SA “virtual distribution platform” Selpal acquired by FNB

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South African startup Selpal, a “virtual distribution platform” that provides an electronically-enabled route to market for FMCG manufacturers and financial service providers, has been acquired by First National Bank (FNB).

Founded 2013, the Gauteng-based Selpal integrates the entire supply chain – from manufacturer all the way down to the end customer who is shopping with an informal retailer in a township. 

For the store trader, informal retailers running spazas, tuckshops, taverns, bottle stores and shebeens, Selpal provides a smart PoS device free of charge. This device has basic PoS functionality, and enables the retailer to sell a full suite of virtual products, such as airtime, data, electricity, and DStv, and enables Selpal’s “Store Traders Vault Wallet”. 

The startup raised funding from FirstRand Group – of which FNB is the retail and commercial bank division – in 2018, and has now been acquired outright by the bank. FNB said it had made significant strides over the last few years in supporting and becoming more relevant to community-based businesses, and that the acquisition of Selpal reaffirmed its commitment and further increased the level of financial inclusion in South Africa.

“Community-based businesses have an important role to play in driving economic activity and creating employment opportunities in townships and rural areas in South Africa. As the banking sector, we can help facilitate this by accelerating financial inclusion through tailored financial services to elevate and develop these businesses,” said FNB chief executive officer (CEO) Jacques Celliers.

“Given the nature and environment in which the businesses operate, this market has traditionally been classified as ‘informal’ because it predominantly operates in cash – which in turn undermined the sophistication, scale and potential of such community-based businesses. We aim to bridge this gap by continuing to enable community-based businesses easy access to banking practices and money management solutions to help them realise their goals. This will be achieved by unlocking several benefits such as increased access to electronic payments, funding, access to suppliers and customers, amongst others.”

Gordon Little, FNB Business CEO, said the acquisition and integration of Selpal complements the significant milestones FNB had already reached in executing on this strategy. 

“Selpal already has a footprint supported by an integrated system that connects informal retailers such as spaza shops with FMCG suppliers, wholesalers and manufacturers. Their user-centric digital platform was designed and built using direct observations, engagements and understanding of the pain-points that various users experience along the entire FMCG supply chain in the informal sector, from manufacturer to consumer,” he said.

Considering the cash-intensive nature of this market, FNB is leveraging its collective current cash handling infrastructure to enable Selpal to seamlessly facilitate payments between stakeholders in the supply chain. This further solves a large challenge of security and convenience for all participants along this supply chain. 

Little said data and insights gathered through the devices will be highly instrumental in helping the bank to develop more relevant products and solutions in the near future for the informal sector, such as card/QR payment acceptance, and access to credit and various insurance products.

“This will further enable us to make better informed credit and product decisions, making it easier to facilitate lending through the ability to measure performance, track and gather information on the business’ activity over a reasonable time period. As our knowledge and understanding of this market matures, we will be able to provide more value to these valuable small businesses in future,” he said.

Selpal founder and CEO Stephen Goldberg will remain in his current position post-acquisition.

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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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