How Tala delivers more with less in the Philippines
The term “leapfrogging” has often been used to describe Tala’s markets. Ubiquitous usage of mobile money (instead of credit and debit cards), accessing the internet from smartphones (rather than desktops) and the popularity of ride hailing apps (instead of taxis) all demonstrate how the diffusion of technology allows emerging markets to side-step incremental advances in favor of transformational ones. Still, many of Tala’s customers face the daily reality of life dictated by a lack of disposable income. And if necessity is the mother of invention, then need is the mother of design. At Tala, our engineering and product teams must find creative, inclusive ways to bring financial services to people who need them the most. We must make our customers’ constraints our opportunity to deliver more with less.
At Tala, our engineering and product teams must find creative, inclusive ways to bring financial services to people who need them the most. We must make our customers’ constraints our opportunity to deliver more with less.
As we work through the problems that affect our users, Tala’s solution set is defined by the very mobile phones our customers have access to. In the Philippines, for example, many customers use devices like the Cherry Mobile Astro 2 and the ZH&K Mobile Pioneer. These devices retail for ₱1,699 and ₱999 respectively (about $32 USD and $19 USD) and have helped those with lower income access essential services. However, their screens are only 480 x 800 pixels, which limits design options for our product, and they have as little as 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage, which presents challenges for our engineers. Camera image quality on these devices also comes into play when Tala customers submit photos of themselves to meet identification requirements.
Moreover, Tala’s customers in the Philippines are sensitive to the costs of downloading updates. Many use phones operating Android 6.0.1 or below. Tala engineers must therefore ensure the highest user experience on very limited operating systems. Customers are also always using Tala on the go: while commuting home via Jeepney (large buses in the Philippines) or tricycle, checking out at the supermarket or dropping their kids off at school. Through this lens, Tala must adapt to the rapid rhythms of our customers without diminishing our core value proposition of instant, affordable credit to those without any prior history of borrowing.
Tala’s connection to our customers is only as strong as the challenges we don’t address. External factors sit between Tala and our customers, such as networks and external service providers, and they can all be sources of instability. Much of the external infrastructure essential to Tala’s product experience is subject to the bandwidth constraints of local operators. In effect, getting our product to our customers can be like trying to drink a thick smoothie through a thin, leaky straw. Something Tala’s engineers and product teams must do remarkably well because, in order for our customers to access the financial services they need, there is no other option.
Working beyond the frontier of finance takes creativity, patience and mission-driven inspiration to move the opposite direction of most technology companies. While others seek to take advantage of new capabilities like augmented reality, biometric identification and transactions via cryptocurrencies, we’re focused on helping customers use ID cards issued by their neighborhood housing cooperative. Inclusive design isn’t just a challenge, it’s an opportunity to serve everyone we can possibly reach. All 3 billion [and counting!] of them.
Want to build with #TeamTala? We’re hiring! We are growth hackers, engineers, data scientists, customer experience designers, marketers, and finance geeks all passionate about extending financial freedom to the billions of underserved people across the globe. We believe in people from every type of background — around the world, and within our company. We call this #RadicalTrust. Come join our global team at tala.co/careers