Two former Microsoft employees, Joanna Bichsel and Amanda Arch, have recently launched a women’s health care eCcommerce startup in Rwanda called Kasha. The company’s online platform sells pharmacy items, along with contraceptives, tampons and other personal care items.
Kasha’s eCommerce model leverages the relative anonymity and confidentiality of online and mobile ordering and delivery to subvert social stigma, which otherwise may prevent women from accessing products they need. Customers can order from Kasha’s smartphone app, website, via USSD shortcodes for consumers without smartphones or by placing a phone order with the startup’s call center.
While smartphone penetration is relatively low in Rwanda as of now, adoption is growing quickly in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. By 2020, the region could be set to add more than 400 million new smartphone connections. Sources put Rwanda’s mobile penetration around 78 percent in 2016, making Kasha’s use of USSD shortcodes a key feature.
Bischel, cofounder of Kasha, was quoted as saying: “There is a lot of talk about women and how they’re catalytic in global development, but there are too few solutions really built for women from a woman’s perspective to be able to solve some of these challenges, such as social stigma. Kasha really came about because the mobile phone is this perfect tool to be able to order confidentially and receive information confidentially, and then, we can also plug into a lot of these supply chains to get these products to people.”
While Kasha has launched in Rwanda and has its eye on the African market, the company’s cofounders have ambitions to grow their service on a global scale. As of now, Kasha has eight full-time employees, including its cofounders. The startup reportedly has raised some $200,000 from angel investors in the U.S. and Rwanda. The startup’s board of advisers includes execs with experience at Amazon, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft, among others.