Mobile Messaging App on Heroku Helps South African Groups Stay in Sync

Bambisa is a private, secure group messaging platform for schools, sports teams, and companies

Keeping your group informed is critical to ensuring participation and performance. Teachers and school administrators need to notify parents of important school activities, such as a fundraiser or a uniform-free day. Sports coaches need to inform their team of upcoming competitions. And businesses need to keep employees in the loop on a host of company-wide events. The easiest and fastest way to accomplish this important goal is to send updates and calendar invites to group members’ phones. However, the sender wants a private, secure method that does not share their personal contact information or incur extra fees per message.

The founders of Bambisa, a mobile messaging app for the South African market, wanted to help organizations easily broadcast time-sensitive news to their members in a simple, cost-effective way. As a sister division of SMSweb, the country’s largest messaging platform for schools, the team was already well-versed in the communications landscape of their region. They saw an opportunity to serve this market need with an instant messaging platform that plugged into their current infrastructure and does not share a sender’s phone number. Although Bambisa is a great option for many types of organizations, it is specifically designed with schools in mind, allowing administrators, teachers, parents and students to stay up to date on important school news and events.

Spreading the Word on Heroku

A previous version of the Bambisa had been out on the market for some time, but it was clear to the company that a new technology strategy was needed to deliver the level performance that they were looking for. They engaged consulting firm Aitako to help them strategize and build out a new technology stack and front-end experience from the ground up.

We did our homework and found that Heroku was the best option for Bambisa. Simon Stewart, Solutions Architect, Aitako Consulting

It was clear that the PaaS approach was necessary for this project. The original app was running on Google App Engine, and the Aitako team considered this option as well as Microsoft Azure, Nodejitsu and Engine Yard. They found that with many services, they spent a lot of extra time on configuration. With the Heroku platform, they could deploy their code quickly and easily. The team had previous experience with Heroku and determined that it was the best platform for their client.


Heroku allows us to get our app up and running in minutes. For me, this is a testament to the power of Heroku and a benchmark for a good PaaS. Salah ElBaba, Co-Founder & Director, Bambisa

In order to keep development costs low, the team took a cross-platform approach and opted to use the Apache Cordova platform to build a hybrid app that can access some native device functionality using JavaScript. They used the Ionic framework to build their app in HTML5 and a combination of native browsers and Crosswalk web runtime for the Android app.

The team chose an array of Heroku Add-ons to extend the platform and help them develop, run, and monitor their app: MongoLab for their database, Logentries for log management, for real-time error reporting, RabbitMQ Bigwig and CloudAMQP for messaging queuing, and New Relic APM for app monitoring. Node.js hosted by Heroku is also an integral part of their stack. The Bambisa team can interact directly with Slackbot to get statistics and backend assistance.

With Heroku, I can spin up an entirely new backend infrastructure with all the great Add-on services in about 30 seconds. For me, that is just awesome. Johann de Swardt, Founder, Aitako Consulting


App Experience

Bambisa is free to download and use, and offers a fast, streamlined experience through a simple and friendly interface on iPhone or Android devices. Anyone can create a group and invite people to join by sharing a unique group code. Group members, such as parents, students, athletes, will then start receiving updates and calendar invitations through push notifications. Group leaders, such as teachers, administrators, coaches, can also invite specific members to post to the group.

Bambisa is working on adding functionality to the platform, as well as supporting other mobile operating systems such as Windows and Firefox. In future, parents will be able to use Bambisa to pay for school fees, activities, and other expenses. The platform will also expand to provide curriculum-aligned content with progress reports that alerts teachers and parents when homework has been completed.

With Bambisa, staying in sync is as simple as checking your phone.

Are you building a messaging platform? Bambisa chose to run their app on Heroku because it allowed them to go to market quickly and scale easily alongside unpredictable traffic patterns. For more information, contact Heroku today.

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