• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

MallForAfrica: Malling, business lumped in one App

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There was an elaborate concentration on online shopping at the Sheraton Hotel in Lagos, on Wednesday, October 8, 2014, when MallForAfrica (MFA) re-launched its operations. And it was easy to understand why this was so.

By acting as conduit between online shoppers in Africa and more than 80 merchants in the US and the UK while allowing prospective buyers select from more than 8.5m items, MFA had unofficially become Africa’s largest mall.

Noticing the numerous challenges of Nigerians — and Africans — willing to shop from malls abroad was a no-brainer, after all. As Tope Folayan, its chief executive officer, explained, there were several patent merchant-buyer gaps in many of the existing shopping platforms.

There was the mismatch of willing Nigerian buyers against merchants unwilling to sell to Nigerians; the heartbreak of merchants specifically blacklisting Nigeria or their negative disposition to accepting Nigerian credit/debit cards; the disconsolation of knowing that certain merchants even specifically blocked out Nigerian transactions.

“The consequence is that online retail alternatives are limited to shopping at the local open market or mall or from a few select online stores, where they run the risk of settling for overpriced purchases, fake/inferior purchases or just managing what is on offer,” Folayan had said.

“So one option for these shoppers is to keep a list of items they want and wait until they secure visa and travel abroad to purchase the items and bring them back home, or to look for a willing friend or family member living abroad who would purchase the items and then find another friend or family member who bring them back as excess luggage.”

So, really, it was pretty easy to oversimplify MFA as a business venture solely tending to the retail or wholesale needs of millions of disgruntled Nigerian and African shoppers. That is one conclusion that is readily excusable. But direct online shopping is, in fact, no more than half the business opportunities offered by MFA.

Olapeju Salami who oversees the company’s reseller programme — a unique business opportunity for shoppers and non-shoppers alike — says it is a creation specifically designed to allow people, individuals, businesses earn money in two legitimate ways.

One is via the Loyalty Webcard called MFA Webcard — a debit card customised at N2,500, never expiring, always secure.

“The webcard is what we resell,” Salami says.

“We encourage customers to resell others to earn money in two ways. The first one is that they get to buy the webcard at a discounted rate depending on the package of their choice.

“The second one is that each time they make purchase online, they tend to get up to 3 percent commission on each transaction made by their referred members. So under the reseller programme, we have five package: green, blue, silver, gold and platinum.”

While the green and blue packages are categorised under the individual level, the silver, gold and platinum fall under the business level. The green package sees five cards go to customers at a discounted rate of N1,800 each, equalling N9,000 for five cards.

For every time a referred member makes purchases online, the card reseller earns 1 percent commission, excluding the N3,500 profit made from the one-off sale of the five cards. In addition, buying five extra cards costs N1,220, against the N1,800 cost of the initial purchase.

“It grows like that. If a person eventually gets up to 25 webcards, the person automatically gets to the second level, which is the blue level,” Salami continues.

“At blue level, we sell 25 webcards at N30,500, which us N1,220 each. The blue level is also 1 percent commission on each transaction made. Additional cards for the blue level is N1,200.

“If the person still goes on and on again to say ‘okay, I still want to keep buying’, he could buy five, 10, depending on the package. He can actually still get to the next level, which is the silver level.

“For the silver package, we sell 50 webcards at N57,000, which is at the rate of N1,140 per card. For the silver level, they earn 2 percent commission for all transactions made. What they buy for N57,000 would be sold at N2,500, totalling N125,000.”

A similar progression can see someone who started at the green level migrate to gold by buying cards. At this level, MFA sells 200 cards at N200,000 at the rate of N1,000 per card, while the person stands to get N300,000 and 2 percent commission.

The biggest of all is the platinum level, where 1,200 cards are sold to the reseller at N1million. That’s about N833 per card, and the reseller earns 3 percent commission on each transaction.

“That’s about the biggest of all the packages, so the issue with the programme now is that customers would have to do what is expected of an MFA customer who wants to be in this level: sign an account with MFA. “It means that the reseller would have tested and tried, and that alone would help in convincing others to shop. Having done that, we have our reseller agreement document, strictly important that everybody signs the document. And they read through for the benefit of the two parties involved, our own side and the customer’s.

“Talk about transparency, resellers can actually check their account as it grows; it’s automatic. The entire procedure is our website, www.mallforafrica.com. Under the reseller programme, there is the income report and the referred members.

“Under the referred member, you can see the people who activated their cards, so you know those who are under you. Then, for the income report, you can monitor the growth.

For instance, you sell to five people, and among the five people, somebody buys today; and the next day, he makes another purchase. You will be able to see as the commission grows.”

Compensation occurs in two ways. One is payment into the webcard account if the customer so wishes; the other is payment into bank account in Naira.

“Another thing about the reseller programme is that the documents they sign with us hold for a year,” Salami adds.

“What that simply means is that for somebody on the green level, he has a whole year to sell the first five cards. If he’s able to sell the first five successfully and buy more, he scales through the one year but if otherwise, we say the one year has expired.

“For the platinum, if a customer wants to maintain the status of platinum, he has to buy extra 1,200 cards after a year. If he cannot get to that level, he drops to the gold level and enjoys whatever the gold resellers enjoy: 2 percent commission and then the card would drop to N1,000 as against the 800+.

“He still has a whole year to maintain the gold level, otherwise he drops to the silver level for a whole year too. In summary, the person, as a platinum reseller, has six years to maintain the status of reseller for MFA.

“The first year, if he can’t maintain, he drops to gold, otherwise he drops to silver. If he still cannot maintain that, he drops to blue and from blue to green, and for the green he has a whole year to know if he can manage it. So the summary is that platinum has six years, gold has five years, silver has four years, blue three years and so on.”

Just as it is with shoppers, prospective resellers only need to download the MFA app, create an account on mallforafrica.com, and the rest will be history!

ANNE AGBAJE