Raphael Afaedor is one of the pioneers of e-commerce in Nigeria. He co-founded Nigeria’s first online retailer, jumia.com. At the moment, he runs one of the best online grocery stores which he launched March, this year. He shares his experience with digitallagos.tv on how he has tackled logistics challenges and built successful start-ups in e-commerce sectors in Nigeria. Excerpts
1. What has been your experience with logistics given your experience in the sector?
Logistics is a challenge, but as with any challenge, with the right mindset, one can also create an opportunity.
Logistics is a challenge because of the quality of the road networks, the difficulty of connecting key parts of the city of Lagos to the other (Island to Mainland) as well as making interstate connections. It leads to slow flow of traffic on key communications hence a difficulty in moving goods and persons around.
This however, can be turned into an opportunity for service providers to build solutions to logistics challenges. A case in point is Supermart.ng, which realizing that busy professionals spend as much as 6 hours a week doing their grocery shopping, primarily because of the amount of time spent in traffic, decided to build a solution that works for the customer better by enabling the customer to shop for their groceries online within 15minutes and have it delivered conveniently to their doorstep.
2.How have you tackled the challenge and what can others learn from it?
The supermart logistics model
We built it ourselves. Supermart.ng is a company that is focused on solving this logistics challenge. As mentioned earlier, urban professionals spend 6 hours weekly just doing grocery shopping. Of these 6 hours, up to 3 is spent stuck in traffic while traveling between malls and also for looking for parking. Supermart.ng set out to tackle this problem by enabling people who are able to shop online for their groceries from their favourite local stores on our portal Supermart.ng. This they do within 15minutes and select their 3hour preferred delivery window. Supermart.ng then delivers the product to the customer in as early as 3 hours after the order has been placed.
So busy urban professionals who would normally spend up to 6hours just to get their weekly groceries now can do that in 15mins and select which window they want their products delivered in. That is how we are tackling the issue of logistics for our customers.
Given the specialized nature of our service, we have built our own fleet and personnel to enable us serve this need of the customer effectively.
3. Without the requisite infrastructure, how do you perceive that the logistics challenge is impeding the growth of e-commerce in Africa?
If the road network is better, delivery times will be faster and delivery charges will be lower, which means customers would opt for e-commerce more easily.
That said, innovative companies like Supermart.ng are finding ways to work with the challenges as it is to serve customer needs. This then creates value adding employment opportunity for drivers, personal shoppers, customer service agents etc.
4. What are your recommendations? Do you think innovative solutions or change in policy directions by authorities can help address the situation?
There is a lot going on at the moment though there is no quick fix.
For example, investment in the road network is happening but could happen even faster. In Lagos for instance, Governor Babatunde Fashola and his team have done a good job with traffic policing and decreasing logjams due to non adherence to the traffic regulations and the situation is improving but still has some way to go.
The Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobolaji Johnson is engaging various stakeholders to leverage NIPOST and their infrastructure to enable goods to be moved around more effectively.
That said, there are various other opportunities for innovative companies like Supermart.ng to come and provide tailor made services to aspects of customers’ logistics needs. Often times, focused companies will be able to do what customers are unable to do on their own.
For example, Supermart.ng is able to deliver groceries across Lagos in 3 hours because at any point in time, we have a good idea of the situation in the city and are able to route our dispatch accordingly to ensure our customers get their products on time. This is something individuals can’t do for themselves because they do not have access to the real time information we have hence patronising a solution like ours then helps them have more convenience.