KONGA.com has forever changed the way Nigerians shop online, but it wasn’t always the juggernaut that it is today. In fact, once upon a time it was just a promising startup with a big vision. So, how did it end up becoming Nigeria’s largest online retailer? It’s hard to say, but one thing CEO Shola Adekoya easily alludes to is the culture of the company: “When you go around Konga you find us very energetic. And we always think outside the box in order to come up with solutions for customers, and that’s why you wouldn’t find us going through the traditional routes of problem solving because we bring technology into the equation and a lot of the advances we’ve made are based on technology” “So, at the core of all this innovation and culture is: How do we get innovations to make the lives of Nigerians a lot better?”Konga is fast becoming a behemoth of Nigerian business. Internet retailer Shola Adekoya Shola Adekoya It’s one of the most rapidly emerging e-commerce companies in Nigeria by market popularity and by far the largest Internet retailer. In a country that seems under dominated by e-commerce, the company has a lot of room for growth: “I don’t think e-commerce has yet achieved up to one percent of retail in Nigeria. And when you compare that to the United States where they do ten or twenty percent or even China where it’s a lot higher, then you’ll understand why Nigerians need to embrace e-commerce a lot more. As a matter of fact, I think Nigeria has cause to be very different from some western countries and we should be closer to India and China” While the internet may be new for most of the things we do: how we socialize, how we search and now even how we shop for many things, there is still a fear of online shopping and a major challenge is in trying to get consumers to trust buying things online: “We’ve responded by setting up a trust and safety team. And we also optimize our processes just to make sure that the moment a customer complains, we are onto it very quickly and resolving the issues as well as making sure they are comfortable with any transaction they perform on the platform. For a few Nigerians, clicking to buy something online and then having it delivered to their door step is something they still find difficult to conceptualize in their minds, so trying to get people to trust an online service like this is still a major challenge. That is why you find that e-commerce penetration in advanced countries is a lot higher than where we are in Nigeria”. The anticipated growth in the e- commerce segment of the market would be on the back of commerce technology replatforming as online retailers upgrade their commerce technologies to support increased revenues and to drive innovation. Indeed, online technologies move at a frightening pace, and it is a big problem for businesses that operate online and want to keep up with the latest new trends and techniques: “The e- commerce industry is technology based. Software that are relevant to our environment and that can enable us to deliver the best services all come with limitations so we’ve taken over our own software developments as well as a team of in-house developers in order to build our own solutions. They have also taken into consideration the nuances of our environment. Taking charge of our own software development has helped us but it’s been one of our biggest challenges as a company because we just don’t have enough of the skills required within the market”. Nigeria’s growing appetite for buying goods over the Internet is not only boosting online retailers, it has also become a big growth driver (and headache) for courier services. Though the bulk of their business is still reliant on companies shipping packages to other companies, there are several factors driving the part of their business that involves delivery to consumers: “We’ve managed to roll out a delivery network across the whole of Nigeria through franchises and some of our proprietary assets. And that has sort of reduced our shipping time by 60%. Mobile payments To have a network of ninety courier companies working for us, delivering and being able to reduce the shipping minimally is quite laudable because we are the first truly nationwide cash on delivery e-commerce Company”. Mobile payments are fast becoming a commodity and are widely used by retailers. Just as every online retail consumer uses traditional credit cards for transactions with online malls realizing they can’t bank on razor-thin profit margins from swiping fees alone has led to some innovations within the online payments space. Commerce is all about bringing the right product to the right shopper at the right time. “Within the payments space, we’ve just launched our own payment solutions called Konga Pay which makes it easy for consumers to pay and also get refunds for transactions made on the platform. And it’s been very popular with our customers. The things that we are doing with Konga Pay are quite interesting so we have to innovate constantly to bring a seamless service to our customers. This payments solution can handle over 40,000 merchants and their products on our platform. As a matter of fact, we are the only online mall to have registered that many, using software built in Nigeria.” “We are also the first to do escrow payment service—a platform that allows a merchant to be paid once their goods are delivered”. Konga’s most daring gambit, and the one that may position the company for the kind of earnings growth the market expects, is its foray into payments and software development. In recent times, Konga has ramped up its services and has expanded its third-party marketplace, where merchants all over Nigeria can set up their own virtual stores on Konga .com and sell their products—all the while leveraging Konga’s large customer base and innovative payment-processing services: “Our involvement in a number of industries makes us a brand that is trying to bring excellence into the market in whichever part of the business, from courier services to retail to market place to payments and software development. Ultimately, all we want to stand for is excellence and that is what we strive to achieve”. The E commerce movement will continue to gain momentum as more consumers embrace the convenience of shopping from the comfort of their homes through online platforms. Under the purview of e-commerce companies, both Konga and Jumia stand out as longstanding major players in the marketplace. Both Konga and Jumia operate as online shopping sites, providing visitors with the ability to browse through available products listed for sale or auction through each company’s online storefront. While Konga and Jumia have each evolved over the last few years to meet the needs of today’s consumers, there are distinct differences between the two companies: “We have a brand that we are pushing. And the biggest difference between us and our competitors is customer service. In Konga we do our very best to make sure that we get things right. In many ways, our flexibility and adaptability to our customers’ needs is what ultimately sets up apart”. Shola Adekoya had been Chief Operating Officer of the company. He took the reins of Konga from its founder, Sim Shagaya, who recently resigned from his post as CEO of the company. Leadership positions At its core, Adekoya finds that the basic premise of business leadership will never change. There will always be a need for individuals who can motivate, inspire and encourage their teams to work together toward common goals. But the environment in which leaders are expected to accomplish this mission has transformed dramatically in recent years, and those who are new in leadership positions must adapt in order to figure out how to navigate the modern business world: “It’s always very rewarding when you see people grow after investing time and introducing something totally different to them. And you can see how, over time, the mindset changes and they become totally different when compared to the past”. “In terms of challenges, trying to sell a new way of thinking to people can be very difficult at the initial stage. At Konga, our mission statement says: ‘We want to be the engine of trade and commerce in Africa” and when you begin to see these things impact, it becomes very rewarding but also very challenging to get people to that point”.