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Adapting to dynamic market, leveraging technology, helped us grow – Jumia Nigeria CEO

How we created an e-commerce ecosystem in Nigeria – Massimiliano Spalazzi

E-commerce is believed to have taken off in Nigeria about 11 years ago when Jumia entered the country, leading the way to what has become a growing industry connecting more Nigerians with providers of goods and services. Massimiliano Spalazzi, chief executive officer, Jumia Nigeria, tells Caleb Ojewale how the journey has been, the challenges, opportunities, and prospects for the future. Excerpts:

Jumia is eleven years old in Nigeria. Looking back to where you started, and where the business is today, how much would you say expectations have been met or surpassed?

We wanted to create a platform that would help consumers connect to a larger market of sellers, and boost the digital economy when we began Jumia in Nigeria in 2012. Today, Jumia stands as a leading e-commerce platform not just in Nigeria but also across multiple African countries.

We have witnessed significant growth in our customer base, expanding our reach to millions of Nigerians who now rely on Jumia for their online shopping needs. This demonstrates that we have successfully met the expectations of Nigerian consumers by providing them with a convenient and reliable platform to access a wide range of products and services. Moreover, we have exceeded expectations by continually innovating and adapting to the dynamic needs of our customers with different services, including Jumia Food, a user-friendly platform for quick deliveries, enabling customers to order from various restaurants, grocery shops, and supermarkets.

We also provide JumiaPay, a secure and convenient online payment platform serving as a digital payment solution for our customers.

Our success goes beyond the numbers. We have played a significant role in promoting entrepreneurship and empowering local businesses through our platform. By providing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with a digital marketplace, we have helped them reach a broader customer base and grow their businesses. This impact on the Nigerian economy is something we are immensely proud of.

What are some significant landmarks Jumia has recorded in the e-commerce market over this period?

Upon our introduction, Jumia offered businesses a platform to list their products online without any upfront cost until an order was received. This enabled us to provide an affordable and effective means for businesses to reach customers.

Since our inception, our team has experienced significant growth, expanding from a small group to over 1,000 staff members, with additional indirect employment opportunities created. We have also established partnerships with more than 35,000 local businesses.

Our commitment to delivering innovative solutions to our customers has earned us recognition as one of the most innovative companies in Africa. Considering our achievements, I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.

In 2014, we introduced Black Friday in Nigeria, which has become a highly anticipated annual event. Building on the continued success of our Black Friday sales, we have also launched other major campaigns throughout the year, such as the Food Festival and Brands Festival, allowing consumers to enjoy exclusive deals from their favourite restaurants and brands.

We also introduced the JForce, a team of sales agents dedicated to ensuring that people in rural areas or without internet access can still benefit from our services. Through this team, we proudly connect underserved communities to major centres. In 2020, Jumia Logistics was opened to third-party businesses, giving them the opportunity to leverage our network and expertise for deliveries across the country.

Lastly, we hold the distinction of being the first online African Tech company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Read also: SMEs, startups facing challenges as Nigeria’s inflation soars – Jiji Nigeria

Our success goes beyond the numbers. We have played a significant role in promoting entrepreneurship and empowering local businesses through our platform

As industry experts and pioneers, how have consumers embraced e-commerce over the past years, and how have you built trust?

At Jumia, building trust has always been a top priority. We had to work hard to build trust with our consumers through a number of initiatives including cash on delivery. We also introduced free delivery in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Benin & Warri through Pick-up stations on Jumia Express items with a minimum basket of N2,399 and free door delivery in Lagos, Abuja & Ibadan on Jumia Express items with a minimum basket of N11,999.

Another way was through easy return & refund on all eligible item(s) within 15 days for Official Store and 7 days for Marketplace. Authenticity of products was another way we built products. Official stores of leading international and local brands or authorised brand distributors are on Jumia, and they provide official warranties and 15 days free return policy.

Similarly, we have developed a strong reputation for providing high-quality products and reliable services. Jumia operates as a marketplace that partners with a wide network of trusted sellers and brands. Additionally, we have implemented a thorough vetting process to ensure that only genuine and reputable sellers join our platform. This helps us maintain a high level of product quality and customer satisfaction.

In addition, we have implemented a robust review system that allows customers to provide feedback and ratings on their purchases. This feedback mechanism not only helps us improve our services but also instill confidence in potential customers.

Also, we have invested heavily in creating a robust and secure online platform that safeguards customer data and ensures secure transactions. Our customers trust us because we adhere to stringent security protocols, including encryption and secure payment gateways, to protect their personal and financial information.

Sustainability is a major focus for companies worldwide today; what is Jumia’s place in this as it pertains to your operations in Nigeria (carbon footprints etc.)?

Sustainability is deeply ingrained in Jumia’s operations in Nigeria. We recognize the importance of balancing economic growth with environmental responsibility and social progress, particularly in Nigeria, where we operate.

We have undertaken several initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint in Nigeria and contribute to a more sustainable future. Our Environmental Social Governance Report outlines five key themes for our sustainability strategy, which include minimising our impact on the environment, providing convenient and affordable options for our consumers, empowering our sellers and partners, fostering a diverse workforce, and operating with strong governance and ethical standards.

We recognise that incorporating sustainability into our business operations can significantly enhance our overall performance and contribute to a healthier, more sustainable future for all. As part of our commitments, we offer pickup stations that enable customers to receive their orders at convenient locations close to them. These pickup stations are strategically located to encourage customers to walk or use low-carbon transportation to retrieve their orders, thereby improving fulfilment efficiency while minimising environmental impact.

Furthermore, we introduced a new packaging guideline aimed at cutting down on waste created from our packaging material. Jumia will be delivering customers’ orders in the original manufacturers’ packaging instead of having additional Jumia branded packaging. This approach is part of our efforts to achieve our sustainability goals.

Finally, what is the single biggest challenge for your operations in Nigeria and what is the single most positive factor that contributes to your business?

Every industry faces its own set of challenges, and the E-commerce sector in Nigeria is no exception. When it comes to our operations in Nigeria, one of the significant challenges we face is the logistical infrastructure. Nigeria’s vast geographical landscape and diverse population present logistical hurdles, including the delivery of products to remote areas, ensuring timely and efficient order fulfillment, and managing customer expectations. However, Jumia is committed to addressing this challenge by continuously investing in our logistics network, expanding our facilities, and partnering with local logistics providers to improve the overall delivery experience for our customers across the country.

On the other hand, the single most positive factor that contributes to our business in Nigeria is the country’s rapidly growing digital adoption and increasing internet penetration. Nigeria boasts a large population of tech-savvy individuals who are embracing e-commerce as a convenient and reliable way to shop. This enthusiastic adoption of online shopping has created a thriving market for Jumia, allowing us to reach a wider customer base and provide them with access to a diverse range of products and services. Moreover, the Nigerian government’s initiatives to promote the digital economy and improve the ease of doing business have also been instrumental in fostering a favourable environment for our operations. At Jumia, we are continuously adapting to the dynamic Nigerian market and leveraging technology to overcome challenges and seize opportunities.