By Ayomide Oriade
People have come to celebrate particular birthdays as milestones in their lives. Such people regard first, fifth, tenth, twenty-fifth, fortieth, fiftieth etc as milestones when they roll out the big drums. They regard the ‘non-milestone’ commemorations as if they are of less significance than the so-called milestones. Same goes for non-human creations, whose ‘birthdays’ are regarded as anniversaries. Going by these standards, one may think that rolling out the big drums to celebrate Jumia’s eighth year anniversary is a bit exuberant but it is not, and I am going to tell you why.
Prior to 2012, most Nigerians used to hear of people who shop at the comfort of their homes and have their orders delivered to them. They used to be some of those foreign stories, told by the privileged few who have lived overseas, that depicted Nigeria as underdeveloped and ‘local’. Those of our compatriots who live here but could shop abroad were seen as exceptionally sophisticated while the rest of us only wished we could one-day be so privileged.
A few companies that ventured to make this wish come true only fizzled out a couple of years after they commenced operations. The reasons for their unfortunate wind-up are not far from our local business and social environment whose realities are, not only far from business friendly, but also mean to start-ups. Jim Ovia of the Zenith Bank fame once observed that for entrepreneurs to survive in Nigeria, they must have what he called ‘a high adversity quotient,’ the ability to withstand and overcome the impact of the various punches – lack of access to credit, ill-equipped workforce, government interference, developmental challenges etc – that the operating environment throws at them.
For surviving eight years of these punches in Nigeria, nay, growing from strength to strength, excursions to other African countries, is a reason to roll out the big drums for Jumia at eight, at least to celebrate it for thriving where others have failed or are struggling to stand.
Another reason for celebrating Jumia’s eighth year anniversary is the revolution it has brought to the e-commerce sector in Africa in general and Nigeria, in particular. It has demystified and democratised the sophistication that was a privilege for the very few Nigerians as recently as the beginning of this decade. Today, Nigerians, like their counterparts in Europe and America, can sit in the comfort of their homes, order and pay for goods and services and have them delivered to them, without physically visiting the shops.
This revolution did not come by chance. It took the ingenuity and deftness of Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec, both ex-McKinsey consultants along with Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Kofi Afaedor to found the company; the focus and discipline of the managers of the business to be able to navigate the various challenges that abound in the operating environment to grow Jumia from a start-up in 2012 to the continent’s first unicorn being valued over one billion dollars (USD1 billion) in 2016.
These people deployed the Blue Ocean strategy to create the e-commerce market, which was non-existent at the time. This strategy helped them to deal with the trust issues that pervaded financial transactions, the communication network challenges, logistics challenges in the country in addition to the basic challenges that come with their core line of business. These successes that the company has recorded in such a short time as eight years are what we are celebrating.
Another big achievement the company has recorded in its few years of operations is the boost it has given to micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) in its countries of operations in Africa. Jumia offers all manufacturers, distributors and sellers, mostly of whom are MSMEs, a platform to sell their goods and services to their consumers. The company also offers logistics service, which enables the shipment and delivery of packages from sellers to consumers, and a payment service, which facilitates transactions among participants active on Jumia’s platform in selected markets.
Jumia Nigeria alone has over 15,000 active sellers, about 80 percent of whom are MSMEs, offering a wide range of goods including smartphones, consumer electronics, fashion and apparel, home and living, consumer packaged goods, beauty and perfumes etc. The platform saves most of these MSMEs the cost of renting and operating physical stores, thereby increasing their profitability and boosting their growth.
For the consumers, Jumia has been a wish come true. The company has been a trailblazer in the e-commerce sector of the economy, offering the widest variety of products and services at the most competitive prices, and in the most convenient way. One cannot imagine what would have become of Nigerians during the period of the lockdown occasioned by the corona virus disease pandemic. With a general restriction on most economic activities and even on movement, Jumia led a couple of other e-commerce platforms that ensured that the basic needs of consumers were delivered to them as and when needed. This role also ensured that the objectives of the lockdown were achieved to a very large extent.
While many may think that eighth anniversary is not a milestone to be celebrated, Jumia’s eight years of operation have been very eventful, impactful and filled with milestones, not only to the company’s various stakeholders but also to the Nigerian economy, where the ripple effects of its operations have contributed in no small measure to the growth of the economy. This is why the company is being celebrated on the eighth anniversary of its operations.
*Ayomide Oriade writes from PR Redline, Lagos.