Chris Folayan has among many dreams, to build MallForAfrica into the largest global e-commerce solution platform.
Armed with dogged determination, Chris and Tope Folayan dared to link Nigeria directly to the world at a time when cyber-crime was at an all time-high.
They aspired to become trusted and reliable e-commerce middlemen between Africa and the world, and now that they have a presence in Nigeria and Kenya, Chris believes Africa is theirs for the taking.
YNaija got to pick the brain of Chris Folayan, the founder of MallForAfrica, and a few were said.
We were present several years ago, when MallforAfrica was launched in Lagos at Airport Hotel in Ikeja. How has the journey been thus far?
The journey has been great. Since then we have significantly increased in size. I believe then we only had 3 pickup locations across Nigeria. Now we have over 10 times that. We only had about 40 stores on our platform and now we have over 150. So the difference is clear. Our customer base has increased greatly and we are now not only in Nigeria but also in Kenya. Putting it mildly, the journey has been of growth and expansion.
Nigeria is a skeptical market. What is the level of response to your service?
The response has been absolutely great. In the beginning it was a challenge but we have proven ourselves to not only retailers but the thousands of customers that use our platform to purchase goods. The skeptics in the US and UK have now seen us prove that we can provide reliable trusted means to sell into Nigeria and Africa as a whole, and love us for that. Nigerians have seen that regardless of the store shipping to Nigeria they can use our app and platform to make purchases and know they will not be scrutinized or suspected of fraud, etc. You know the negative connotation that has shadowed us for ages. One of which I am happy to say MallforAfrica is helping erase that will provide a better future for generations to come.
What is the level of your customer retention?
Customer retention is at an all-time high as we grow. We had challenges in the very beginning but honestly it’s Nigeria, you always need to be prepared for unexpected scenarios and be ready to tackle them and make sure they never repeat themselves. This is how you grow and learn. We have been around a few years and continue to grow. This in itself is a testimony. We provide thousands of customers each month with products and excellent service and it shows with our growth. Most customers who use us come back again. We are very proud of this. In fact, our very first customer still makes purchases on our platform today.
Describe the milestones and significant progress made by MallforAfrica since berthing in Nigeria?
Our milestones have all been around growth and making sure we provide customers with great service while expanding. We are now in Kenya and will be in Ghana and other African countries soon. We are proud to have started in Nigeria and set the stage for true global e-commerce across the world. Letting everyone know Africa is open for business and Nigeria is a safe place to do business when MallforAfrica is involved.
On a revenue-basis, would you say it has been worth the effort?
Absolutely 100% YES! We have shown great revenue strength and growth as we expand. We are extremely happy with our growth and continued growth projections.
Considering the fact that you have to compete with the likes of Jumia and Konga in the market, has MallForAfrica been able to hold its own?
MallforAfrica being compared to Jumia and Konga is something we smile about. Why? Well we are different in so many ways. Let’s look at the very basic differences. Jumia and Konga put together have an online inventory list of about 200,000 items MAX. That’s combined mind you.
MallforAfrica gives buyers access to over 8.5 billion items. That is about 40 thousand times larger. How do we do this? We give users access to the stores they want and inventory that no one can match.
You don’t have to pick from a selection of 200 pairs of shoes with limited shoe sizes. Why do that when you can access over 800,000 pairs of shoes with your shoe size available. So when you put MallforAfrica next to Jumia and Konga it’s really not the same. We are holding on strong with no signs of weakness at all. In fact, we are growing stronger everyday with literally hundreds of new members joining daily.
The E-commerce sub-industry in Nigeria is just about taking baby-steps.What does the sub-industry need to fully walk and ultimately run?
We just need time, infrastructure support, and cheaper faster connectivity for all. That’s what is needed. The landscape has been set. Now, we are all working on the buildings and making sure we have the infrastructure to support the growth of e-commerce across Nigeria and Africa.
What are the constraints faced by MallforAfrica in Nigeria?
There is really only one constraint which we are doing all we can to work on. Delivery times. See with the shopping mall that’s local, let’s say The Palms, you go there get what you want and you walk out with it. With online shopping, a concept like ours, you have to wait a few days to get your item.
It’s not instant and we don’t offer same day delivery. We don’t have local warehouses with items in them. For example, when you order an item from Ralph Lauren.com, it is coming directly from Ralph Lauren and we can’t deliver that to you the same day or even the next day.
So educating our customers to know that we guarantee genuine quality, and they know exactly where the product is coming from but it may take a few days to get, has been the one effort we are working hard to let users know.
We are not Konga or Jumia. We don’t have warehouses with the 8 billion items you can buy from over 150 online US/UK stores in a warehouse in Apapa. When you order from our platform, you order from the US and UK retailer directly but via our app, and we make sure we take care of the shipping, delivery, clearing customs, etc. That takes time. We are working to cut that time to be as minimal as possible.
What are the basic requirements for starting an e-commerce outfit?
Great question. I would say you just need to be ready for all the Nija factors you can think of then multiply that by 10 and then add 500. Then you will be ready to start. It’s not an easy task but it’s one filled with joy, pride, and love. If you don’t love e-commerce and knowing there will be hurdles and bumps along the way don’t ever start. But know this, once you succeed there is no limit to success.
MallForAfrica is just starting to be fully etched in Nigerians’ consciousness. What is the next step for you, to attain market control?
Next step is to simply keep on proving ourselves more and more. Market more, get the word out more about our platform and app. Educate people on the MallforAfrica difference and move, move, move. We will be in several African countries within the next 12 months and we hope to keep on expanding and dominate the African market.