Tarebi Alebiosu is the Founder of QShop, an e-commerce platform.
In this interview with Nairametrics, she explained that e-commerce opens unprecedented opportunities for MSMEs to grow while enhancing their ability to play the essential “backbone of the economy” role, including contributing to the nation’s GDP and job creation. Excerpts:
How would you assess the e-commerce space in Nigeria?
Nigeria represents the second largest e-commerce market in Africa, coming in after South Africa. This is partly driven by the influx of technological innovation, including online payments, logistics, and cybersecurity, all of which enable e-commerce to thrive. When Covid-19 hit, we saw a real behavioural shift to online shopping that persists to date, further fueling the growth of e-commerce in the country. The global lockdown forced many retail transactions to move online to sustain business operations and meet market demand. This triggered e-commerce innovation, one of which is QShop, designed as a sustainable way to help small businesses navigate the e-commerce space more confidently. Despite the growth and desirable shift recorded, we must not lose sight of the fragmented nature of Nigeria’s retail market. Many small businesses are still heavily dependent on informal channels. Hence the need to continue delivering innovative solutions that will drive positive socio-economic impact for small businesses and, by extension, the economy.
What solutions do e-commerce platforms offer to foster an inclusive and prosperous economy for the nation and its citizens?
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From a product feature and specification perspective, e-commerce solutions should seamlessly enable inventory management, digital payments, cross-border transactions, automated record-keeping, digital marketing extensions and more. Hence creating the much-needed accessibility for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) to go from the idea stage to the launch stage, in record time, without making significant financial investments. It also means small business owners in Nigeria with access to the internet, a good product or service, and basic business knowledge can build a customer base across borders.
E-commerce opens unprecedented opportunities for MSMEs to grow while enhancing their ability to play the essential “backbone of the economy” role, including contributing to the nation’s GDP and job creation.
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At QShop, we understand the importance of accessibility for MSMEs across the value chain. Hence, we designed a solution that deepens accessibility for all. With a few clicks, small and medium businesses can get the technology for all their business needs.
How does technology play a significant role in helping MSMEs scale?
Technology has enabled access to many business management tools previously unavailable to MSMEs years ago. Today, MSMEs can readily participate in e-commerce, leverage inventory management and record-keeping tools, access credit facilities, and extend credit to customers.
We have already seen the impact of technology in the payments ecosystem with leading giants like Interswitch, Flutterwave and Paystack. It has also improved lending offering MSMEs access and opportunities to scale.
What urgent action can the government proffer to deliver solutions that would boost the growth and productivity of MSMEs?
There are no quick fixes. We all, the private and public sectors, have a role to play in ensuring that MSMEs have a higher success rate. The public sector has the lead role in providing an enabling environment and the right policies which discourage fraud, encourage innovation and stimulate the economy. The public sector-led initiatives will drive private sector enterprises to provide finance, technology and products. These solutions will naturally cascade down to MSMEs in the form of accessible products, wholesale supplies, support and more.
It is also important to note that despite the harsh conditions, some MSMEs rise above prevailing challenges. This means that MSMEs need to use all available legal resources to get ahead. Most importantly, they should be upskilling when and where required.
What are the essential infrastructures that need to be instituted to enable small businesses in Nigeria to harness their growth potential and improve contributions to economic growth?
The availability of and accessibility to reliable energy and communication technologies will help MSMEs to be more productive and innovative. Additionally, access to credit, skills acquisition and tax incentives are key priority areas that can be instituted to foster growth.
You have a vast experience in the technology space. What are the key lessons you have learnt?
As cliché as it may sound, my biggest lesson is that change is constant. To thrive in the industry, one must be ready to adapt while constantly learning and unlearning. Additionally, as powerful as technology is, it is insufficient on its own to provide any real impact without adapting it to the specific problem. Hence a deep understanding of the current challenges and industries the technology is designed to solve is essential.
How has QShop faired? Please also talk about QShop’s value proposition, successes to date, and growth story.
Ease of use is one of MSMEs’ most critical drivers of technology adoption. Hence, any product or solution with a steep learning curve will typically experience low adoption levels. Ease of use is also the number one reason about 10% of our userbase migrated from larger competitors to our easy-to-use QShop. Our direct Instagram integration means businesses don’t have to spend time setting up. They can quickly import pictures and videos directly from Instagram, where they likely already sell.
Additionally, QShop offers multiple local and international payment providers, which means we give more flexibility to MSMEs for receiving funds. We have signed up over 10,000 entrepreneurs and processed over half a million dollars in transactions. We also have payment agreements with Providus Bank, Flutterwave, Paystack and Stripe, giving entrepreneurs on our platform a high degree of flexibility and options to receive payments from anywhere in the world.
What should your partners and clients expect in the next five years?
Our long-term growth plans are underpinned by our focus on boosting growth for retail-focused businesses, our growth plans include extending QShop to provide support to businesses in critical areas like access to finance, market reach and business training. We also plan to roll out additional product integrations with everyday tools that MSMEs already use and love. We are also working on expanding our operations and services beyond Nigeria and the MSME sector.