Online retailing is the future in Africa, says 25-year-old Rahul Kalra, from India's financial capital Mumbai. Kalra believes that by 2025 e-commerce will be the way most Africans shop for a whole range of products.
It comes as no surprise then that Rahul has set up an online retail company, Africakart.com, primarily targeting customers in Ghana, but with plans to expand across the continent.
Rahul Kalra arrived in Ghana three years ago to join his father, Colonel Raj Kalra (retd), who has established a company called ACEC to facilitate the entry of foreign firms into Ghana. But he decided to branch out on his own and joined a young Ghanaian, Theodore Lawson, to set up the online trading company.
They see themselves as trailblazers in a business that is not well-developed in Ghana, Kalra told IANS. He is, however, not daunted because he is focused on building a business in an age when entrepreneurship has become the buzzword. He said Africakart.com will become the biggest and most preferred online place for smart family shopping with wings spread across the whole of Africa by 2025.
"I am really convinced that e-commerce is the future and I believe that Africakart has what it takes to become the brand that would bring e-commerce to homes and offices," he said. Kalra's ambition hinges on his belief that the online retail environment is catching on fast with the Ghanaian population and those in other parts of Africa. Proof of this lies in the emergence of online malls where people are able to shop for goods and services.
He said with the gradual growth in this new sector, there exist tremendous opportunities for businesses to position themselves to serve the ever-growing online population here in Ghana and, as an extension, all of Africa.
"There is still the need for great value creation as businesses engage in the online retail business. This is when Africakart comes in with the aim of providing lasting value for stakeholders: made up of vendors, intermediaries such as payment gateways, shipping agencies and, of course, the target consumers," Kalra said.
Both entrepreneurs have strong backgrounds in e-commerce which will help them grow the business. Before arriving in Ghana, Kalra had built a career in e-commerce, hotel management and customer service in France and India.
His Ghanaian partner Lawson started off his career in customer services and later went into IT business development, business copywriting for banks and telecommunications companies, among others.
Lawson said his decision to venture into the e-commerce business was fuelled by his visit to London. "Although my reason for going to London was to pursue further education in bio-medicine, I found a new interest in doing business via electronic means," he added.
Kalra said: "I came to Ghana in 2013 and set up a small firm. But finding the gap in the e-commerce sector and with my experience in France, I decided to set up Africakart.com."
Both of them say the passion to see electronic business flourish in Ghana and for that matter Africa led them into various ventures that were all geared towards creating better value within the electronic ecosystem.
"Among such ventures is the continuous education of both industry and customers in strategies and best practices in e-commerce business ecosystem," Lawson said, adding that the "areas covered have included online retailing and shopping, e-banking, e-governance, mobile money, social media, corporate data governance and various enterprise solution adoptions".
Africakart.com as an online retail start-up was registered this year. "The initiative, however, started in late 2015 with support from some well-wishers. "We all squeezed ourselves into a borrowed conference room where we operated from," Kalra recalled.
"Today, we are growing in strength and experience and are poised to do more," he said, adding that they have made some breakthrough in creating brand awareness for Africakart. Lawson said the company plans to take advantage of the growing online market in Ghana and Africa as a whole to offer better value for vendors and consumers.
"Existing companies have ignored the core value of relationship-building and identifying unique offerings for customers online," he said.
"(We) strongly believe that by offering unique services as opposed to general merchandising we will build lasting relationships with customers, hence creating a niche within the online environment."