Listen to the likes of Jumia and Konga, and you would be under the impression that to run a successful e-commerce business required millions of dollars in funding.
To be fair, in Nigeria it may do. But apparently it doesn’t in Mozambique, where online supermarket Izyshop has been operating with founder funding since August 2015.
Not only has Izyshop, which connects producers and service providers to consumers through its digital platform, gained over 1,000 customers in that time, it also holds about 60 per cent of its own inventory and runs a delivery service. Not bad at all for a company that is still tying up its first investment round, something that should be made easier by the fact Izyshop turns a profit.
Chief executive officer (CEO) Titos Munhequete told Disrupt Africa though e-commerce is on the rise in Mozambique, there is a trust issue on the part of customers that takes time to overcome.
“Only if you have a close relationship and build trust with the customer like we strive to do at Izyshop can you make it work,” he said.
“It´s a new solution for Mozambique and very disruptive. It completely changes the way people buy, so there is some resistance in the market to change. We´ve gained the early adopters’ trust and now we are seeing more and more people simplifying their lives with Izyshop.”
Value added services such as offering delivery – which is free if a customer spends more than US$70 – have helped with this.
“Because it´s a novelty in Mozambique and logistics are a challenge, we have chosen to handle the delivery ourselves. This is part of our customised service offering to the client,” Munhequete said.
Running a delivery service and maintaining more than half of your own inventory – Izyshop has more than 3,000 items available on its platform – is a challenge, but Munhequete said the startup has developed systems that allow it to manage inventory very efficiently and with a high turnover rate.
“Since it was a novelty, many established supermarkets were not willing to work with us, so we had to find a way. However, since we launched, we have been contacted by many of them, not only in Maputo but across other provinces too, and we are actually in discussions to find the best partner,” he said.
That the platform is satisfying a real need is undeniable, according to Munhequete.
“Before Izyshop, it was very hard for customers to get good quality fresh and vegetables in the traditional supermarkets, because the ones who sell them import them from bigger industrial farms,” he said.
“On the other hand, small and medium size local producers have no access to these stores, and yet they have more fresh, organic products. Now, through Izyshop, we can help them get access to more customers, who are served with better freshness through a simple, convenient and trustworthy online platform with home delivery. There is nothing quite like this so far.”
Over 1,000 customers have thus started using Izyshop, even though the startup has not yet been able to afford any marketing.
“Now we understand better our product-market fit, and we are ready to scale it seriously,” said Munhequete.
“We´re currently in Maputo province, but are already setting the movements for our expansion in Mozambique and across Africa. Our business model is very easy to scale and with the traction we´ve seen so far, has an enormous acceptance from the market. Our goal is to be across Mozambique by the end of the current year, then across some of the strategic African markets we have identified by 2020.”