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Meet Abraham Ojes, entrepreneur digitising Nigeria’s supply chain

Abraham Ojes, co-founder of Saya, is on a mission to revamp the Nigerian supply chain for informal retailers across the country.

Abraham, who co-founded the business with Mcleroy Ibe, has created a platform that connects resellers (those who resell what they buy) directly to small FMCGs.

“The Saya platform provides resellers access to premium tools for payments, inventory, and shipping,” the young entrepreneur says.

He explains that his platform can transform and formalise Nigeria’s informal supply chain by bringing more distributors and retailers online.

“It is a direct-to-retailer (DTR) channel that can be vital to small scale FMCGs trying to bypass big shot distributors who would not move their products,” he says.

Abraham was inspired to establish Saya out of a desire to create a unique product for a particular segment of its logistic business in March -during the peak of the COVID-19 disruption on the food supply chain.

Since starting, the platform has continued to get orders from resellers across the country.

The business is a bootstrapped start-up and currently has less than 10 full-time employees including the two co-founders. The product manager says the business plans to continuously scale its activities.

He notes that the pandemic affected the launch of the Saya platform as the business was unable to onboard for some suppliers who had closed their warehouses due to the lockdown.

Speaking on how the business is re-strategising to survive the pandemic, Abraham notes that the business is mainly focusing on essential items owing to its huge demand.

“The pandemic caused us to rethink our plans. There was a high demand for essential items during the pandemic, so we responded by listing items like face masks and hand sanitizers,” he says.

“COVID has taught us to listen to the market closely and be quick to jump on trends when they arise,” he adds.

He says despite that he operates in an industry that has been badly hit by the virus outbreak, he is yet to receive any form of support from the government.

In evaluating Nigeria’s supply chain and logistics industry, he says that the sector is highly fragmented, resulting in inefficiencies that have made FMCGs record losses owing to the country’s huge infrastructure gaps.

“The logistics industry is vital to the survival of companies in the FMCG sector whose products have short shelf lives and need to reach the final consumer in ample time,” he says.

“Startups are bringing innovation to the upstream, where it is less capital intensive and not prone to policy flip-flop,” he adds.

He further says that Saya is focused on developing the right technology needed to make the industry very efficient.

He explains that foreign exchange (FX) volatility remains the major challenge affecting his business since starting in March this year as it continues to change the prices of imported items on the platform.

He urges the government to bridge the huge infrastructural gaps in the country, saying it has deterred lots of investments into the industry.

He says the business has got a grant under the Lagos State government.

On his advice to other entrepreneurs, he says, “Get your product into the hands of many customers as early as possible, measure what’s working and what’s not, listen to your customers, take feedback and iterate fast.”

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