[Interview] Lino G. TOKPO, CEO, GENIEUP Group, Benin
Lino G.Tokpo, who is specialized in the organization of networking and business negotiation meetings, is the founder of GENIEUP Group, a young Beninese company which mainly intervenes in supporting local businesses through the distribution of products.
Tell us about your company?
GENIEUP Group SARL is a young Beninese company which intervenes mainly in the support of local businesses through the organization of business networking events called GENIEUP Networking since 2018, and on the other hand it also do the distribution of local products. As part of the distribution of local products and visibility on business opportunities in Africa, in 2021 we launched the platform www.afryshop.com.
Afryshop therefore aims to make business opportunities visible in Africa and to facilitate the export of local products. This platform is also linked to local shops and supermarkets (partners) which facilitate the delivery of orders in detail. The main objective of this platform is to make African innovations accessible to consumers and to make business opportunities in Africa visible to businessmen.
When and why was GENIEUP Group set up?
GENIEUP Group SARL was registered in 2020 but its activities really started in 2018. We started by organizing network meetings (cocktail dinners) between the actors of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Benin (startup, investor, exporter, service provider). Over the course of the meetings, we realized that we can offer even more services to businesses more than what we were doing.
Thus, we decided to register the company GENIEUP GROUP SARL which continues the network and training activities but in addition, the distribution of local products, commercial representation and support-advice in business structuring and marketing.
What would you say gives GENIEUP Group the competitive edge?
The competitive advantage of GENIEUP GROUP SARL is above all its global approach in serving the performance of local businesses. We do not limit ourselves only to the distribution of products but we start with the creation of a strong community and we support competitiveness. We identify companies that have innovative products and that have high added value.
What makes GENIEUP Group unique from other companies that offer similar services?
Our company is unique in its intervention approach and in the product identification process. Also, our distribution network and the opportunities we offer to local businesses to more easily distribute their products, set us apart from the competition.
What can you say about the changes and developments that your company has undergone since inception?
Since the start of this adventure, we can say that we live with the changes on a daily basis, the changes first in the internal structuring. In the beginning, we practically all evolved on our own, but today several employees adhere to the company's vision and we are moving together to achieve this common vision now.
In terms of projects, we are sufficiently dynamic since our objective is to offer sufficiently comprehensive services to meet the growth of African companies. We complete services as and when the need arises.
What does GENIEUP Group need to grow and prosper?
For the growth of our business, we need to invest more in communication, to increase our workforce in human resources and above all to expand our distribution point portfolio. Also, we intend to better improve the quality of services on our web platform.
Describe a bit the competition in your industry.
The distribution sector is traditionally dense in Africa given the dominance of the tertiary sector. Since consumption is mainly oriented towards imported products, the distribution of imported products already covers almost the entire distribution market. Our mission is to increase the consumption rate of local products Locally and Internationally.
So it is obvious that the challenge is enormous, but we are working to shake up the competition and find our place on the local and international market.
What do you think may be the biggest threat to GENIEUP Group and your industry?
The biggest threat to the local product distribution sector is the importation of products which are generally far cheaper due to high production and therefore low production costs. It should also be noted the low availability of investment in the industrial sector in Africa. This weakens local businesses that are unable to provide us with innovative products at competitive prices and quality.
As far as our business is concerned, we are sorely lacking in investment, which limits our momentum towards bold growth policies. With too little growth in the face of a market that is changing too quickly, this could endanger our survival.
Tell us a bit about GENIEUP Group's plans for 2021?
For 2021, we will continue the deployment of the www.afryshop.com platform which was recently launched and the development of our points of sale in Benin and Togo. We also plan to develop Afryshop point-of-sale franchises in the near future.