Mobile money has over the years revolutionized the way we interact and spend our money. It all started as a way to transfer money but over the years it has burgeoned into a hub for all things finances – from paying bills, getting loans to even managing your bank accounts from the comfort of one’s devices.
At the forefront of such innovations are usually big and smaller players in the telecoms sector. One such player is Cellulant, a digital company specializing in mobile payments that launched a new Pan-African payment platform in 2017 aptly dubbed Mula that promises to simplify the way we pay and manage your bills.
Update Nov 2019: Cellulant has rebranded Mula into Tingg. The article has been updated to reflect the change.
What does Tingg do?
Tingg is a payment platform that allows you to pay and manage your bills for various services. It’s available in a couple of African countries, including Kenya.
Currently, the services it caters for in Kenya include utility bills such as KPLC (postpaid and buying of tokens for prepaid customers), Nairobi Water, Nairobi (NCC) Parking Fees, DSTV, GOtv and StarTimes.
Tingg also makes it possible for you to buy airtime with zero transaction charges for Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom or Faiba.
How does Tingg work?
Basically what Tingg does is provide you with a centralized means through which you can access your money to pay your bills and buy airtime. Supported payment options include M-PESA, Airtel Money, T-Kash, Equitel and MasterCard/Visa.
That said, the app is more preferable as it comes with more options and is much easier to navigate.
Let’s now take a brief look at these three Tingg versions.
1. Tingg – The App
When you first launch the Tingg app you’ll be prompted to enter your phone number to activate it. The activation is done via SMS much like how WhatsApp does it and the app detects the code automatically.
This authenticates you for now but note, should you remove or the change SIM Card on your phone later on, you’ll be required to either verify again your number or to change the number before you can use the app.
After activating your phone number, Tingg guides you through setting up of a profile, though this can be skipped for later. If you go through the profile set up, Tingg will automatically detect a compatible utility service that is already linked to your number. You can link a service or choose to decline it.
In my case I was pleasantly surprised when it detected my old postpaid KPLC account number and name. However, I had to decline the linking since I’ve long since moved from where I used to live then not to mention the last time I was there they had already switched to prepaid.
Next, you’ll be prompted to select the payment options you would like to be accessible in Tingg. M-PESA, Airtel Money and MasterCard/Visa are selected by default.
The rest include select banks (Diamond Trust Bank, KCB, Co-operative, Stanbic, Barclays, Standard Charted, NIC, I&M, National Bank, Family, Faulu, NCBA and Bank of Africa) which you would like to be integrated as payments options in the future.
If your bank is available in the list, you can select it to be notified once it’s made available as a payment option.
That completes the initial set up and now you can start using the app. The main app page is divided into three sections:
1. Home – where you can see the status of your added bills (including pending transactions, amounts or overpayments).
Additionally, clicking on the bill menu launches a menu to edit, delete or view the receipts for that specific bill.
Editing the bill allows you to change the bill details such as account number or account name should you wish to update these details.
2. Airtime – where you can buy airtime for Airtel, Telkom or Safaricom using the app.
3. Pay – where you can add and pay your utility bills for KPLC, Nairobi Water, Nairobi (NCC) Parking Fees, DSTV, GOtv and StarTimes.
4. History – where you can track all your bill payments and airtime purchases.
There’s also a hamburger menu from which you can edit your profile and access support directly or from a handy FAQ.
The profile includes the following options:
- Adding Names, Email and Profile Picture to your Tingg Account
- Adding more payment options
- Make a wish list for service provides/utilities you would want to be added to the app
- Changing your main mobile network/number
- Managing your Bill accounts i.e. adding or deleting existing ones (e.g. KPLC)
2. Tingg *369# USSD
You can also access Tingg via USSD on any mobile network by dialling *369#. You may or may not be charged anything when you use this USSD depending on the network you use. I can however confirm that on Safaricom it’s free.
This USSD version is more stripped down compared to the app, but it accomplishes much of what its counterparts do, but at the cost of more steps. So you can still pay your utility bills and buy airtime for any network using M-PESA. Plans are underway to add more payment options.
