• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

VConnect as Africa’s first indigenous search engine

VCONNECT

VConnect.com, Nigeria’s largest local business search engine has since its existence evolved ways of transforming businesses with new digital marketing tools, which have done well to lift businesses, particularly Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), in the country to new highs, by helping them build vibrant customer engagement while growing their businesses.

It was founded in 2011 by Deepanker Rustagi, General Manager VConnect, who has
lived most part of his life in Nigeria, giving him a strong grasp of challenges inhibiting the growth of businesses in the area of localized directories as it concerns a comprehensive database for businesses.

He identified the vacuum, swung in to action to plug it, and that determination gave birth to VConnect.

VConnect hired a bunch of young energetic professionals who commenced a door-to-door round which included manually getting information with addresses and phone number of every small business in the nook and crannies of major cities, gathering all information in a database.

Like most emerging markets, many cities in West Africa don’t even have a formal system of streets and addresses or a working postal system.

Initially totally bootstrapped by her parent company, Tolaram Group, the project though expensive was a necessity for Nigeria’s emerging digitalization front .Barely two years after its launch, VConnect.com is fast becoming a replica of Google on a local level combined after garnering credits from turning businesses to success stories, following in the food-steps of the likes of Yelp, JustDial, and a bunch of other successful
companies.

“Today, the company currently boasts of a database of over 950,000 business listings,” said Depanker Rustagi, founder and General Manager, adding that V Connect also prides itself as being ranked 28 on Alexa’s list.

“It is also worthy of mentioning that we are among the top 10 most visited Nigerian Sites ( at 7) and also sitting at Number one in our sector while our ultimate ambition is to index businesses in every city in West Africa with more than one million people.

The company’s entry into the market has no doubt left positive footprints, following its strong level acceptance that has seen it surpass its target, by a sharp 160 percent growth in all parameters (Revenue, traffic, topline etc) as recorded last year.

This development has propelled the company to look towards expanding to Ghana in May 2014, and aspiring to be the largest search engine in West Africa.

Rustagi further said, statistics have shown that a huge percentage of websites visits are done on the mobile phone. It was on this premise that VConnect.com developed a user friendly wap site and just recently launched her Android and Blackberry Applications.

“Africa is set to witness another new media powerhouse, in a few years time as VConnect will not only attend to all business information needs in Nigeria, but will become a Pan African solution provider” said Rustagi in one of his media chats with news men.

According to Rustagi, a critical look at search engines globally, show that more and more small business owners have adopted new ways of thinking to transform their business strategy with new digital marketing tools, helping them build customer engagement and grow their businesses.

“Driving the trend for increased focus on digital marketing has replaced the traditional marketing tactics; allowing (Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to sell more, save more and improve (Return on Investments) ROI. Yet some small businesses are still slow to jump on the digital marketing bandwagon. This is a common variant among the Nigerian Small business owners”.

Rustagi further said “Largely Nigerian SMEs are skeptical to take their business online and adapt digital marketing channels. Therefore it would be un-viable to run a business for long run; so It makes no sense when 1/3 of Nigerian users are online and SMEs are offline. It is a clear disconnect”.

Nigerian Internet users are growing exponentially, and as it grows enormous opportunities spring up as well. “It’s also widely recognized that approximately 75 percent to 80 percent of disposable consumer income is spent within few kilometers of home.”

According to SMEDAN (Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria) – Nigeria has over 2 Million SMEs – If that has to be believed VConnect.com brought 47 percent Nigerian SMEs online effectively.

On its achievements so far, this milestone, the General Manager, VConnect
Global Services, Deepanker recently said “Due to the galloping development of Information Communications Technology (ICT) worldwide, SMEs in developing countries in West Africa face a formidable task surviving and competing in a global market, thus the enabling presence of using a local search engine like VConnect.com which has a wider reach would help deliver unprecedented opportunities to SMEs in Nigeria.”