Rwanda startup Kasha, an e-commerce platform for women’s health products such as sanitary pads and contraceptives, is in the process of raising a US$2 million funding round to expand to Kenya and Uganda next year.
Launched in July of this year by Joanna Bichsel and Amanda Arch, and this week named the winner of the Rwandan leg of the Seedstars World competition, Kasha allows customers to place orders for products via its website, a mobile app, SMS shortcode or phone call. It does not require a smartphone or internet connection, and is focused on female empowerment and self-care.
The Kasha retail and content platform was built to be as accessible using any basic mobile phone, operating in both urban and rural contexts of Sub-Saharan Africa,” chief executive officer (CEO) Bichsel told Disrupt Africa.
“We understand that women are the biggest business opportunity and that they have unique health needs. Women drive 80 per cent of all consumer purchases either directly or through influence, and have regular recurring health and personal care needs throughout their lifetimes.”
She said all over the world, but especially in traditional societies, women often have an uncomfortable and embarrassing experience purchasing products related to their health needs. The aim of Kasha is to ease the process of accessing women’s health products.
It certainly seems to be doing that. Launched only four months ago, Kasha is only now starting to broadly advertise. But it has already had almost 400 customers ordering products and having them delivered in Kigali.
The startup drives revenue from product sales and delivery fees, but also has data, content and advertising capabilities.
“Kasha collects proprietary consumer-level data that provides us with market insight on a demographic that is rapidly growing in purchasing power: women in Africa,” Bichsel said. “This opens up large revenue opportunities with strategic partnerships for advertising revenue. Our direct-to-consumer channel, data and market insight enable us to reach customers directly via digital means for advertising and samples.”
The startup initially launched thanks to investment from friends and family, but is currently raising a seed fund round of US$2 million to allow it to scale across Rwanda, start operating in Kenya and pilot in Uganda by the end of 2017.
“We have successfully raised an initial portion of the funding from several angel investors and are in process with several investment firms as well. The funding will go towards hiring key talent and running operations to scale and expand so that we can build up the platform and capture the accelerated revenue opportunities,” said Bichsel.
The decision to initially launch in Rwanda came about after an evaluation of several African countries.
“Rwanda is ambitious about technology driving strategies to grow the e-commerce industry, becoming a cashless society, and can boast a high penetration of mobile phone access and internet connectivity,” said Bichsel.
“Rwanda also promotes women’s empowerment – about 65 per cent of the government is made up of women – and has committed to goals around family planning access. Given all of this, the Kasha business naturally aligns to the strategic direction of the country.
Testing was also necessary before launch, with Kasha spending several months testing the market and learning about people’s comfort with ordering online, ordering via a basic mobile phone, and with using mobile money to purchase products.
“Based on our learnings, we optimised the user experience, which for us meant offering as many access and payment options as possible to make order as easy as possible,” Bichsel said.
“We strive to not only add value to our customers’ lives but also to delight them with great customer service. We focus on listening to customers, analysing data, building, testing, improving, and listening, and measuring again.”