Moroccan B2B e-commerce startup planning international expansion after strong growth in Casablanca

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Chari.ma, a B2B e-commerce app allowing traditional proximity store owners in Morocco to order products and have them delivered, will expand internationally this year after seeing strong growth in its launch market of Casablanca.

Launched early last year, Chari.ma has already signed up 10,000 shops as customers, 50 per cent of the proximity stores in the city.

Ismael Belkhayat, who co-founded the startup with his wife Sophia, told Disrupt Africa the startup was targeting a wider opportunity, however.

“There are around 200,000 traditional stores in Morocco, that can be defined by their proximity to their clients, the exclusive use of cash to pay and be paid, and their ability to get their procurement independently without going through central purchasing bodies,” he said.

“Some of these stores are big enough to be visited by the vans of FMCG companies, on average twice a month, and buy whatever they need from the salesperson sitting next to the van driver. But the great majority of them are too small to be visited and are left aside.”

Chari.ma is a solution tailored to these merchants.

“Sophia and myself realised that all of the guys behind the counters of these small shops are today using smartphones. This is how we came up with the idea of providing them an app that would allow them to get the best products at the best price, delivered to their doorstep in 24 hours, with an invoice and a price known in advance, with no surprises,” Belkhayat said. 

The success of this simple solution in Casablanca already has the Belkhayats planning expansion both at home in Morocco and into other countries French-speaking African countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal. The startup, which raised a pre-seed funding round from HnS Invest Holding in 2019, will be seeking investment in 2021 to meet its growth goals.

For now, its growth is funded by a negative working capital requirement. 

“We get paid cash on delivery by our clients – small traditional retailers – and we pay our providers – FMCG companies – with 30 to 45 days payment terms. Our stock is around 15 days of gross merchandise value (GMV), so we end up with 15 to 30 days of working capital,” said Belkhayat. 

“So the higher our GMV, the higher our working capital, and our GMV grows by about 10-15 per cent month-on-month, enough to cover our current cash burn.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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