, and hopefully attract more feet to their stores," says Corrigan.
"This initiative will change perceptions regarding the way prepaid or recharge airtime is sold in South Africa. At present the perception is that it should be purchased at a petroleum forecourt, convenience store or a large retailer. There is absolutely no reason why airtime cannot also be bought from small retailers of any description or from within the comfort of the local restaurant or coffee shop."
Pilot manages the whole process, from sending a request for airtime to printing the slip for the customer, eliminating the need for shop owners to cash up separately, adding an additional revenue stream with no extra work or risk.
"The average convenience store or coffee shop would easily be able to pay for the rental cost of their Pilot POS system from the profits that accrue from their sale of airtime and still have money to spare," says Corrigan.
"This of course does not even take into account the reduction on the food costs and related controls that the Pilot system has to offer."
Blue Label Investments was established in 2001 by brothers Mark and Brett Levy and was successfully listed on the main board of the Johannesburg Securities Exchange as Blue Label Telecoms in November 2007. It has been hugely successful in increasing the range of secure electronic tokens of value and other value added products and services it distributes through its ever expanding global footprint of touch points.
Blue Label Telecoms' joint chief executive officer Mark Levy says that the agreement with Pilot Software would add value to the overall prepaid market by providing retailers with a quick, simple and highly accurate electronic means of controlling and co-ordinating the sale of secure electronic tokens of value and transactional products and services.