E-commerce start-up with an eye on the African market

Zandaux founder Franck Obambi-Ngatse (right) and his team. [File Standard]

Zandaux is an e-commerce platform offering producers or wholesalers an online marketplace where they can connect with retailers.

It was launched in March this year and has so far onboarded 200 manufacturers and other players selling goods in bulk.

Franck Obambi-Ngatse founder and chief executive of Zandaux Kenya Ltd spoke to Enterprise about the platform, its ambition to further deepen the 'Buy Kenya Build Kenya' narrative and his vision of transforming Zandaux into what he describes as the 'Alibaba of Africa'.

What is Zandaux?

Zandaux.com is a holistic approach to supporting African entrepreneurs to unlock the full potential of the continent's market potential of 1.4 billion people. Our business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce solution is designed to do just that.

We provide vendors with unlimited access to all African markets without third-party interference and starting with the local market of origin.

How does the platform work?

Vendors open their digital stores by signing up with us, listing their product catalogues, setting their minimum order quantity (MOO) per product as well as the unit price, and indicating which country or countries they would like to target. They set their payment recipient accounts (we strongly recommend mobile money and bank accounts), and they are all set to start trading.

There are many e-commerce platforms in the country and the region. what gives your firm an edge over the existing competition?

I believe that the uniqueness of our business model is key. Most e-commerce platforms in Kenya (our home market) and Africa, have focused on the retail sector and one can notice how easy it is today for individuals to purchase almost anything at anytime time today compared to a decade ago.

Additionally, most of these digital retail solutions are country-based. In the last five years, we have seen more B2B e-commerce solutions coming up in the form of digitalised distribution networks.

Unlike other solutions out there, Zandaux is a multi-vendor platform for manufacturers, producers, wholesalers, distributors, suppliers, importers and exporters to directly sell their market offerings to their customers at their price.

What is the inspiration behind the concept?

The African economic reality and their way of life. Back in 2012, I started thinking about how can we can solve some of the challenges that Africa faces considering the current global economic structure. That is where I started thinking about market access as a key element.

How do our businesses buy their supplies and sell their output locally, regionally and globally? From there I came up with the idea of using internet technology to provide all market participants with unlimited market access.

Cyber security is increasingly becoming a key concern, how safe and reliable is doing business on the platform?

Being aware of the risks associated with online buying and selling, we make sure that we verify all the vendors before they start listing their products.

Additionally, we currently focus only on local and known manufacturers, producers, and other wholesalers or bulk sellers. Since these are already established companies, we have allowed them to set up their payment recipients' accounts for the buyers to pay directly to them, not to us.

However, this is a temporary solution as we are still working with the local banks to have a trust or escrow account integrated so that the buyer payment is directed to a safe account until the order is fulfilled.

You have said the platform's goal is to increase intra-Africa trade as well as connect the African markets to the global markets. What's your plan to achieve this?

As a business-to-business multi-vendor platform, we connect market participants with each other - buyers and sellers. The goal is to connect merchants first locally. For example, since we launched in March this year, the focus had been to onboard as many vendors as possible.

Today, we have about 200 registered manufacturers, producers and other wholesalers and bulk sellers on board. We have a fairly populated marketplace of up to 40 per cent locally made or manufactured products.

By next year March, we will have onboarded a minimum of 2,500 Kenyans which will allow us to make it easy for Kenyans to buy products made in Kenya at the factory or wholesale prices for the retailer.

From there, we will make all the 'Made in Kenya' available in all other African markets. While making the other Made in Africa available in Kenya.

However, If Africans can digitally buy from and sell to each other, that means the rest of the world can do so too, using the same platform of course. That is how we plan to achieve the goal of becoming the world's most inclusive B2B e-commerce platform and our digital infrastructure is designed to help achieve that goal only.

After Kenya, what's your next expansion plan to other African markets?

We do have an expansion strategy already in place which I would prefer not to speak of at this point. But is important to note that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is making things much easier. For now, we are indeed focusing only on bringing the entire Kenyan B2B market online where retailers can source supply at factory, producer or wholesale price.

What flagship product or service is likely to be a key driver for growth during take-off?

I believe locally made products are essential with respect to growth at this point, especially the fast-moving consumer goods.

To scale it up, we are planning to address the vendor's most important concern - logistics support. What we have been able to provide as a start-up is an application that allows vendors to register third-party or informal carriers under their accounts.

The registered carrier will then receive credentials to download our logistics support app. With this application, the delivery by the informal or third-party carrier will become traceable.