Nigeria’s Konga Blazes Trail For Online Retailers

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Written by Steven J. Smith

As one of Nigeria’s preeminent online megastores, Konga.com continues to grow at a brisk pace.The company, founded by CEO Sim Shagaya in June of 2012, now employs some 150 workers and supplies its customers with thousands of products from groceries, health and beauty aids, toys, computers and games to office supplies, movies, watches, home appliances and a host of mobile and electronic devices.

“Konga is an online retailer that allows Nigerians to order anything they want from anywhere in the country,” Shagaya said. “We’ll be able to get it to them in as little as 24 hours, or at most three days. That’s our promise to them.”

Shagaya is no newbie to technology and media entrepreneurship. A holder of degrees from George Washington University, Dartmouth and Harvard, he worked for tech firms Google, RealNetworks, and Microstrategy before founding DealDey, a Groupon-like group buying site offering members in Lagos discounts on a wide variety of products and services. Realizing the number of Internet users in Nigeria grew from 200,000 to 40 million between 2000-2010, Shagaya saw a sea change in the way his country would potentially conduct e-commerce. Founding Konga was a result of that vision.

“I got to participate in what people were calling the first dotcom boom, doing a lot of work for online companies,” Shagaya said. “The Internet was really changing the way people were doing business and even how society was structured and that influenced me greatly.”

Shagaya maintained his company’s greatest challenge has been the fact that Nigeria does not have a functioning postal system. Therefore, he established a fleet of motorbikes and deliverymen and a system for getting goods anywhere in Lagos within 24 hours and anywhere in Nigeria within 72 hours or less.

Another hurdle has been Nigerians’ limited use of credit cards. Only 10 percent of Konga’s customers use them. For most others, it’s cash on delivery. But buying online is evolving into a way of life for Nigerians.

“Nigeria is an amazing economic environment to do business,” Shagaya said. “The margins are generally better than other parts of the world. But our immediate objective is to give the Nigerian customer the best price, the best convenience, the best selection of goods that anybody else can give them in Nigeria — whether they’re online or off-line.”