“It’s a daily event in the country — there are people being displaced every single day,” David Gluckman, CEO and co-founder of Lumkani, laments in our latest episode of VentureKast. Destructive fires are a regular, and potentially devastating, occurrence for the approximately 10 million South Africans that live in informal settlement communities. These townships are particularly susceptible to the threat of fires due to the use of flammable building materials, the ubiquity of open flame fires, limited space between dwellings, and a lack of road infrastructure for adequate emergency response.
On this episode of VentureKast, the podcast about the most innovative and impactful inclusive fintech startups in the world, I sat down with David to discuss Lumkani, a Johannesburg-based startup that leverages proprietary hardware and a tech-enabled agent network to provide customers living in informal settlements within South Africa with insurance products that protect against loss of life, shelter, and assets in the case of a home fire.
Lumkani, which means ‘be careful’ in Xhosa, originally began as a hardware company, deploying its first fire detector in late 2014. Within the first 18 months, they were able to prove that their technology “in 73 percent of cases was able to reduce the spreading of fires [beyond] the first home.” But it was not enough just to alert the community and stop the spreading of fires. David explains, “as we went on the customer was demanding more from us: ‘you can detect the fire but what is the end result?’”
With that problem in mind, Lumkani, partnered with Hollard, a South African-based insurance company, to develop the world’s first hardware-enabled fire insurance specifically designed for informal settlements. To serve clients that had been ignored by traditional financial service providers previously, the company has created an efficient, engaging, and easy to manage experience for its low-income customers. David describes how they designed the customer journey, noting that “the more you commit yourself to being a learning and listening organization, your customer will tell you how to make your business successful because they’ll tell you what they need.”