From the Due Bill you can view any amounts that are pending that are already added to your account. If there are no accounts, you can access the specific services that are listed in this first page or add them from the My Accounts options.
Lastly, you can buy Airtime for any of the three aforementioned networks. Airtime can also be bought directly using the code *369*amount#.
3. Tingg Web
You can finally access Tingg on the web version. The web portal is more like the app and allows you to purchase airtime and pay bills. Like USSD however, the payment option is currently only available through M-PESA.
How does Tingg carry out the payment?
The first thing that struck me when I saw what Tingg claimed it could do is just how it would handle the transaction, seeing it was inevitable that my PIN would be required at some point. I take it you’re wondering the same too.
So I took the risk and decided to buy some airtime with the Tingg app for my Safaricom line just to see how it would work. Well it turned out that the PIN part is not handled by the app rather it just pushes this request to the SIM Toolkit which in-turn prompts you to provide your PIN to complete the transaction as you normally do.
As such it’s not that different from how you would normally pay bills or buy airtime using M-PESA only this time the app is doing most of the heavy lifting for you; this way you don’t have to go through the trouble of recalling and keying in the different paybill numbers (and their respective account numbers) every time you’ve pending bills for all these different services.
The *369# USSD and website versions likewise work this way. With the website version you’ll of course require the phone with you to complete the request. The SIM toolkit is triggered “remotely” and the only thing left is for you to provide your PIN to validate the payment.
Once a transaction is complete, Tingg will provide you with a receipt of the payment. This digital receipt is shown in the History section of the app. If you tap on this receipt, you should get the full receipt that looks like this:
A nice addition to this receipt is the share button which allows you to share the receipt using the options available on your phone (e.g WhatsApp, Email, SMS etc.). This way you can pay a bill for somebody and share this receipt with them for confirmation purposes.
For transactions done via USSD and the Website, the receipts are sent via SMS, however the latter’s do seem to get synced with those on the app as well. This way, you can keep track of all the bills that have been paid by your Tingg account from one place.
What’s next for Tingg?
The biggest challenge for Tingg right now I take it is to bring on board other payment options as well as other billers. I, for one, would for love to see some more water companies added to the app.
With regard to payment options, M-PESA I suppose is sufficient for the most part, but I don’t see why Airtel Money and T-Kash should continue lagging behind on the
USSD and web version. Some competition would do everybody some good, especially now that interoperability is possible.
Use of debit/credit cards and future integration of bank accounts looks promising too, but I reckon this would only appeal to a much smaller segment of would be users.
I say that because credit/debit cards while somewhat popular seem to be reserved mostly for ATM transactions, while online banking loses much of its appeal when banking fraud and hacking is taken into consideration.
That said, Cellulant does obviously recognize the security implications posed by their solution, otherwise a Norton Secured badge wouldn’t feature on the app’s splash page. The connection to the Tingg website is likewise secure.
Perhaps a solution to this would be to have a Tingg dedicated wallet, which Cellulant does seem to allude to have plans for, in addition to the possibility of sending money to other users.
This way users won’t have to worry about linking their bank accounts to a third party, which I can see being a dealbreaker for some. I also think doing this would reduce much of the overhead that would arise from working with all these different banks. Plus, it’s inevitable that some users will feel left out if their bank is not available in the app.
Tingg’s refreshing take on how we not only pay bills but also manage them is a much welcomed innovation in the mobile money space.
Granted, payment of bills through mobile money, debit cards and online/banking apps is not a new concept, however it’s quite obvious now that nobody had contemplated integrating all these into a three-in-one solution.
Tingg does this, but since it’s still at its infancy, more work is needed to bring it to its full potential. That said, it’s off to a promising start based on what it offers right now.
I think I’ve touched on the most pertinent issues regarding Tingg and how it works. I would suggest you give it a try and see for yourself whether it’s something you’d consider using.
I’m already using it for my airtime buying purposes, and I’m quite satisfied with it. Should you have more questions or complaints regarding the service, you can contact Tingg customer care for assistance.