Upon noticing that the economic sector in Kenya only caters for the top tier in the economic pyramid which leaves little room for individuals and businesses that exist within the lower segments of the economy to reap the benefits of online transactions, Sky.Garden decided to come up with a sophisticated eCommerce platform that they can use to expand their geographical reach. ITBusinessDirect spoke to Isaac Hunja the Chief Marketing Officer about their work.
How can you define the technology sector in Kenya?
I would describe the technology sector in Kenya as one that has curved itself as the cradle of technology in Africa. The innovation hubs and communities that have cropped up to support innovations in telcom, fintech, transport, etc have made for a buzzing innovation environment. The technology sector in our country has destroyed many old ways of living and transformed the way many people interact in their everyday lives. Kenya’s unique entrepreneurial spirit has found a new foundation in tech.
What made you come up with Sky.Garden?
Sky.Garden was built on the notion that everyone deserves access to the digital market. We saw thousands of Kenyan businesses that had amazing products to offer but were limited to their geographical sales radius to grow their profits. Dozens of eCommerce solutions have come and gone but none has met the basic needs of these business owners.
Sky.Garden offers a free, low barrier of entry eCommerce tech solution that doesn’t disrupt their usual ways of conducting business. We spoke to over 2000 sellers before developing the solution. One of the key pain points that stood out was that these business owners lacked control over their digital presence. We offer them a free Web Shop solution with a unique URL that they can direct traffic to through various marketing efforts. They can upload as much inventory as they please and seamlessly manage their stock levels via an easy to use Android application and/or desktop seller center website.
Tell us more about Sky.Garden.
Business owners on the Sky.Garden platform reap the benefits of world-class customer service, payments and delivery with every order they get. When a seller gets an order, it’ll be delivered to their customer within 3-5hrs within Nairobi, and 24hrs countrywide. Moreover, we disburse their payment in real-time. No more waiting weeks on end for payment.
Since we launched in May of 2017, we have seen rapid growth in our seller base with over 3200 unique web shops and 30,000+ unique products. The sellers are spread out across Kenya but concentrated in the Nairobi region.
Are businesses in Kenya utilizing the internet effectively?
I believe there has been a positive influx in Kenyan businesses using the internet to strengthen their brand. Both from a marketing and customer service perspective. Digital marketing efforts have been ramped up as the Kenyan consumer now relies on the internet to vet the credibility of a business before interacting with it. And we now see organizations turning to social media to address most of their customer service queries, some going as far as employing bot technology which is a growing trend globally.
How is Sky.Garden transforming the ICT sector in Kenya?
Sky.Garden is at the forefront of eCommerce innovation in that every tech offering within our platform is bespoke and was co-created with our users. We believe in customer-centric design and are constantly building for the needs of our sellers, customers and delivery partners. We have state of the art tools for sellers to manage & promote their online businesses, well thought out user-experience flows for our customers and even tech for our delivery partners to deliver products with much more efficiency and speed.
How do you ensure online transactions are safe with the rise in cyber insecurity?
We take online fraud very seriously and have taken various steps to ensure that our customers and sellers are protected at all costs. When a customer makes a purchase, they receive mobile money payment instructions to pay to our MPesa Paybill Number. Once the customer receives their product(s), we ask them to verify the product(s), and we will only release payment to the seller once they give us the go ahead to do so. We have had over 15,000 fraud-free transactions to date.
What is the most rewarding and challenging part of what you do?
When we started this journey, we met with lots of business owners who felt as though they had tried everything but still couldn’t reap the true benefits of eCommerce. The most challenging aspect of our journey has been building something that a seller can independently make a success i.e. upload products, promote shop, get sales. And it has been very rewarding to see it all come together.
What are the challenges of scaling to penetrate more market segments especially within Africa?
Sky.Garden has a big city expansion plan. We are going to expand to the rest of East Africa in 2019/20 and venture into West Africa thereafter. Some of the challenges we expect to face are finding reliable delivery partners that can meet our quick turn-around needs. However partners like Sendy that have great reach especially in East Africa will ensure for a much easier roll-out.
What advice would you give to future Tech-preneurs?
I would encourage them to innovate! Africa has many problems that can all be solved using tech. Building solutions that have worked in the West however, will not cut it. We need to develop for our needs. So tech-preneurs need to sit and collaborate in building solutions that are built for Africa. For Africa, by Africans.