One woman’s mission to link Made in Rwanda products to African market

In order to set her own footprints in the world of e-commerce, Tadhim Uwizeye established Olado — a domestic online platform that aims at promoting Made in Rwanda products.

The growing digitalisation and the rise of mobile alteration stimulated her investment in the online space, and because of this, she didn’t hesitate to grab the opportunity presented by the power of digitally driven trade.

 

Along with her colleagues, she set up a platform three years ago that would enable sellers and buyers interact easily and do better business.

 

 

Together with her colleagues, Uwizeye (centre) set up this platform to enable sellers and buyers do better business. Courtesy photos

Through their website, they facilitate transactions as well as ensuring a swift delivery to a buyer’s doorstep. Sellers reach more people and grow their business and on the other hand, buyers effortlessly obtain their needed products or services by having them delivered.

Items sold mainly include Made in Rwanda agro-processed food, clothing, electronics, beauty items, home appliances, school or office tools, sports equipment, among others. 

As the CEO of such a platform, Uwizeye says her motive is to provide all buyers and sellers an interconnected system that facilitates interaction, creates trust and provides transparency of information. 

Starting out 

Her five- year-experience in the e-commerce industry has been the main catalyst in her entrepreneurial journey.

She also says establishing this enterprise was more of an adventure that would build the future infrastructure of e-commerce.

“Our advantage in starting up was that this was not a new domain for us. We had experience in e-commerce, we knew the challenges and the advantages, and starting up was more of a fun adventure for us than a fear,” she says. 

Items sold mainly include Made in Rwanda agro-processed food among others. Courtesy photos

Their major setback, however, according to Uwizeye, was the inability to mobilise resources and partners. 

“Challenges were there in multiple forms. First, this was not something Rwandans were using. It required a lot of promotional projects to help people understand that we were offering them an opportunity to get what they needed with convenience. We took the painful pleasure in starting Olado because though it was not easy, we had the experience. We knew there were opportunities ahead and took the hustle in a positive manner.”

Uwizeye says they had to offer the best services to those who trusted them, and these would in turn become their advocates, noting that starting up required perseverance and staying focused. 

“We were determined to make it work. We invested ourselves and our savings to the last franc. Sometimes we would not have transport and would walk to work. Sometimes we would run out of airtime or internet and we had to borrow. We had to move out of two offices we initially occupied because we could not afford the rent. We really had to go through hard times, but we knew that it gets darker when the dawn is about to come, and with patience and perseverance, Olado was made possible.”

She commends start-up support opportunities from organisations such as 250startups and the conducive business environment in Rwanda that she says enabled them to be recognised as an e-commerce platform with promising opportunities ahead.

Innovative thinking and creativity 

As a fluid and evolutionary industry, Uwizeye says growing in the world of technology requires one to think innovatively and creatively.

She cites the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic saying that though it has severely affected businesses, opportunities have also risen.

She observes that the worst case scenario for business at a time like this is to remain inflexible. This is why she encourages business owners to not hold themselves at where things were before, or insist on wanting to keep them as they were, but embrace change and adapt themselves to it. 

“Even though it might be hard for many to overcome these challenges, there are many opportunities if we accept to open up and think outside the box. This pandemic is teaching us that systems as we know them may change at any moment. So businesses, as well as individuals, need to learn how to adapt themselves with change and how to adapt their businesses with what works. The fact that your road is cut does not mean that your journey ends there. It means that it is time for you to switch the course and find another bypass.”

Future plans 

Olado is on the rails to grow even bigger as the founders are working to expand and upgrade their services to other African countries.

“To grow in all senses of the term, we want to expand our premier services to cover the whole of Rwandan territory, with deliveries in optimal times.”

They hope that in five years, they will be on the regional scale providing the most reliable, secure and fast services throughout the whole East African region with reputable services, and in the process reinforce their presence on the African market. 

“We have made it our goal to become the best link between Made in Rwanda clients and sellers, and we look forward to offering Rwandan manufacturers the best opportunity to get their products delivered throughout Africa in only a few days if not hours, and why not worldwide.”

dmbabazi@newtimesrwanda.com

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