How To Build A Multi Million Dollar Online Business In Nigeria

jumia

How did a 30-year old Nigerian and a Ghanaian – Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afaedor – grow their local e-commerce startup into a multimillion dollar company in less than year?

VENTURES AFRICA – I was chatting with a colleague, as we drove to Jumia’s Lagos corporate office, when he asked rhetorically: “Why would JP Morgan be so interested in a 5 month old Nigerian startup as to invest millions in it?” Well, I was eager to know too.

Africa, home to six of the world’s fastest growing economies, has caught the entrepreneurial bug but an ubiquitous lack of funds has kept its entrepreneurs from marching. Minutes into meeting Jumia co-founder Tunde Kehinde, he would have me know having an amazing powerpoint business plan isn’t the key to investor funds.

“With the little crowd funding you can get, test your business concept and prove it makes money,” he tells me. “That way you become irresistible for investors.”

His partner, Raphael Afaedor chips in: “We had to quit our jobs and put all our effort in what we believed. Often, working 16 hours a day, sometimes more.”

Raphael was laid back, but spoke with rare speed. Spitting an average of 3 words per second, he would give Eminem a run for his money. His business-like countenance, tucked-in white office shirt and black trousers, made him look like the boss at the Jumia office.

Tunde on the other hand, with the rest of the Jumia team appeared youthful and casual.

At the online retailer’s office, dozens of under-30 year olds carrying Jumia tags could be seen in jeans and sneakers or fashionable clothing. Self expression is uninhibited, ideas are encouraged. It’s the kind of place a millennial would love to work. It isn’t the conventional Nigerian work setting – for a second, I thought I was in some sort of Google workspace.

Hanging on the walls at the lobby are two aluminium frames. One reads: “Best People for the Best Team.” The other, a sort of guideline for interaction between the staff, reads: “Challenge ideas but Respect everyone.”

When Raphael and Tunde first conceived the idea of building an enduring online ‘shopping mall’ for the Nigerian market, they had never met. Raphael was Head of Marketing and Sales (West, Central & North Africa) with Notore Chemical Industries while Tunde Kehinde was in the UK assisting alcoholic beverage multinational Diageo, to acquire valuable African brands. Both had also studied at Harvard Business School (and Tunde had tried his hands on Bandeka.com, a dating site for young African professionals) so they had received some training for their impending entrepreneurial pursuit.

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