Investors in the e-Commerce space are constantly innovating to make online shopping a more convenient experience.
At the click of a button or with a quick call, you can now order food, clothes, beauty products and drinks right to your doorstep.
And with this convenience, an entire value chain has been created, providing new opportunities for suppliers, transporters and vendors.
Martin Ndeto is the CEO of KDuka and in his approach to eCommerce, he’s created a platform that allows merchants to create their own online shops.
What inspired KDuka?
We had been developing large-scale web applications when we encountered clients who needed e-Commerce websites.
The problem was that setting one up was quite expensive, at between Sh100,000 to Sh250,000. So we thought up a concept where we could provide the software as a service and have people subscribe to it at subsidised rates. That’s how the idea was born.
KDuka is a business platform that merchants can use to create their own e-Commerce websites. On signing up, you get an instant site and can accept payments immediately, manage orders and get analytics on the traffic – all in a matter of minutes.
What went into building the initial product?
First off, we had to figure out the technological possibilities of building a product that was meant to service thousands of websites, which are independent of each other.
Each client would ideally have their own unique space that’s customisable. After a bit of research and selecting the right tools for the job, we set off to start the work and slowly, the components came together. Seven months later, we had our first version of the platform launched.
At first, we didn’t have a lot of costs, other than our living costs. We developed the platform using our expertise.
Our costs came in after we launched, when we had to take care of server costs, as well as marketing. But we progressed slowly and even managed to hire a small but highly competent team. It’s tough to evaluate the cost of the sweat and blood we’ve put into this product.
What were your initial obstacles?
The obstacles were mainly on the business side. We were just techies who loved to build and innovate, and didn’t have a lot of business know-how. We had to grow into that and learn how to place our product, market it as well as do proper client relations.
Who are your clients?
KDuka targets both small and big businesses that have commodities to sell. We provide the quickest, easiest crossover to selling your products online.
We specifically target people who sell through Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp groups.
What’s your business model?
We currently offer a one-month free trial where users can set up their store, upload products and test out the features.
After the free month, they can choose from our basic package that goes for Sh200 a month, or the premium package that costs Sh420 a month and offers basic search engine optimisation (SEO) services, use of your domain name and a link to Google Analytics.
We also charge a 1per cent commission for sales that happen through our website.
What’s helped you grow your company?
At first, we used social media ads to create awareness of our products, and our current clients referred others to us by word of mouth. We also did a couple of direct marketing campaigns where we’d walk around malls and town stalls to sign merchants up.
Ultimately, online marketing, especially through Google Ads and YouTube Ads, fuelled our growth. We have enjoyed constant organic growth, even at this early stage of business.
From your insights, what are some of the best-performing categories in e-Commerce?
From what we’ve observed on our platform, the biggest categories are electronics, beauty, fashion, home and décor, and crafts. Health, agriculture and eBooks don’t do too badly either.
What do you consider the top three mistakes young start-ups make?
The first one is lack of proper market research. Don’t sit in your house, come up with a problem in your head and then start creating a real-life solution for it. Let real-world problems guide your solutions.
Second, is quitting your job in search of exciting new ventures without any security for yourself. Third, the primary mission for you to start a business should be to provide value to your clients. Sure, money is a critical factor, but that comes when you deliver value.
What’s one thing you find most satisfying when you look back on your achievements?
It would have to be looking at all the milestones we’d set and achieved. We’re delighted and satisfied in knowing that we’re providing a service that’s impacting both big and small businesses.
What are some of the books on business and leadership that have had the most impact on you?
The Intelligent Entrepreneur by Bill Murphy is perfect for people who haven’t had any entrepreneurial experience. It proves that entrepreneurship is an acquired skill, not inborn.
The Lean Startup will teach you how to build a product and all the dynamics around it, and how to experiment and break barriers. Most importantly, it will teach you to work with what you have to build a successful business.
Finally, Winning by Jack Welsch will inspire you to have a winner’s attitude as you read about his journey to leading General Electric, one of the world’s top brands into global dominance.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about starting a business?
My advice to anyone thinking about starting a business – whether they’re exploring opportunities or are already at the ideation stage – is to innovate on the ground. That’s where everything is tested.
Make sure you are solving a problem and evolve with market demand. You might end up stumbling across your golden idea while pursuing something else.
Also, ensure you’re not scrambling for survival as you build a business. That’s a terrible strategy. Build a bit of a runway for your living costs.
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