As the range of online services and online payment options increase in Mozambique, e-trading platform Compra is preparing itself for the inevitable arrival of the critical mass of online shoppers, says founder Jonathan Novotny.
Launched in 2014, Compra operates a trading platform for businesses – aiming to be like the Alibaba for Mozambique. The platform sells to corporate and private clients, and has over 20 suppliers who either sell directly or are distributor-type suppliers which the startup resells for.
However, Compra aims to stand out from competitors – the likes of OLX, and Jumia Market – by providing a comprehensive experience for users.
“If you are a business in Africa, do you have time and effort to put up your own website that can catalogue and list all your products, keep your SSL certificate and SEO up-to-date, and finally, ensure stock levels are synced? No,” says Novotny.
“Compra.co.mz differentiates in providing a complete solution for our clients, something we are very proud of and which is probably why so many companies now choose to work with us for their short-term procurement,” he says.
The startup plans to expand its service further over the next months, by allowing all types of businesses to begin listing, and selling business-to-business (B2B).
Like this – while conceding that the Mozambican e-commerce sector has been slow to take off – Novotny says the platform will be ready to support the inevitable increase in online shopping, as more and more services go online, and local banks and telcos offer better online and mobile payments solutions. Further, he thinks this shift to the digital sphere might happen sooner rather than later.
“Commerce is suffering in all of its iterative forms in Mozambique at the moment. On a serious level though, the number of online payments and online conveniences which are available to Mozambicans continues to increase, despite all economic challenges,” Novotny says.
“There are new micro services and platforms integrating constantly with almost every bank and telco, which themselves encourage their customers towards mobile banking and mobile money. Acceptance of new trading methods has the potential to create the critical mass which may make e-commerce mainstream a lot sooner than we all expected.”
Mozambique has fallen behind in the e-commerce sector as compared to its other African neighbours, Novotny says, due in main part to the language barrier, consumer trust issues, and logistics hurdles. Nonetheless, the founder says mature internet users are already moving to shop online, and he says as demand increases, infrastructure will be forced to catch up.
As such, the startups is looking for funding to further strengthen its platform and presence in Mozambique, but is also looking to the future, with launches planned in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania. For these new markets, Compra hopes to find local partners with the knowledge to help mitigate early-day pitfalls such as logistics and trust issues.
“Right now, we are a simple online retailer with a vision to simplify business in Africa,” Novotny says.