Kalahari.net, the South Africa-based online retailer, has over the past year expanded into two new African countries, namely Kenya (kalahari.co.ke) and Nigeria (kalahari.com.ng). How we made it in Africa interviewed Gary Hadfield, the company’s chief executive officer
What have been the major challenges of launching Kalahari in two new African countries?
One of our biggest challenges was setting up our distribution network and last mile infrastructure. Integrating our system with local payments players was also demanding. Regarding human resources, there are many high calibre professionals in each territory, but the main challenge is finding individuals with exposure or experience in the ecommerce sphere. We also have to deal with the fact that both countries have a very infant online buying culture. The reality is that we are the industry player that needs to fuel the shift in consumer behaviour.
Do the products available in Kenya and Nigeria differ from those sold in South Africa?
Currently all media products available in Kenya and Nigeria (books, music, DVDs and games) are the same as on offer in South Africa. The plan is to start sourcing indigenous media products to satisfy local consumption needs. In terms of general merchandise, we only offer toys and electronics in these territories – the main reasons being logistical or territorial distribution rights issues that need to still be resolved. Books and electronics are the top selling products in these territories.
Currently all stock is distributed from our Cape Town distribution centre, but our roadmap includes local stock holding and using drop shipments into these territories.
Are Kenyans and Nigerians open to the concept of online shopping?
The reality of very limited access in terms of choice for consumers in these territories makes them very receptive to the concept. The initial feedback from customers in both countries has been positive. However, as in any emerging ecommerce market, we need to win over consumers in terms of trust, delivery times, pricing and available payment options.
How does Kalahari market itself in the two new territories?
We are currently using a combination of tactical, radio, social networks and search engine marketing.
Is there any significant competition from other online retailers in Nigeria and Kenya?
These markets are both at a very early stage of development and no player is currently in a market leader position, but this will no doubt change in the medium term.
Do you have plans to roll-out Kalahari in other African countries?
There is a lot of work still to be done in Nigeria and Kenya. We therefore have no immediate plans to roll-out in other territories. Nigeria and Kenya can, however, serve as hubs for our aspirations in west and east Africa.