Q & A with MallforAfrica CEO
According to Global Blue, there was a 20 percent downturn in Nigerian shoppers in the UK in 2015. Ecommerce retailer MallforAfrica recoginised this drop, and have partnered with big UK brands such as Asda, Debenhams and Topshop to ship items previously unavailable to Nigeria.
We spoke to the Chris Folayan, CEO of Mallfor Africa, about this innovative venture:
Just how popular are British brands with Nigerian shoppers?
British brands are very popular in Nigeria and Africa in general. Due to the proximity of the continent to the UK, Nigerians have adopted more of a British design flavour to their dressing styles and habits. The tighter fits and slimmer looks are all nested more into the British look and brands.
How did you approach and pitch a MallforAfrica collaboration with UK retail brands?
After doing this for so long I feel we have this down to a science now. It’s pretty simple. Our elevator pitch goes something like this. Would you like to ship to Africa, one of the wealthiest continents on earth with a population of 1.2 billion people with great growth potential?Yes. Would you like to sell into that market at no risk, with no stress and strain of shipping, clearing customs, foreign exchange, delivery, payments, chargebacks, expanding your customer service? Yes. Would you like to start tomorrow knowing you don’t have to make a single modification to your site as it stands today and no modifications to your shipping procedures or payments? Yes. Then we are the only solution in the world that can promise you all that and more. MallforAfrica is an app that enables users to shop on your site as it stands today via our app. We manage payments, shipping, distribution etc. It’s all done via the app and our amazing software, warehouse and payments platform. All integrated to make it easy and seamless for any ecommerce company to sell into Africa within 24 hours while shipping to our local warehouse and knowing every payment is guaranteed fraud free.
Why have international brands previously struggled to ship to Africa?
International brands have struggled with Africa for so many reasons. The main reasons are as follows:
Payments: We guarantee zero fraud to all merchants on our platform. Large brands don’t have a hold on localised payments platforms and processes. Being able to accept cash and direct deposits. In Africa, this is essential. Plus, you need to accept other local payment mediums like mobile payment, locally issued credit cards and more.
Delivery / Customs: Having no one locally to help make sure items get to customers is a challenge for companies but a must for doing business in Africa. You have to have someone to call when things are not moving. Africa is an amazing continent, but let’s be frank, there are issues along the way with deliveries and we solve them. Merchants prefer to deal with a company like ours where they ship to our local warehouse in the US or UK and we worry about the last mile delivery.
Local marketing / local customer service: Every market is different, even African markets. We are the merchant’s boots on the ground. We help with customer service locally. We also provide marketing insight to help merchants sell into different regions. We know what papers to advertise in, what radios to create jingles for, etc. so we also serve as the marketing arm for retailers. Assisting in providing high quality data needed to help a brand excel.
How has MallforAfrica managed to overcome the above challenges?
It hasn’t been easy building a company that fixes all the issues that prevent companies from wanting to do business in one of the largest most populous continents on the world. Take that another step starting it in Nigeria. The largest and possibly the hardest market to deal with. But we did for just those two reasons. We tackled the problem from the hardest country to tackle it from and we have built such an amazing company. Now we handle everything ourselves by building unique patent pending platforms and processes to do business in Africa. We created our own payment platform, our own delivery management and tracking tool, our own marketing team, we have our own call centre and pickup locations. The infrastructure wasn’t there but the market was and we went ahead and built it. With our own developed platform, we are now expanding to many other African countries and giving people access to products they have always wanted but never been able to get.
Can you talk us through the MallforAfrica order cycle?
A customer must first download and install our app on their mobile device or desktop. Next step is to launch the app and find the store you want to shop on; there are over 200 stores you can shop on with our app. Once you find the store simply add the item to the sites cart just like you would normal shop. Now remember, you are still in our app but shopping on a merchants site. After you have added all the items you want to the cart, click on the MallforAfrica checkout button. Items are then transferred to our app. Select where you want the items shipped, make your payments online using various methods, and sit back and relax as your order is automatically processed with the merchant.
Would MallforAfrica consider offering this service to other African countries?
We are currently doing beta tests in Ghana and Kenya right now and will launch in those 2 countries this year. We also plan on expanding to other countries in Africa such as Tanzania, Botswana, Angola, Congo, and South Africa.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.