'Vodacom' is now lending small businesses up to R1.5 million, with cash in 24 hours

Business Insider SA
  • Vodacom's new VodaLend service offers short-term business loans of up to R1.5 million, with an application process it promises takes only minutes.
  • VodaLend is actually just an originating service for Lulalend, a 5-year-old fintech company that recently raised more financing of its own.
  • Lulalend says it needs more borrowers, and it is happy to pay Vodacom to find them.
  • The interest rates are the same – expect to pay around 34% – but Vodacom offers free legal insurance with its loans.
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Vodacom is now offering small businesses loans of up to R1.5 million over 12 months through its new "everyday business funding" VodaLend service.

And applications take just 10 minutes, with a bare minimum of paperwork involved.

That is made possible by Lulalend, a five-year-old South African fintech company – which does the actual lending. Vodacom is simply an "originator" for Lulalend, that company's CEO Trevor Gosling confirmed this week, because it is hard to find the right people who need to borrow.

"In this game distribution is key, origination is key," Gosling told Business Insider South Africa. "There is no shortage of people looking for money, but it is about getting access to the more targeted, better leads."

See also: Some 10 million South Africans are now borrowing airtime and data from Vodacom – and paying up to 60% extra

Vodacom, with its large number of small and medium-sized business customers, may be the place to find the right borrowers, Lulalend believes.

Applicants need to have a business at least one year old with revenues of at least R500,000 per year, and must provide bank statements for the last three months.

Based on that they can borrow up to R1.5 million for up to 12 months, with the promise of cash in the bank account within 24 hours. While approval is not guaranteed, it is more likely than with any other financial institution, VodaLend says.

Interest rates are individualised, but you can expect to pay around 34% a year according to Lulalend and VodaLend's illustrative examples – though there is no penalty for early repayment, and a second or third loan will likely be cheaper as you build up a repayment history.

Lulalend has already funded thousands of businesses on those terms, Gosling says, and around 80% of its customers come back for another loan. But it is eager to expand to "hundreds of thousands" of borrowers, and has funding available from local and foreign sources to scale up.

With Vodacom's cut – which Gosling wouldn't disclose – invisible to the borrower, there is very little difference between applying for a loan via VodaLend or directly with Lulalend. Vodacom throws in free coverage from its "Vodacom Legal Assist" service for the duration of the loan – but Lulalend is currently running a competition in which one of its borrowers can win R500,000. 

Lulalend was founded in 2014. In mid-2019 it raised $6.5 million (around R100 million) to build out its technology and reach.

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