Wabi is coined from a Japanese concept Wabi-Sabi which is a concept of imperfect beauty. Meaning that in every imperfection, something beautiful can be found. Wabi in Nigeria today is an e-commerce platform that is a subsidiary of Wabi BV, a joint venture between the Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company. In this interview, she speaks on a new e-commerce platform for traders to accelerate their business.
What is the scope and objectives of Wabi?
WABI is an Ecommerce ecosystem that seeks to transform the way consumers buy their products on a daily basis. By bringing the neighborhood store to the consumer’s cell phone and giving them the ability to access their favourite brands in an easy and fast way. WABI is a tool that democratizes the market without intermediaries. Our services include Wabi2B– a marketplace that enables FMCGs to sell all their products directly to the Traditional Trade stores fulfilling through multiple channels and allowing them to know each customer, Wabi2C: software as a service that integrates Customer Packaged Good players to Wabi and WabiPay: an e-Wallet that enables integration of the value chain in a cashless and more cost-effective way. Wabi is present in 18 countries around the world. In Africa, we are in Kenya, Egypt and Nigeria.
The objective is to digitalize the traditional trade channels and basically help the small business owners to have the same leverage that the big e-commerce platform has by giving them the opportunity to buy and sell online. Last year during COVID-19, lots of Mom and Pop shops were at a huge disadvantage when people did not want to go out to buy groceries. What we are doing at Wabi is helping the traditional business owners, small businesses, the small neighborhood grocery shops, Mom and Pop shops that would buy groceries to remain in a digital network because we believe that the future is digital. We do not know what is coming next after COVID-19. But, whatever it is, we want to make sure that retail outlets are able to play online the same way as online business giants. So, they are not at a disadvantage when people are purchasing online.
If you commence business online for groceries, what happens to small business retailers on the streets?
It is those who are selling on the streets that we are bringing online. We are not creating a big shop online for people to purchase. And that is why I said, we are digitizing the traditional trade channels. Today in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) space, the people we refer to as traditional trade channels are those small shops that buy and sell on the streets. The people we focus on are the same people who are doing their business offline. Those wholesalers and retailers. We want to bring everyone online. Provide them with tools that they will purchase and that way, we will create a process for everyone to digitalise everything they are doing both buying and selling.
Do you consider the inability of the market women not able to get an Android or iPhone so as to take advantage of this?
Lots of our customers have mobile phones and the ability to download Apps. We have however encountered those who do not and have to rely on their neighbours to place their orders to be delivered to their shops. So, everyone is included. When we had set out, we had only included those with smartphones, but with the discovery of those who had no smartphones asking help from their neighbours, we developed the agency model to support them.
In the process of your discoveries, what do you see as challenges?
First was the resistance of the customers themselves to want to go online. We have people who are used to buying products in a certain way. They never wanted something new. They were used to their usual way of buying their goods. So, it took lots of education and re-orientation for them to want to explore the benefits of placing their orders online. The second issue is logistics. Most wholesalers do not have the logistics capacity to move their goods to their customers in the market. We are working with our partners to find lasting solutions to the logistics challenges.
In trying to proffer a solution, you will find out that you are creating another problem, what is Wabi doing differently to ensure that the market women understand the benefits of the Apps to be able to transact their business seamlessly?
We have continued to engage them. We do not sit in the office and expect a solution. We have our field sales representatives (Wabi Hunters) and freelancers (Wabi Rangers) who interface daily with the customers to educate them and take feedback on the spot to provide solutions. We also maintain WhatsApp groups for all the traders depending on their locations for better engagement and day-to-day announcements from our FMCG Partners.