[Interview] Ekene Okechukwu, Founder, Bargainmasterng.com, Nigeria
Ekene Okechukwu is Founder of Bargainmasterng.com, Nigeria's social marketplace for online sellers and buyers.
Africa Business Communities interviews him:
Would you please introduce Bargain Master and how it got started?
Bargain Master Nigeria is an online marketplace of more than 100 product categories (home appliances, consumer electronics, Food & Beverages, Fashion products, Health Products, Office equipments, Machinery and more) sold by individual businesses across Nigeria. Bargain Master was founded on June 3rd 2007 to help customers in Nigeria find quality products faster at lowest prices, a website was launched in February 2008 to provide the solution.
I was concerned about the chaotic shopping model we had in the country at the time, where you call more than 10 friends to find what you want even when the product is just one street away from you. Back then, I tried to purchase an item in 2007 on amazon.com and I was not able to create an account using my Nigeria address. I went to ebay.com and same thing. I tried to register on PayPal for an online payment and Nigeria wasn’t listed. So I thought I should be able to build a similar solution locally to help businesses have an easier way to sell to customers in Nigeria.
What makes Bargain Master different from similar commercial sites in Nigeria?
We provide customers the most affordable shopping solution in Nigeria and help product sellers reach buying customers at a lower costs.
While other websites charge huge amounts on transaction (some charge as much as 20% on sales), sellers are happy giving us 2.5% on each sale.
There’s also a fun part to shopping on our website, where individuals connect with friends and make new friends to share their shopping experience and improve the whole online shopping ecosystem (that’s a first in Nigeria). It’s the reason we are a primary social marketplace in Nigeria.
Bargain Master has a product called PayFlexi. Tell us about this product.
PayFlexi is an installment payment option for customers to make installment payments on a purchase. The product helps you make up to six months installment payment before the product is shipped, and the best part is that customers can cancel payments before deadline and receive your money back.
PayFlexi funds deposit is insured by Universal Insurance Plc, which means customers have a guaranteed refund if they cancel payment.
How does Bargain Master cater specifically to the Nigerian population?
The whole essence of online shopping is to provide convenience for customers. Bargain Master provides an online business solution that helps business owners reach more customers faster and easier.
We understand the power of valid data that’s organized to help business owners make informed decisions. Our online solution goes beyond selling products to customers, it helps you plan your business for maximum sales. A store owner on www.bargainmasterng.com has access to our dashboard of analytics where you can find what’s trending by the hour, per day, weekly or monthly.
This information helps you understand who’s buying your products, where they are located and the demography of the buyer’s friends. Our data analytics gives solutions to manufacturers, distributors and retailers planning to target a specific customer demography or market segment.
As for our shopping customers, they’re experiencing an amazing online shopping solution that’s personalized to them. Imagine having special offers on your birthday with real gifts sent to you. Products are presented to you from the nearest store location to reduce shipping costs and you can get most products shipped to you free.
Who can trade on Bargain Master?
We have 3 categories of businesses on our website-Retailer, Distributor and Manufacturer. If your business falls within these categories then you can sell any product that’s not contraband in Nigeria.
What can be done by (the arms of) the government to further entrepreneurship in the Nigerian youth?
It has to start first from our homes. We need to teach our children and equip them to explore their talent and help them develop their entrepreneurial tendencies. The norm here is that must go to school and get a job, and when you attempt to do anything different you’re viewed as an unserious person who just wants to waste time.
The government has a great role to play. There has to be an enabling environment for would-be entrepreneurs to thrive. Access to funds with low interest rate has to be established; this is why China has grown in leaps and bounds.
Our school system also needs to encourage more students to partner with their peers and start up businesses.
What can you say about the targets, plans and ambitions of Bargain Master for 2017?
Our target is to reach more customers across Nigeria and achieve 20% brand awareness in Nigeria in 2017. We plan to launch a unique shopping solution that helps end user customers buy products at wholesale price without being a distributor.
We plan to increase product availability in more categories and give more customers our 6 hours delivery solution that creates real time shopping experience.
We know the economy outlook and growth appears to be slow but we are bringing an amazing shopping solution that saves customers a lot of headache.
Could you assess a few African countries’ performance last year?
Nigeria economic performance in 2016 was below expectation. We have seen signals of the crisis in 2015 when the price of crude oil collapsed, but the government didn’t get its policies right and a lot of businesses lost faith in our economy.
Morroco focused on infrastructural development for more than a decade and the dividends are showing. With the country’s proximity to European markets and stable political system, most investors and major manufacturing companies are turning their eyes toward Morocco.
A skilled workforce ready to bring their expertise to any company has made Morocco the destination for companies targeting European and African markets. This puts Morocco as the best perfoming country in Africa.
Ethiopia’s growth has been mainly on Agriculture and the open policy for foreign investment across the country. More Chinese companies now use Ethopia as a mnufacturing hub for US and Europe bound goods. Their infrastural developement has also helped them attract more Foreign direct investment.
And then there’s Tanzania, which has been on a steady pace of growth even though corruption has been an obstacle. The new president, who many believe to be a not corrupt and a hard worker, has restored hope and a sense of decent labour in the country. Tanzania’s GDP was rated the best in 2016.