a year ago
2.5 kB
One thing the Igbo trader knows very well is how to build an B2B business from B2C. They build the distribution then supply the distribution. The richest Igbo traders don't advertise because they have a ready market. This typical problem is operational excellence and not sales.

Can this model be automated with tech? It is hard to do but possible. You just need to be patient enough to sit in the market and learn without judgment. I did that once for a month but didn't get anywhere because I felt they didn't know what they were doing and were wasteful.

The trader I was working with to build an accounting system didn't mind the pilferage and waste because “they were all one family.” I never realized that working with family was a feature and not a bug. What I thought was theft and waste were mere “provisions” already agreed.

What surprised me though was how quickly that market adopted digital payments because cash was a great risk. Cash was the greatest risk. I realized that these traders were the source of market transformation for many other sectors that helped their businesses.

I saw them help telcos to build multi-billion-dollar businesses by lending them their distribution. One day it hit me that the trader’s role wasn't selling but distribution. Most of our tech plays don't get this nuance. Telco made me see it in black and white and I was changed.

Direct-to-customer sounds sexy but it is largely impractical. It is why I laugh at all the eCommerce plays. The market is not perfect but that too is a feature and not a bug.

It is from those imperfections that you build opportunity. The telcos and FMCG don't seek to change them

They want their products in the hands of consumers and the best way to do that is to incentivize the market to sell and distribute the products. Organizing African retail for digital will NOT start from the customer but the middleman.

Telcos thought the middleman would disappear but they didn't. They finally realized that the best way to grow is to partner with people who are hungry for growth. No African startup founder is as hungry as the man on on the street chasing business. The trader gets this. 

The trader grows by helping others grow. They are not focused on sales but on growth. They are the people who build true ecosystems that we should all learn from. 

I have only seen one person learn this well and he now makes millions of dollars from bukas or local eateries.

*their typical problem