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Cross Border E-Commerce in Africa: Mall For Africa CEO Chris Folayan (Part 6)

Posted on Wednesday, Aug 17th 2016

Sramana Mitra: Besides this bank deal, was there any other strategic moves that you made that helped you accelerate?

Chris Folayan: There are many ways you can look at competitors. Who are our competitors? Competitors came to us in different forms and fashion. There were the brick-and-mortar stores and online stores that have a limited number of resources. We looked at all of these competitors and tried to figure out how we can differentiate ourselves. What is our USP? We ended up coming up with something that I think sets us apart. We ran with it really hard. We had the ability to bring stuff into the country in the cheapest and the fastest way, and we have the most diverse selection. Providing those three benefits and throwing that out to the public and letting them know that you can look at all of these competitors, but none of them can give them the three things we can was an important strategic move.

Because we were shipping so much, our volumetric weight was lower than anybody else. We shipped tons per week and nobody was doing anything near that. We ship everyday. We also had good delivery speed. You can go to any of our competitor’s website and you’ll perhaps see a few thousand products, but when you come to our platform, you can shop for billions of products. Even just on eBay alone, you’re talking about 900 million items ready for purchase. That slaps the competitor silly.

We touted that fact. We had forums going on. We always pushed that fact. It was key to getting the markets to say, “Instead of me traveling or instead of me buying from a store, I can just get it from Mall For Africa.” We found out what our customers really wanted and made our name based on that. When people talk about us, they talk about our speed and the fact that you can pretty much buy anything on our platform.

Sramana Mitra: What do people buy mostly?

Chris Folayan: Clothing. We are hot on clothing. That’s our sweet spot. We are not the company that is shipping cars, furnitures, or anything like that. We focus on clothing, small electronics and stuff like that. We also do jewellery. That’s what we focus on. Before I forget, another thing that we did that really helped us out is, we started this thing called the reseller program.

The reseller program allows people to join our platform and make money on our platform. We have these things called the Mall For Africa web card. It’s a reloadable local card that you can go to any bank, load it with the local currency, and you can use it on our platform. Let’s imagine you want to buy something from Macy’s and you don’t have a credit card. You can get a Mall For Africa web card, load it, and then go to our platform and buy something from Macy’s. You’re buying something from Macy’s without a credit card and with local currency.

Over 90% of our customers utilize the Mall For Africa web card. We’ve been able to create this business where you come in as a reseller of our card. Let’s say you buy a hundred of our cards. You can go and resell it. Whenever anybody buys anything on that card, you get money. After launching that, we expanded our sales team drastically. We have over a thousand resellers across the country. Some of them make really good money just selling our web cards to people and getting people to shop. They say, “You haven’t shopped in the Mall For Africa platform for a while. Is there anything that I can help you with?” It was an interesting way for us.

Sramana Mitra: Very interesting strategy. Are you only selling in Nigeria or are there other African nations that are part of this process?

Chris Folayan: We’re also in Kenya and Ghana. They’re not so big but we’re expanding our footprints in those countries. We’re also going to be expanding in South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.

Sramana Mitra: Have you raised more money?

Chris Folayan: We have.

Sramana Mitra: When was that?

Chris Folayan: We raised money two years ago and we just closed on another round about two weeks ago.

Sramana Mitra: Where is that money from?

Chris Folayan: All from the UK.

Sramana Mitra: Anything else that you want to share? It’s always interesting to see success stories in geographies like Africa. Let’s close with a big of a metric. What kind of transaction volume are you at right now?

Chris Folayan: We’ve been growing at 10x year over year.

Sramana Mitra: Terrific. Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Cross Border E-Commerce in Africa: Mall For Africa CEO Chris Folayan
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