Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: shopping

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.

5 Examples of Student Ingenuity in Kenya

My good friend Josiah Mugambi in Nairobi was at the Kenya chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) exhibition in Nairobi last weekend. This is where students showcase their innovation in engineering, ICT, mobile application and renewable energy. He did me a great favor by sharing some pictures and research that he did on some of the really interesting students he came across.

1. MPESA Online Shopping

By Denis Ndwiga Nyaga

Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph was especially interested in this one for obvious reasons. Denis called it ‘nakupesi‘, Naku for Nakumatt (the local mega-store). nakupesi is an online shopping mall, with payment based on MPESA. One would need to be registered on MPESA to be able to pay for items online via MPESA. One thing that is possibly lacking is delivery to one’s residence or office after purchase. This shouldn’t be too hard to incorporate though.

2. Green Tree Markets – a Business Intelligence tool for farmers

By Andrew Owuor

This looked quite interesting – A business intelligence tool that allows a farmer to choose where to sell his produce based on price, and location. Some of the obstacles that the developer Andrew Owuor mentioned include the need for real time market data from markets round the country, for the system to be of use. This isn’t a completely new idea, but it’ll be interesting to see what local twists are created for East Africa.

3 more…

3. Automatic headlight dimming for two approaching vehicles – By Jemimah Wachenje
Jemimah has developed a system that automatically dips two vehicles head lights when approaching each other at night. Josiah has ranted about headlights before, and I agree, it would be very useful and potential could reduce some accidents on those dark lightless roads around Kenya.

4. Energy harvesting using piezos to charge mobile phones – by Richard Assanga Otolo and Gilbert Barasa
Very interesting, yet practical.

5. Synchronous Solar Heliostat – by Samuel Njoroge
Sammy Njoroge’s demostration of a synchronous solar heliostat used to track the sun, and orient a solar panel accordingly thus improving the efficiency of solar panels. Automatic tracking of the sun to increase the efficiency of solar panels, Makes economic sense. Innovation runs in the family it seems.

Online Shopping Services for the African Diaspora

There are more and more services popping up created for Africans living abroad to shop and deliver commodities to their relatives in their home country. As covered in a previous story, the sub-Saharan African remittance market is about $20 billion annually, so it only makes sense for more tech-smart businessmen to tap into this.

The lack of any cost-effective traditional money transfer service has also played a part in the creation of this financial back-channel. Africans in the diaspora can buy (or send) a wide variety of goods and services including; airtime minutes, flowers, cakes, school fees, shopping vouchers, etc… the list goes on.

Below are a couple of these websites and their respective country:

iCare – Uganda
iCare - Uganda online shopping

Happysend – Cameroon
Happysend - Cameroon online shopping

Akyedie – Ghana
Akyedie - Ghanaian online shopping

MamaMikes – Kenya
MamaMikes - Kenyan online shopping

Zimbuyer – Zimbabwe

I’m sure there will be more innovation and interesting sites building out in this place throughout the continent. In fact, I’m sure I’ve missed a great deal of the sites that are already out there. If there is a site that you think I have missed, add it to the comment area below.

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