Sheillah Shadia Umutoni has hatched her entrepreneural dream. She is now anxious to nurse it to maturity. It’s a delicate balance but the young Dubai-based Rwandan is determined to live up to her dream: grow an online shopping empire serving the larger clientele in East Africa and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
For now, ‘Magasin Jaune’ (magasinjaune.com) might sound like just any other name, but not to Umutoni–she has already seen the potential in her ‘baby’ and believes the e-Commerce platform that enables buyers in Rwanda and rest of East Africa as well as people in the Middle East to purchase products online will be a big player in the global trade milieu in years to come.
Magasin Jaune not only facilitates buying of products but also sale.
“Magasin Jaune is the only online marketplace in East Africa and Middle East with lowest prices, personal shopping and wholesale. Up to 90 per cent discount per day,” this is the message that pops when you visit the platform.
Umutoni told this reporter that she has been sending products on order to Rwanda at the end of every month. She works with local agents who facilitate whole trade chain.
“Once you like a product, you pay and we ship it and once it is in Rwanda, I have agents who do delivery and you pay using the nearest equity bank agent,” she said.
But this has been quite challenging as people could not easily get information of the available products and she could deal with people on individual basis which was quite time consuming.
“We want to make online shopping experience more unique. In previous months, I have been dealing with individual customers and it was quite hard. With establishment of the online platform the whole process will be easier,” Umutoni says.
At the beginning, the young entrepreneur tapped into social media to advertise her products where she directly reaches customers via Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, among other platforms.
“I used Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts by sharing pictures of the products and if you want to buy we discuss on a personal level,” she says, before revealing that she started with one handbag, which she acquired on credit.
Taking advantage of growing trade
Today, Dubai where she is based, is known as one of the world’s leading trading hubs. Today, there are many local traders who travel regularly to Dubai to get products.
Umutoni says that this could soon change and traders would not necessarily have to travel all the way to Dubai to purchase products, instead she would work with them and enable them to get things delivered.
“I am based here and I see more and Rwandan business people coming here always to purchase things. With the establishment of this platform, I want to work with them to reduce the amount of time and money spent on this journey, and businesses would get their products delivered at home,” she says.
The entrepreneur says the whole idea is to help traders – who travel all the way to Dubai to buy products – save money.
The project is in its initial stages but she has high hopes that things will change fast.
“We are presently delivering in Rwanda but planning to expand to the remaining East African countries’ markets as fast as possible, hopefully, by end of next year we will be shipping to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and most probably DR Congo,” Umutoni says.
For the Middle East, Umutoni says, they are working on a project called ‘DouBuy’ where they will be selling Rwandan products in UAE with the main aim of promoting Made-in-Rwanda products.
“We are already under process to execute this project. So far, we are in touch with some companies in Rwanda which will be supplying products to us and we sell them in UAE,” she reveals.
Already, on Umutoni’s online store, there are various products, including accessories, shoes, clothes, handbags, cosmetics, household items and electronic equipment.
She says that their mission is to “make online shopping experience unique in East Africa and Middle East by doing both ‘Business2Customer’ and ‘Business2Business’ with our lowest prices to ensure 100 per cent customer satisfaction.”
Growing e-Commerce competition
But with the growing e-Commerce business competition it will take her more than dreaming and be unique in terms of doing business.
For few years now, the internet penetration rate and the level of smartphone usage in developing countries has led to the increase of online customer base, according to different statistics.
With nearly four million people connected to internet and more people getting access to smartphones in Rwanda, more businesses are venturing into online businesses making the sector even more competitive.
“We are placing more focus on creating partnerships with different players. We have already partnered with Caprice and Kijo Enterprises, a private company that specialises in delivery services,” she says.
She also highlights that the idea is to become a market leader by simply using a model that offers customers affordable products fast enough, which is what she believes drives the sustainability of any online business.
While Magasin Jaune currently accepts bank deposits, she is trying to work hard to enable other payment options but she expounds that enabling other payment systems like visa payment is quite expensive.
Yet, people prefer making online payments and get things delivered fast without spending time at physical banking stations.
“We work with Equity Bank which helps buyers to make deposits once they want products as well as mobile money. We believe there is a need to have more payment options and are working hard to make it happen in the near future,” she says.
Since the launch of the platform, there are about 1,000 visits on the platform per day and close to 140 orders have been received and successfully shipped, she says.