The Daily News Egypt spoke to Jeremy Doutte, one of the co-founders and managing directors of online shopping retailer Jumia Egypt, which has been online for a year. Doutte, who has more than nine years of work experience spanning across various industries including auditing, investment banking and consulting, and two years in the e-commerce industry, started working with Jumia Egypt in October 2012.
1) Can you tell us a bit about Jumia Egypt and the origins of the company?
We have just celebrated the first anniversary of Jumia Egypt last week. We’ve been online for one year now, and we now have approximately 150 employees and our revenues are growing around 20 to 30% per month. I’m very happy with the service that we deliver, the customer experience is satisfactory, and the number of returning customers is increasing. The reason why we have come here to Africa, particularly Egypt, can be explained in the theory of Rocket Internet, which owns Jumia. E-commerce is one of the biggest trends in business in the 21st century, and it is very big in the US and in Europe and that’s it, but our belief and our theory is that e-commerce is going to become just as big everywhere else in the world, especially in Africa, South America and Asia. So far, we have raised $1bn dollars. Why? Because we believe that there is a big business trend which is e-commerce that will take over Africa, South America and Asia. The reason we came to Egypt is because we believe that, in Africa, there are two big markets that are relevant and have the potential of being big in e-commerce, and these are Nigeria and Egypt. And even if the political situation in Egypt is not as stable as everyone would hope, we still remain in the market. At the moment, our sales in July are very strong, and have never been as strong as now, because we’re open 24/7. Last Saturday, a lot of shops closed, but we never did, and in a way you can say that the revolution is helping us. Surprisingly, some items like computers and phones picked up last week despite the political events. I was expecting these categories to slow down at that time, but because most shops, like City Stars and everywhere else were closed, we didn’t.
2) You mentioned that Jumia and Jumia Egypt are part of the theory of Rocket Internet. What is Rocket Internet exactly?
Rocket Internet includes both an investor and an incubator. An incubator is basically where you place the venture in a small, comfortable environment and you give it everything it needs to succeed. They provide the venture with the website, the name, which will attract many to my business just because I am Rocket Internet. If it were just “Jumia Egypt” without it, it would have been very hard. They also provide me with the knowledge I need to know about e-commerce; so the money, skills and knowledge transfer provided is amazing.
3) So far, Jumia Egypt has established itself as the place for online fashion. Are there any other products being sold?
We have everything, including computers, gaming, housing, services like travel, and many more. We also have a huge initiative coming soon that I cannot share yet, because my competitors will always want to know about them.
4) What about your target market?
Our target market changes all the time. But basically the best answer to that question is to tell you what I want to become. I want to become like amazon.com. The target market of amazon.com now is everyone who has an access to the internet, and this is my ambition. But someone could say “but your website is expensive and it only targets A class and B class.” This is not true. Until very recently, we offered our customers the opportunity to come to the office to pick up their items, and I can tell you that the people I saw in the office were not A or B class. I think this is may be counterintuitive, but also very surprising, because we are actually targeting anyone with enough purchasing power to spend money on other things than rent, water and food. Because we offer discounts sometimes, we find people from B and C classes coming to us. There are customers now we know by their name, because they always come again.
5) Was it challenging to start something big and different here in Egypt, especially since the concept of online shopping is still a bit unfamiliar and risky for many?
There are always good things when first starting something new, and of course there are difficulties. The good thing about starting something like this in Egypt is that Egyptians are always eager to try [new things]; they are curious. Another thing is competition, where competitors invest in to be part of the market, and every time there’s a billboard up there, it is actually helping me too because they’re raising awareness of e-commerce. The third good thing is maybe very surprising, but working with the government here in Egypt is actually very easy, and it is easier than in many countries. The laws are not as complicated as you may think and there’s some tolerance to entrepreneurship. I am also surprised at the speed at which you can close deals and start partnerships. Abroad, to start a relationship with a supplier may take you at least four months, but here, it can take you two weeks and you can start working together immediately. Overall, Egypt is a good country for e-commerce because the fundamentals are here. There’s a big workforce, a lot of people are well-trained and there’s also enough electricity compared to other countries like Lebanon. As for the difficulties, I think the customs here are a bit complicated because it is very hard to import things to the country, and it is very expensive. Lack of political stability may also affect customers’ behaviour.
6) Are there any payment difficulties?
No, because I’m a foreign company, so I get my money in dollars, so everyone likes me and I have many friends.
7) Do you have any estimates as to how many users use Jumia Egypt?
I have, but that is a confidential number. What I can tell you is that our market share is 28%, and on average, we have around 200 orders per day in Cairo, and we are about to make an average number of 10 orders per employee which we will land soon, close but haven’t reached it yet, most likely by end of August. Due to the investors trust in Egypt, there are two new projects planning to be opened soon. What the marketing team has achieved in one year is quite incredible.
8) Does Jumia Egypt have any business partnerships?
Yes, we have many partnerships including HP, Nestle, Toshiba, Samsung, Dannon, Sony, Unilever, L’Oreal and many others will be signed soon with us.
9) Every successful company has an iconic culture. What is Jumia Egypt’s?
We have a very rich customer-centric culture, you just walk in into our office and you know you won’t find a similar culture anywhere else. I and Mattia Perroni, who is also the co-founder and managing director of Jumia Egypt, want to make the best of the Egyptian culture. Mattia and I worked in consulting before. We both used to work at Mckinsey which is one of the most prestigious consulting firms in the world. Because of that, we know about customer service and customer satisfaction. I believe a customer-centric culture should be every retailer’s culture, because once you work with it, you’ll make your customers your priority and achieve customer satisfaction. We incorporate professionalism, working principles and values while working. Some of these include zero hierarchy, work ethics, constant feedback and we always try to lead by example.