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CEO Weekends: Kapu Africa’s Meera Dhanani on building the most relevant B2C e-commerce model for Africa

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Meera Dhanani Shah was part of the former Jumia executives who raised $8 million to launch Kapu, a B2C e-commerce grocery startup with a mission to help consumers buy groceries at lower prices through online and offline channels.

Born and raised in Kenya, Meera pursued further education in the UK, where she eventually worked with a German investment bank focused on credit products, an area that did not exist in Kenya when she moved back. She used this transition as an opportunity to venture into something new. After her return, she had an eat pray love moment and trained to be a yoga teacher before she joined Jumia Group.

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Meera says her interest in ecommerce in Kenya was sparked by her heavy reliance on platforms like Amazon and Ocado whilst in the UK. And wanting to be part of this growing industry, she joined Jumia Group’s Kenya subsidiary as an account manager for Phones, later transitioning to a customer engagement head, and eventually the CMO for Jumia Kenya. 

After 4 years she left Jumia Group to pursue her own venture, drawing upon her experiences to assist other brands in growing their own e-commerce ventures.

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Here is the rest of the interview with TechMoran.

What is Kapu and how does it work?

Consumers in Africa spend a staggering 46% of their income on their grocery basket. When such a large proportion of their income is spent on food, there is very little disposable income left to spend on education, savings or investments. This is a huge blocker to social mobility in Africa.

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Kapu is on a mission to reduce the cost of living and save consumers in Africa $1 billion over the next 10 years. To achieve this goal, Kapu is building the most relevant B2C e-commerce model for the majority of urban consumers in Africa. 

What inspired you to create Kapu? How far are you to solving that problem?

You do not have to go far to hear how the cost of living has increased, here in Kenya, in Africa & across the world. I was drawn to join Kapu, driven by our mission of reducing the cost of living. Alleviating this financial burden allows for cash to be used elsewhere, insurance, health care etc. Our objective is to help our customers save $1 billion. While this is a significant milestone, we’ve already achieved $1 million in savings within the first 1.5 years of operation.

Why do you think the market is sold to Kapu?

When consumers spend such a significant amount of their income on daily essentials, they are looking for ways that are more cost effective & more convenient than their current options in a more reliable & consistent way. 

We have been able to tap into these customers, by adopting an omni channel approach & being present in the communities where our shoppers are. We have on-ground sales “Kapu Kommando’s” who help educate consumers and support first time ecommerce shoppers. 

What’s the biggest challenge right now in getting more users to Kapu?

We need to drive users, but in a sustainable way. Gone are the days where you offer 50% discounts to drive user growth. These tactics may yield short term gains but this is not aligned with our brand ethos, which prioritizes sustainable delivery of everyday low pricing to our customers. 

What do you think about the Kenya ecommerce landscape at the moment?

With an expanding middle class, increased internet penetration, lower cost of data & widespread mobile technology. The Kenyan ecommerce landscape presents a significant opportunity for e-commerce businesses. 

What does a Chief Marketing Officer do?

CMOs now undertake a more comprehensive role than in the past, which primarily revolved around advertising and communications. Now CMO’s are tasked with developing strategies to enhance brand growth and collaborating with other departments to facilitate this expansion. There’s a noticeable shift towards leveraging data and analytics and increased financial accountability, requiring decision making that prioritizes ROI.

What else did you learn from your various roles at Jumia?

My 4 years at Jumia was an intense learning experience every single day. I took on various roles within the company, which provided me with significant responsibilities early on and empowered me to dream big & implement. From organizing a Sauti Sol concert to kick off Black Friday sales, to launching a teleshopping show on NTV and even selling 5 cars, every day at Jumia was filled with learning. We failed fast, but learnt even faster. 

Moreover, leading a team of 16 talented individuals was a humbling experience. I was fortunate to work with a group of smart, collaborative, creative, and dedicated individuals whom I was immensely proud to lead.

What keeps you motivated?

The opportunity to be able to contribute to social mobility within a community is a powerful motivator for me. Being able to actively participate in this and witness the tangible benefits it brings to individuals keeps me inspired and driven to make a positive impact.

What are your experiences so far as an ecommerce firm in Kenya?

Our journey as an e-commerce firm in Kenya has seen us encounter various obstacles along the way but we’ve also discovered hidden opportunities.

Successfully navigating these challenges and seizing the opportunities presented has been instrumental in our progress and growth thus far. It’s a constant process of adaptation and innovation that has shaped our journey thus far.

Is big tech’s setting up shop in Kenya good or bad for your business?

Big tech companies setting up shop in Kenya can have a positive impact on our business. Their presence not only attracts top talent but also contributes to the overall development of the ecosystem, creating a conducive environment for business growth and innovation, benefiting us and the entire industry.

Looking ahead, what excites me most about the future for our company is the vast potential that lies ahead. We’ve made significant progress already in the last 2 years, but we’re only scratching the surface of what we can achieve. There are countless opportunities for growth, innovation, and making an even greater impact on our community & our mission to reduce the cost of living for our consumers.

How is Kapu using AI to serve its customers?

AI is indeed gaining momentum in Kenya, with lots of brands using AI generative images etc. We have focused on telling real people stories, & using images of real customers etc.
We have tested AI chat bots & in the future we will explore AI algorithms to offer personalized product recommendations, to offer a more relevant & convenient experience. There are also additional AI capabilities being looked at to drive operational efficiencies. 

With all the responsibilities at Kapu how do you unwind? I find that something physical makes me unwind. Whether it’s hitting the gym, going for a run, or yoga, I make sure to prioritize some form of physical activity. It’s amazing how much it helps me clear my mind and recharge for the next day. 

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Sam Wakoba
Sam Wakobahttp://techmoran.com
Taking you on tour through Africa's tech and business ecosystem, one story at a time since 2010! Based out of Nairobi, Kenya, Sam is the founder and managing director of Moran Media, which runs  TechMoran.com, various other digital platforms and a startup incubation hub for Kenya's youthful entrepreneurs. Drop me a mail at [email protected]

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