With the advent of cheap phones and rock-bottom recharge denominations, over 60 percent of Nigeria’s 175 million people (2014 estimate), young and old, across all socio-economic class, in different nooks and crannies of the country can afford to make use of GSM phones.
The main option to place credit on the phones for calls is the printed recharge cards because e-recharge is still not an option, and is not likely to be for a long time to come, for majority of the population.
Today, the recharge card business is worth over N1 billion per day with the N100.00 denomination of the different networks as the most patronized. Denominations from N200.00 to N500.00 also enjoy some reasonable level of patronage while denominations from N1,000 and above are the least patronized.
The opportunity provided by the boom in the sale of recharge cards is being utilized by individual small retailers that are common all over Nigeria in commercial and residential areas.
However, entrepreneurs who can provide the bulk are still far apart so the small retailers face not just the financial challenges (find more details from Northshore Advisory), but also the issue of running out of recharge cards until they can get replenishment.
The huge demand for recharge cards have led to innovations that have brought the printing of recharge cards out of the exclusive preserve of some big organizations that started the printing at the inception of GSM telephony in Nigeria. Now, as many entrepreneurs as are willing to go into recharge card printing can do so.
Recharge card printing in Nigeria is not capital intensive. It is so simplified and is scalable from as low as possible to as high as possible.
To print recharge cards, one can
- Use “orange box” from a vendor; OR
- Print through a software from a computer and printer
1. Printing From the Orange Box
The orange box rules out the need for a computer, printer or internet connection. It is essentially a POS machine that has a communication link with the vendor and from which recharge PINs can be printed as long as one’s account is in credit.
The box can be bought off-the-shelf from vendors. With the orange box, there is no need to stock large physical quantities of recharge vouchers as printing can be done as and when needed from whatever credit is left in one’s account. This guards against loss or theft of recharge vouchers.
In summary, to print recharge cards using the orange box, all you need do is:
- Buy an orange box from a vendor
- From time to time, pay into the account of the vendor to order PINs
- With a roll of paper, print out recharge vouchers from the box as you need them
2. Printing from Software
This requires the use of a computer (owned personally or used at a cybercafé), internet access, a printer and software. The steps involved in printing recharge cards using software are:
- Select a vendor with software. The vendor provides a software either free or for a fee.
- Register with the vendor.
- Download the software onto a computer for subsequent use. The software comes with guides on how to use it.
- From time to time, order and pay for PINs, specified by networks and denominations, from the vendors. It is necessary to confirm availability of the particular denominations you require before making payment into the vendor’s account.
- PINs ordered and paid for are sent to you by e-mail
- Place the PINs on a document file
- The file can be saved onto a flash drive if the printing is to be done on a computer different from the one on which the e-mail was accessed
- Using the software on a computer connected to a printer, print from the file containing the PINs
Please note that if you download the software onto a computer in a cybercafé, it has to be on a particular machine which you can use each time PINs are to be printed.
On a general note it is advisable to compare prices offered by vendors before choosing one, either for orange box printing or for software printing.