[Startup Interview] Fredrick Kirui, Director, AfricaSokoni, Kenya
A growing middle class with an affinity for spending and keen on convenience has birthed innovative online applications across Africa. E-commerce has been at the heart of this internet renaissance.
In Kenya, AfricaSokoni has set itself apart from the many online shops by being the only outlet offering round the clock delivery of items purchased on their website.
Fredrick Kirui the company’s Director of Business Development, partnership & Growth talked to Africa Business Communities about the startup’s DNA, the plans to grow foothold to 18 African countries and the company’s plans to increase Africa’s share of the global e-commerce sales that currently stands at a paltry 2 per cent.
Tell us about AfricaSokoni
AfricaSokoni is an e-commerce platform that was launched in Kenya in January 2018 seeking to bring African consumers and retailers together online, in a swift, hassle-free, flexible, and credible shopping experience; without the restriction of distance, without customers having to leave the comfort of their homes, offices and farms.
By doing this, we hope to save the consumers from a lot of time wasting, and the hassle and stress associated with the traditional “bricks and mortar” retail shopping.
The company is truly African, with a Pan-African ambition as we hope to expand into 18 African countries within the next five years. As a startup, the company has been able to employ at least 15 young Kenyans with various skill sets.
Where is the company located?
Our Headquarters are on the 2nd floor, Pili Trade Centre, Mombasa Road, Syokimau next to the SGR terminal in Nairobi Kenya.
When was the company founded and why?
The company was founded and registered in Kenya in November 2017 but started operations on the 22nd of January, 2018. Our major focus is to put the power back into the hands of the African consumer.
That is why we in Africasokoni are continuously working towards improving the enabling environment for African consumers to be able to shop however, for whatever and whenever they want, without any form of constraint. We do this by leveraging the power of the internet, and through the introduction of relevant and scalable technologies.
How is the company funded?
Shareholder funding which was converted into equity in the company
What are AfricaSokoni’s unique selling points?
We offer 24 hour delivery for items purchased on our website within Nairobi. Currently, we are the only e-commerce marketplace that is able to achieve this turnaround time within Nairobi.
We pride ourselves at being the home of authentic Kenyan products in the beauty and fashion industry(Charmed Cosmetics, Suzie Beauty, Waza Wazi Leather art, Keyara Organics, Mandevu Beard oil, Maasai beaded leather belts, Kyondos etc)
We offer the best value for money for majority of our items sold on our e-commerce website.
How has the market responded to your services?
The reception we have received in the market has been very encouraging. From a vendor point of view, we are getting more and more vendors on board. On the customer side, we are seeing an increase in the number of orders we process on a daily basis.
We are positive that we are heading in the right direction. We are cognizant with the fact that we have a long way to go. We still have so much ground to cover. We are ready and thrilled by this opportunity to serve Kenyans and Africans in general.
Who are your clients?
For us our clients are three fold: our vendors, partners and our customers who continuously shop on our platform (www.africasokoni.co.ke)
We have been able to sign up small vendors to major distributors of various products all over East Africa. Our plan is to eventually enable Africans buy and sell their favourite products on our platform
For now, majority of our customers are predominantly Kenyan. We have received customers shopping for stuff from our website (www.africasokoni.co.ke) in as far as New York - USA.
What are the changes your company has gone through since inception and what do they mean to the business?
We have had to change our user interface. This is an ongoing exercise as you know our business is hinged on web experience which has to be agile and tailor-made to our different users.
We have changed and increased the bandwidth for our server to make our website extremely responsive
We have also had to adapt to the dynamic market forces by bringing in competent team members to enable us scale
Have you had been in any partnerships?
We partnered with DHL to be our global logistics partner. This enables us to swiftly deliver products purchased on our website to any part of the world
We are also in partnership with Pesapal as our payment gateway. This enables us to provide our customers with convenient payment options from Mpesa, VISA, Mastercard, Airtel Money etc when they are shopping for products on our website
We are also seeking to partner with global E-commerce platforms and global brands to be the exclusive e-commerce partner for Africa.
How is competition in your industry and how do you weather it?
We are not the first e-commerce player in Kenya/Africa and certainly we are not going to be the last. The market is big for all of us. What sets us apart is our distinct value propositions as earlier stated. Africa for example only contributed to less than 2% of global e-commerce sales according to e-marketer report 2018.
What can be expected of your AfricaSokoni in 2018?
Expansion into East Africa, new and interactive mobile app (Progressive Web Application), improved interface and increased number of products coupled with new segments.
What does your company need to grow and prosper?
Stable business environment not only in Kenya but globally, improved living standards – which translates to increased purchasing power, adaptability to change in the technology field and increased awareness on the safety of online shopping
What is the latest news?
We have remodeled our website, we have rebuilt the core functionality of our website rendering it very adaptable to our user preferences. We are doing this to make it easier for the customers to get around the website. We are going to follow this with our version of the mobile app which will be a first in the African market (PWA - Progressive Web Application)
Who should contact AfricaSokoni and why?
Anyone seeking to have a market for their products especially in the African market and globally.
Anyone seeking to be an affiliate seller, to make extra money on the side via commissions for anything sold on our website.
Investors - seeking to grow their wealth and be associated with a company that is seeking to maximize the potential on e-commerce in Africa.
Africa Business Communities is conducting a series of interviews with startup businesses in Africa.
Are you a startup in Africa and interested in an interview? Great! Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org