Dr. Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman of Zinox Group, has said that though e-commerce is a big money business, Konga, Nigeria’s most innovative e-commerce giant, set out with clear plans to last the distance. He spoke with journalists on the sidelines of the recent innovation forum of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS) bankrolled by Zinox which has produced young graduates and undergraduate entrepreneurs ready to hit the corporate world.
E-commerce is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash. How prepared is Konga?
As you know, Konga is a subsidiary of the Zinox conglomerate, after its acquisition and it has its forerunner in BuyRight Africa, the first e-commerce company in Africa which I also pioneered.
Qualities that give Konga staying power
Many qualities but I will list just a few. Konga’s strengths and strategies include the capacity to innovate which you cannot buy with money: passionate, young and highly motivated human capital; reliable infrastructure; seamless nationwide digital logistics network; high-performing Fintech (KongaPay); a structured physical retail chain that propels efficiency in last-mile delivery. The special thing about Konga is that all the people there are very passionate about the brand. I am just by the side supporting them.
Your serial pioneer status
I pioneered desktop publishing in Nigeria. I also pioneered e-Commerce in Africa through BuyRight Africa which is the forerunner to Konga and other e-Commerce outfits on the continent. I anticipated the future but unlike other technology businesses, e-commerce takes a longer incubation period. We are prepared for it because in the last seven years, we spent time and resources building infrastructure which is the biggest problem in Africa. We have launched and tested future business verticals successfully. We have directly and indirectly owned infrastructure nationwide, including traditional markets which we had to acquire in the course of expansion in different regions in the country ready for tomorrow because it must come.
Key challenge in e-commerce is distribution. How did Konga overcome this?
We have built a digital logistics company that is today, possibly the best tech-driven logistics company in Africa complimented by tech-driven distributed warehouses across Nigeria. As you know, Konga owns the largest single warehouse in the heart of Lagos. The Board approved a minimum number of new trucks and other assets that must be injected every quarter. We are also privileged to have a reliable Fintech (KongaPay) from the outset, and a lot of work is going on underground to build and advance other products around this.
The uniqueness of Konga
From the beginning, we had a clear roadmap. We adopted the composite online-offline model which many e-commerce houses are copying today. We have a physical retail chain that compliments a lot of things we want to roll out in the future. This gave us a head-start over the competition. Our investment in the health sector (KongaHealth) will be a revolution that has to do with lifestyle and quality health. Right now, we are the brand for L’Oreal as their strategic distributor for Nigeria. As you know, L’Oreal is the number one cosmetics company in the world. We have also Konga Travels which adds panache and luxury to travel.
This is critical as we have young, passionate, strong, motivated and structured human capital. Aside from having a healthy capital base and the best technology tailor-made for e-commerce, our human capital gives us the edge. These young Nigerians, I am sure, will become the richest employees in Nigeria in the coming years. What we are trying to do is to make a strong statement that Africans, and indeed Nigerians, can compete with the rest of the world. I have, with my colleagues, proven this in other tech platforms in Africa over the years and we are spiritually certified to do same here. We are Nigerians and we understand the risks, psychology and possibilities inherent in these young individuals. We are financially prepared and ready for the marathon nature of e-commerce.
How futuristic is Konga?
First is that after nearly 40 years of tech entrepreneurship, my passion now sits with tech-driven Commerce with related verticals. We basically covered futuristic business verticals under one roof, driven by tech. We are not chasing after profit but the profit will come. We are getting to a point in our capacity and efficiency drive where we can say if Konga can’t do it, then no other company in our sector can do it. We have done same with Zinox. The end of our incubation period (trial period) is end of December this year, after which Konga will now roll out massively and create explosive marketplace impact.
On Konga becoming the ‘Everything Store’ like Amazon
Yes, we launched this before Amazon and we are expanding current verticals and that’s why with all the difficulties in the country, we are hiring experienced Nigerians of value. Our product offering is huge. A visit to konga.com will enlighten you more. Very soon, we shall launch full-blown KongaNow which we have tested. We must deliver genuine products in minutes, same day nationwide. It is simple. Any product on Konga site tagged KongaNow must be delivered in minutes to the customers’ addresses in over 10 selected cities in Nigeria. This is already live for Lagos and Abuja and Konga shall guarantee this commitment across products categories, including FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) products.
I am optimistic that Konga, driven by world-class innovators, shall be the highest employer of quality labour in the very near future. I count myself in anticipation as a witness. We saw the future and we’re creating it.