• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

‘Start-ups in e-commerce need innovative approaches to thrive’

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Chioma Agha, CEO/MD, Swish Ideas, an online gift and souvenir company, in this chat with KELECHI EWUZIE, gives insight into the e-commerce sector of the economy and the role companies like hers play in bringing innovation to that segment of the market. Excerpt: 

What is your business all about and how does it meet the needs of your targeted audience?

I own an online gift and souvenir company called Swish Ideas. We deal in wedding, bridal and baby shower souvenirs, anniversary and corporate gifts and souvenirs, seasonal gifts and hampers. We deal with both individuals and organisations. The website was launched in July, 2013. The aim was to change the face of souvenirs given at events. We stress on giving out more functional and unique souvenirs as well as to bridge the gap between consumers and gifts/souvenirs. Sometimes it is such a hassle trying to find appropriate gifts and souvenirs for that special occasion.

What informed your choice of this business and how has it been so far, in terms of challenges?

Though I am a medical doctor by profession, I am a hub of ideas. At every point in time, I have at least one idea running through my mind. Unfortunately I have not always followed through with them. I am pretty much of a “Find a need and fill it” kind of person. The main reason for starting Swish Ideas was to change the face of gifts/souvenirs given at events as well as make it accessible to all Nigerians (and globally as well).

Why travel to a particular location when you can sit right in your home/office and browse several products and eliminate the hassle? E-Commerce in Nigeria is thriving and there is a growing number of people who access the internet daily.

Projections for the business are good, but I haven’t started seeing that yet. I am still at the phase where I am laying a very solid foundation. I can be a little over meticulous so it may take a while. But I believe that if Swish Ideas is going to be a force to reckon with for eternity, a very solid foundation must be laid. For me now, it is not about how much money I can make very quickly but how solid my foundation is so that when I start building. It’s unshakable.

Don’t get me wrong, we are doing well in such a short time of business, which I am very grateful to God for. Challenges are peculiar to running a business in Nigeria; light, logistics, staff, trust issues, etc. I see challenges as brain exercises though; I just need to think more.

The company name alone actually means unique. So that is unique in itself. I also believe that our level of customer service is unparalleled. We are trying to emulate best practices of the biggest brands in the west (and suit it to our clime). Our products are also very unique and we get a lot of compliments from our clients. A lot of them are usually intrigued as to the wide variety of innovative products we stock, things they see themselves and their guests using over and over again. We have a return policy where customers can return products they are not satisfied with. This contrasts with a lot of shops where once the receipt is printed, even if you are still in the store, no refund or exchange. We also do not have an MOQ so buyers can buy one product/the quantity they desire. We try and make the selling experience as convenient as possible for the consumer.

What kind of feedback do you get from clients?

The majority of our customers are satisfied with our services which is what every business aims for. We get a lot of thank you emails, referral emails, referral calls, etc. We even have people who patronize us from abroad. We also have repeat businesses from the same clients which speaks volumes. All in all, we think we are on the right path. Where we err, we try and make amends and compensate the customer. Some of the comments we have gotten are “Oh my goodness, you guys are a life saver”, “Wow, your service is excellent, I am a very satisfied customer and will spread the word”, “This is such a brilliant idea”, “Thank you Swish for my unique favors. My guests loved them”. We are trying to create a testimonial page on our website to feature some of these very lovely comments. I also use this as an opportunity to say thank you to all our customers especially those who have believed in and stuck with us from day one.

What are your plans for the future or for your business?

The plan for the business in the long run is to expand into other countries, controlling a large percentage of the e-commerce market share in Nigeria, manufacturing and exporting gifts and souvenirs.

What would you consider your areas of expertise, strength or weakness in your industry?

I think our big areas of expertise are wedding souvenirs, Christmas and Valentine hampers.

How do you stay ahead of competition?

I think we stay ahead by listening to our clients. What do they want? What is the competitor not giving that we can easily give? Our prices are also extremely competitive. A friend of mine has said our items are very cheap. Our margins are minimal. We also try and bend over backwards for our clients as much as we can. It is all about letting the consumer have a memorable experience with Swish Ideas.

Academics and career path

I am a medical doctor by profession. I attended Queens College Yaba Lagos, and went on to study medicine at the University of Ghana Medical School. I also did an online course with Oxford. I am the DMD at an oil and gas consulting firm as well as a director at Joan Agha Foundation, (JAF).

KELECHI EWUZIE