A sour experience in 2009 set 2 young men on a business path to providing logistics services and moving goods from Philadelphia, USA to Lagos, Nigeria. Eleven years after, both men – now business partners – are shipping tons of goods from different parts of the United States of America to Nigeria and making life easier for Nigerians.
“My partner had sent a package to his wife and for about 6 weeks, there was no communication whatsoever from the service provider. He could not tell if his package had left the US or it had gotten to the destination. So he pitched the idea to me that there had to be a better way to deliver this service,” Managing Partner, Kazeem Alimi explained in the Nairametrics Business Half Hour interview.
With this in mind, Cargo Atlantic started operation in April 2010 with a small team at both ends, one in Philadelphia and another in Ajao Estate, Lagos to handle operations, pickup and deliveries. As they got the relevant licenses, operations gradually expanded into Delaware, Southern New Jersey and other remote areas in the US.
Cargo Atlantic has also partnered with FedEx over the years to pick up packages from residences and also do door deliveries. Even though the company has the resources and network to run its services in both directions, the partners are sticking with one route – from the US to Nigeria – until all the regulatory ends have been tied for expansion to take place.
Along comes “Ship My Shopping”
Three years ago, Cargo Atlantic created a mobile app to widen its reach and enable people access its services irrespective of their locations. The app was also created to solve the fundamental problem of communication in the logistics system, and clients can track their goods and items from pick-up to delivery.
After downloading the app and creating the account, clients can easily enter the tracking number of any item they might have shopped from other platforms and be able to track when their shipping gets to Cargo Atlantic warehouse in the US; and when it leaves the US for Nigeria. As an added service, clients who have difficulty paying and shopping online can also have Cargo Atlantic do the shopping and payment for a fee.
There is third party insurance available to clients as well, but Alimi says that so far, the response to this offer has been minimal.
Now the company has a payments processing company handling all the invoicing and payment on the app. With all these taken care of, the partners can now focus on delivering seamless service to clients.
To start Cargo Atlantic, both partners had to contribute about $200 monthly to cover running costs for the first six months until the business picked up. Even afterwards, they deprived themselves of salaries for the first three years until they had successfully gotten all the relevant certifications and moved from a small room office to a bigger warehouse.
This was a gamble, no doubt, but it paid off eventually. “When you are starting a business, you cannot afford to be greedy. You have to make sacrifices,” Alimi said.
Expansion plans stalled due to the pandemic
After launching the app, Cargo Atlantic had finalised plans to launch out into other countries in the West African market in April 2020, but the COVID-19 induced lockdown started in March 2020, effectively grinding all operations to a halt for the next few months.
This took a major hit on revenue and even after operations resumed, volume did not pick up until the Yuletide season. The currency volatility and inflation also reduced purchasing power of Nigerians, but items like clothing, auto parts and personal electronics continue to be among the most shipped packages.
There are moves to get the expansion plan back on track before the end of 2021.