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Maduqa: Online Shops for Every Kenyan

Maduqa is a fledgling web startup in Nairobi. Their goal: make it simple, fast and easy for any Kenyan business owner to get their own store online in just a few minutes. Surprisingly, there’s nothing else out there quite like this (that I’ve seen), so it’s an excellent example of local entrepreneurs taking ideas from the global stage and localizing them to Kenyan needs.

It’s a simple website, with a focus on two things. First, it’s online shops for ordinary businessmen, whether you operate out of your house, a duka or a business frontage. Second, it’s a classifieds listings site.

There’s a lot of draw in figuring out how to crack the Kenya classifieds market, and the web is littered with a dozen mediocre attempts at this from Craigslist to the Nation Media Group, much less the everyday sites that others throw up. In this case, I think it’s a diversion from what should be the focus: online shops.

We’re starting to see more Kenyans paying attention to the web-side of their business. For most, that just means that they know the internet is out there and might be valuable in attracting customers. Those are your medium and upper-class businesses. The upper-class ones will go out and design their own websites, Maduqa isn’t for them.

Instead, Maduqa is for the businessman doesn’t have any marketing budget to speak of, she might be a hairdresser or a person running their business at night from their home. They don’t have the time, energy or know-how to setup a store on their own, but they could set up a Maduqa site. It’s free too, so the cost of failure is low. Your worst case scenario is that you are finally searchable by name online.

There is a small team of individuals who are going around and trying to sign up new businesses into the site. It’s analog, and not nearly as efficient as if you were running a pure viral or digital marketing campaign, but then their target end-user probably wouldn’t see those anyway. Any other type of marketing is even more expensive and untenable for this bootstrapping startup.

So, let’s say they have three guys walking around town trying and they each aim for 15 new Maduqa shops online each day, that’s 45 shops per day total. Not bad, especially if you extrapolate that out to 20 working days per month with a total of 900 online stores per month added to the website. In three months they would have 2700 online shops.

Now we’re talking some serious mass. Maybe even enough to get on the radars of consumers, especially as all the marketing for the store websites will be done by the store owners themselves, as they tell everyone about their new website.

I met up with Kachwanya, one of the duo behind the site and walked through the site with him, discussing both the pros and cons of this type of service and the site itself. Here is a quick rundown of what I liked/didn’t like, keeping in mind that it’s an early-stage website.

What I like

  • Anyone can setup an online shop now. Conceptually, this is very easy to grasp.
  • Nice use of javascript and overlays that make the site easier to use.
  • There is a team of Maduqa reps going around and signing up new business owners.
  • The potential to take over the online stores market in a country.

What could be improved

  • Scrap the classifieds, stick to one thing: online shops.
  • Let’s see PesaPal (or its equivalent) instituted on this site. I can see no better win-win situation for Maduqa, the end users or PesaPal than this kind of partnership.
  • Parts of the site look nice, but it also feels a little cluttered, some design and usability tweaks would help.
  • Get more feet on the street, sign up more businesses and get up to critical mass even faster.

I’m impressed by this simple and workable concept. They have the technical acumen to do it, there is no doubting that. Will they have the business acumen to balance? Time will tell if they will pull this off, but I’m optimistic that they can.

10 Comments

  1. Thank You for posting online shopping for kenyan

  2. Oups !! Could be improved -> No MySQL error returned plz
    I used the search form and pressed Enter !! Form validation exists when using button though… Guys, you need to check your variables server-side – a js validation script is not enough 🙂

    “You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ‘WHERE title LIKE ‘%jewelery%’ OR description LIKE ‘%jewelery%” at line 3″

  3. Thanks BigBoss, I will check on the search function; must have messed up with a few variables when doing the last update. Thanks, let me know of any error you encounter or any suggestions.

    The Admin

  4. Great one from @kachwanya i also recommend Static HTML pages instead of dynamic URLS (helps with google page rank) and ecommerce/mcommerce (Mpesa) integration for the shops.

    Its possible.

    Thanks Hash for this one.

  5. What I love most with the site, is the composite nature. It has everything for everyone, which means that the shops as well as the classifieds are accessible to the clients.

    My worry is the Payment system!

  6. nicholas rukaria

    April 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Great Post, Great idea (http://www.maduqa.com/), though too clattered as it has been said, the impatient will barely give it a min.

  7. Thanks all for the comments.
    Indeed the home page looks disjointed. I have been having changes regularly in the last few weeks. I am currently working on a solid look and feel/ design for the home page that will be up by next week. In addition, we are also working towards having longterm partnerships with some shop owners so that they guarantee the delivery of items bought from their online shops; this will maintain our integrity as an online e-commerce portal. Any suggestions are welcome anytime.

    maduqa.com Admin

  8. I like the idea. We need more local content. I also like that you removed the second scrolling bar of featured shops . All that movement was confusing and distracted from the rest of the page. The missing pictures are killing the look of the website. Maybe your design should not rely so much on user provided data. Other than that it’s a good job. Maybe one cool feature to add is customer reviews or scoring. This could be pretty tricky to get right, even yelp is now facing problems. Is the website hosted in Kenya ? Good Luck.

  9. Thanks guys for the feedback, much appreciated
    @John we have taken note of that
    @James, we are working on the Payment System, it is going to be up very soo
    @nicholas looking on the way to make it less clattered.

  10. Minor design criticisms and bugs aside I like the Maduqa idea very much. I also agree that the classifieds should be dropped. And yes this is a good example of taking a proven concept and adapting it. It also shows good market awareness on the part of @Kachwanya and @Mulutu Jackson.

    With approx. 12 % penetration now (remember it was just 1.4 % in 2004) and continued rapid growth expected over the next 4 years, the Kenyan web is still in the emerging phase. The opportunities that existed in North America and Western Europe when Internet penetration was at a similar level (and exploding) are the same ones that exist in East Africa today. Just sprinkle on a bit of web 2.0 and add a healthy dash of mobile and generate traffic, traffic, traffic.

    A beef I have with East African web entrepreneurs is that many of them feel a need to “overinnovate”. I know 3 Kenyan groups developing sophisticated iPhone apps but none developing a top notch Kenyan sports portal or local free webmail solution. How come? And is Maduqa really the only company offering turnkey webshops for small Kenyan businesses? Again, how come?

    When you have a market with large numbers of new users coming coming on line at the same time, that’s a valuable captive audience and a pool of similar needs. New web users want to use email, connect with friends, locate information, consume news, find out about people, places, events, products and opportunities. Business owners want the same things, but they also want to be found. There are plenty of gaps in the emerging web marketplace. It’s up to Kenyan web entrepreneurs to plug them them with local solutions.

    Maduqa seems to be filling one need, but where are the clever local web
    directories, local listings and reviews sites, local free web email sites,
    thematic portals, online ad servers, etc? Who’s going to develop them?

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