Raphael Afaedor, former managing director at Jumia, recently launched a company with Gbolahan Fagbure, Jumia’s former director of operations. Their new project, Supermartng.com is an online grocery delivery service serving the Ikoyi, Victoria Island, and Lekki areas of Lagos. The service allows customers to shop from a wide selection of grocery items that can be delivered to the home or office. The AWP Network met with Fagbure who told us how he got started, what inspired him, and how he plans to transform the e-commerce landscape in Nigeria.
What inspired you to start Supermart?
The e-commerce market in Nigeria has mainly targeted the non-essential needs of customers for items like electronics, phones, and fashion; truly, it’s the consumer’s market. This is my third year in the e-commerce space and I believe that my team and I can make a significant contribution to this sector.
With this service, customers shop more conveniently for groceries. In Lagos for instance, there is so much traffic; customers can spend up to three (3) to four (4) hours going from one store to the other to get the groceries they need. They get to the store and may spend an additional thirty (30) minutes trying to find parking. They get out of the car, into the store, select the items that they would like to purchase, queue at the cashier and that literally can take another one (1) to two (2) hours. The customer experience that I describe here, are inconveniences my partner and I hope to improve upon and this is what inspired us to start.
Who is your target market?
At Supermart, we want to create an effortless experience for our customers. They work long hours and spend a sizeable part of their day in traffic. This target segment wants to experience great customer service.
• Would rather spend their free time resting or doing things that they enjoy, instead of driving around Lagos going from one supermarket to the other.
• Live in an urban city. We are currently based in Lagos, the commercial heart of the country.
• Place value on their time. They also see value in a professional service like Supermart.
At Supermart, we take care of your grocery needs so that you can spend your time on other activities (working, spending time with loved ones, or even sleeping.) Let us be the one to worry about your groceries.
What is your competitive edge?
We provide exceptional customer service. The convenience we offer to our customers also helps. We deliver grocery items to your door step quickly, efficiently, and conveniently. Customers choose from a vast selection of products from four (4) different stores and can have them delivered quickly and conveniently. No other store in Nigeria allows you to combine items from a supermarket, pharmacy, stationery store, and a bookshop all in one order. Our offering is unique because no other store (physical or online) has the variety of items that we have.
What is the long-term plan for this business?
Our goal is to expand the scope of how retail is fulfilled. A significant portion of retail products in Nigeria are sold in the informal market. We want to formalize some of these channels. Regardless of what we choose to do in the future, our focus will always be on saving our customers time and money, as well as help to reduce stress. We also want to increase accessibility, ease, and convenience.
What business challenges do you face?
We have set the bar high for the kind of people we want to work with and finding such people is tasking. For every delivery driver we say yes to, we probably turn down thirty (30) applications. It’s the same for our personal shoppers and of course, we deal with the daily challenges of the power (electricity) situation as well as maneuvering through traffic in a densely populated city; but this is not unique to us, we endure it along with millions of other businesses in Lagos. We could also do with faster and more reliable internet connectivity. I know the ICT Minister, Omobola Johnson is working vigorously on the Nigerian National Broadband Plan so it is my hope that we see a steady improvement between now and its full implementation in 2018.
What five (5) key things have you learned since starting this business idea?
(1) Find a trustworthy business partner. Finding a business partner may help ease the stress of starting a new business.
(2) You have not figured it all out. Before most people start their business, they think that they have figured it all out but this hardly ever happens to be the case. The natural evolution of any business is that you find out things as you develop (especially in the earlier stages) and adapt to meet contingencies.
(3) Be Flexible. When we started out, we had an idea of stores we wanted to partner with, but as we’ve progressed, we have refined the list to ensure that we only establish partnerships with stores that are professional in their business dealings and have a long-term approach to partnerships.
(4) Be Realistic. Initially, we wanted to launch the service in multiple locations but later on decided it was operationally better to start in a specific location before expanding.
(5) Let Data Guide Some of Your Decisions. Everything we learned in the first couple of months, delivering items in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki and Lagos Island has benefited us a great deal. We recently expanded our service to include Ikeja, Yaba, Surulere and surrounding areas.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
I would say that if you are certain about your idea and your plans are well thought-out, start small and grow gradually but with aggressive and ambitious goals.
How has technology enhanced your business idea? And what is the future of e-commerce in Nigeria?
We are an e-commerce company and technology definitely enhances our operations. However, I would also say that we define our company as a retail business driven by technology and less as a technology business seeking retail customers. We offer a value-added service and look to make a profit. Technology is one part of a complex process that helps us achieve our goals.
Lastly, with the rising popularity of e-commerce businesses in Nigeria, there is the increasing debate about who e-commerce targets and should target. A key question is whether e-commerce can displace offline shopping methods as a preferred means to buying everything from groceries to mobile phones. While there is strong potential for the reach of online retailers, the size of the target market and the speed of penetration are often exaggerated. All e-commerce businesses in Nigeria do not solely rely on the internet. They operate a hybrid model whereby they combine both offline and online strategies and I believe this will continue for years to come. E-commerce is growing but still a while away in Nigeria and probably throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa.