Why a former doctor decided to start an online supermarket in Nigeria

Dr Olumide Olusanya is a former medical doctor who started an online supermarket in Nigeria, Gloo.ng. Originally called BuyCommonThings.com, Olusanya decided to change the name last year in an effort to make the brand catchier and “stick” with its customers.

Olumide Olusanya, founder of Gloo.ng

Olumide Olusanya, founder of Gloo.ng

With his wife as his business partner, today Olusanya employs 12 people and operates out of 1,800m² warehouse in Lagos. Although the company is still in its startup phase, Olusanya’s vision for Gloo.ng is to “do to supermarket shopping in Africa what Amazon did to book shopping in the world”.

How we made it in Africa spoke to Olusanya to find out why he decided to start an online supermarket brand in Nigeria, the challenges he faces, and his future expansion plans.

Why did you decide to move from a career in medicine to business?

I actually didn’t move straight from medicine to business. I have always been a lover of technology and so had wanted to study computer science or engineering in university but was coerced to study medicine by my dad. After practicing for a while, I went back to my first love – technology. I became an Oracle database administrator and AIX systems administrator. It was from these that I evolved into the business and entrepreneurial side of technology.

What was the inspiration behind starting Gloo.ng, and how did you go about funding it?

The idea occurred to me while watching my extremely loving and dutiful wife combine keeping a happy home with holding down a full-time executive role. Gloo.ng is an outpouring of affection to my wife – and by extension, to all our target users – to try to relieve her, and our valued Gloo.ng users, of the stress of this balancing act, partnering with them to build the happiness they want to build into their homes and families, by saving them the precious time, the valuable money and the needless stress spent on the very unnecessary inconvenience of supermarket visits, which they can better spend on activities that promote their happiness, such has spending quality time with their family.

Seed funding came from an investment vehicle in which I had a very significant majority holding. Later up the line, friends and colleagues acted as angels to fund the business up to its present stage.

Who are your customers?

The urban and sub-urban busy homemaker i.e. any active, employed, engaged, swamped person who takes care of – or manages the taking care of – his/her or someone else’s family, home and children in an urban or sub-urban area.

Tell us about some of the challenges you face in running Gloo.ng, and how you plan to overcome them?

[Establishing] a trusted, efficient, secure and cost-effective means of receiving electronic payments for goods and services. I am sorry I cannot reveal our plans for dealing with this.

What has been the best business decision you have made for Gloo.ng so far?

My choice of co-founder. I asked my wife after about three months of [running] Gloo.ng to resign from her executive role to join me in building Nigeria’s biggest supermarket place as a co-founder. She has not looked back since then – a daughter of consolation, a rock of support, and a treasure trove of advice. There would not have been a Gloo.ng as you now know it without this woman – either in idea or even in execution. She is as much a celebration of Gloo.ng as all our treasured Gloo.ng users are.

Any expansion plans?

We have just signed an agreement for an [undisclosed amount] fund raise that we will use to blanket the whole of Lagos State with our service this 2014, once the funding closes. Next year, we start blanketing Nigeria. The long-range vision is to be the Quidsi.com of Africa.

Describe three traits that make a good business manager in Nigeria.

Three traits are not enough in Nigeria. In Nigeria, you need all the following: tenacity, resilience, ability to work hard, passion, risk-tolerance and a good name/reputation.