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How the Founders of Odiggo are transforming the MENA auto industry using tech and linked end-to-end ecosystem

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Odiggo Founders (L-R); Ahmed Omar and Ahmed Nasser (Source: Ahmed Omar)

Odiggo was founded with the aim to close Egypt’s and the MENA informal and highly fragmented car repair process. Which makes it ripe with fraud and inefficiency gap by providing an online platform that links customers with established car parts vendors and car repair service providers. To date, Odiggo has earned 1.2M USD in GMV and grown its user base to 50K monthly active users. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Odiggo’s Founder and CEO, Ahmed Omar shared their journey, impact, challenges and the future for Odiggo. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you tell me about the Odiggo journey and what sparked the interest?

Ahmed: We started off as e-commerce platform, bootstrapping our way up with no funds, until COVID-19 hit, we did not see it as a threat as much as we saw it as an opportunity, so we went to spare parts dealers and service providers that had to close down due to the pandemic, and allowed them to re-enable their online stores and channels to advertise their products. Then we connected them with service providers so customers can find those products and services delivered at their convenience at their own homes.

With one customer and has grown from the onset when we spotted a gap in the market to make people’s lives easier by simplifying car parts and services shopping. It’s a huge market need. let me explain what we mean with a huge market need, there is some number that can show you how big it is. MENA region Market size is crossing the 60 Billion USD, with a global market size of more than 1.9 Trillion USD as one of the top 10 revenue generating industries.

We are building a digital experience that is transforming the automotive and the after-sale industry, by connecting car owners with a safe ecosystem of car parts suppliers and service providers nearby to ensure convenience and network effect. Users can now find all their car needs in one single place, all their car parts and services. So we made it very easy for them to find what they are looking for.

 

Alaba: What competitive advantages allow Odiggo to deliver on its value proposition?

Ahmed: Team; we believe we are onboarding top notch talent with very high potential that can drive Odiggo’s innovation and growth in the past few months and this is what we will always have an exceptional team, delivering exceptional results, products and growth.

Technology/product; building scalable tech is what is making us grow very fast, everything we do is very scalable yet will be extremely hard for competitors to go at our speed.

Growth/Expansion; how fast we expand is just thrilling to watch, we built the company with a scalability mindset, yes takes more time to build such things but once you decide to open markets it just flies.

We recently had two of the top Executives of Agility Logistics Company that built it to a Billion Dollar Company, alongside, Essa Al Saleh – CEO & Chairman of Volta Trucks the next tesla for trucks joined on Odiggo’s board alongside side a billion dollar team coming from Jumia, Mackensey, Careem, Deloitte, Hyundai the next generation digital automotive support ecosystem to change the way car owners do their car parts and services shopping.

 

Alaba: What have been the biggest challenges?

Ahmed: There is a huge market need. Our biggest challenge is coping with that huge market need, as operations of serving that huge market need, so we do as much as we can to automate most of our operations.

 

Alaba: What are the biggest achievements Odiggo has had?

Ahmed: OUR GREAT TEAM, that got us the great results we reached. We’ve achieved 7 Figures ARR (Annual recurring revenue). Getting consumers to let us know how we changed their lives and how we made it easier for them motivates us.

 

Alaba: How is your company funded?

Ahmed: It started with a few angel investors coming from private equity firms and tech companies in the region. Latest 2 rounds were backed by Agitero AC (Switzerland VC), that’s led by Essa Al-Saleh, Chairman & CEO of leading electric trucks company Volta Trucks and former CEO of the Billion-dollar logistics company Agility.

 

Alaba: Kindly share the impact of Covid-19 on your business and survival strategy?

Ahmed: It was a positive impact, we did our highest day every when the lockdown happened in Egypt, and after 3 days we doubled that number. At that time, we recognized that we are in a space that has a huge market need. We are not selling a ” want ” it’s a ” NEED “. COVID-19 made people go for e-commerce more than ever before.

 

Alaba: What parts of the business will drive growth in the future?

Ahmed: There are multiple growth triggers that will drive growth of the company in the future. The core of this growth is understanding the customer behavior and helping them have a better experience and work on their repeatability. However, introducing more services will help customers to come back, in this case customers will have 3x of their retention.

Global infrastructure; allowing customers to buy from any merchant onboard worldwide is something that we are working on to make sure merchants that are on boarded on Odiggo is not only selling locally but also internationally.

Horizontal Expansion; not only cars, expanding into other vehicle types to support more businesses and car owners who generate income from driving their own commercial trucks or vehicles, motorcycles etc.

Car connection; understanding and reading the car data, will allow us to educate the customer on what needs to be changed, allowing them to make those purchase actions from the platform and making it very easy for them to place those purchases on Auto, so they would not need to confirm again.

Introducing all the DIFM – Do-it-for-me services like, to drive convenience and obsession to the app/platforms.

 

Alaba: What is the set milestones and future for Odiggo?

Ahmed: It’s mainly coping with the huge market need in the region. Based on research the market in GCC is more than $11 Billion USD. So we are mainly going to expand to the MENA Region mainly, with a focus on GCC starting with UAE and KSA. In addition, Africa is a huge market we are targeting for the future as well.

Be the No. 1 source of car parts and services with a great experience through automated error recognition. Acquire 5% of the global market size in one of the top 10 revenue generating industries which is 100 Billion dollars, that means being a trillion dollar company. Between Mid-2020 to Mid-2022, we are looking to expand and earn the highest market share in the digital marketplace in terms of car parts and services in three markets UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

We are working on various testing environments and R&D ourselves that will allow us to always elevate the company and grow beyond our stakeholders expectations

 

Alaba: How do you feel to be African entrepreneurs?

Ahmed: First, we believe that Africa is the next big thing, we’ve seen great success stories that came from Africa that made it to billion dollar such as Jumia that went IPO at NYSE.

Second, is there a lot to be done in our industry, there are a lot of ideas that haven’t been applied to the region yet.

We believe that entrepreneurs make people’s lives easier so that’s our main objective. We feel so proud when we get a message from a customer saying how we made his life easier and how much time and money we saved him.

 

Founders Background 

Ahmed Omar CEO & Co-founder grew Odiggo traffic from 0 to 100K+ with no marketing team. He started his e-commerce career and made first eCommerce sale at 14 years old in 2017 with his e-commerce channels in Egypt selling through marketplaces like Souq, Jumia & social media channels making thousands of dollars during his college. While graduating back in 2014 he built what is called Seyanty a car maintenance booking platform, not knowing anything about tech product or venture capital. Omar have been involved in Find My Pic, which is an app that helps customers save images with keywords so they can easily find it, again.

Omar did not research the market well enough to know that Google Photos have launched it in their new app led to Find My Pic users to leave no reason to use the app anymore. Omar’s passion to solving the customer’s problem and disrupting industries as long as making people’s life easier always kept him hungry. After his last visit to Cairo, he decided to join a team building an aggregator marketplace called KasrZero.com, which was the first used cars (pre-owned) marketplace in Egypt during 2017/2018, They never made any money selling cars, the only money they made was when one of their customers asked for Car Parts, That was the start of Odiggo’s story.

 

Ahmed Nasser, COO & Co-Founder drove the growth of Odiggo’s revenue from $5K to $100K monthly in 11 months and transformed Odiggo’s performance to make 8x more during COVID-19. Nasser grew small traditional companies and digitized businesses to be top ranking companies in their industry in Egypt. He started helping businesses at the age of 16 and pursuing patterns that would make successful management. His obsession to how companies grow and building great products have carried him along every step of the road.

Nasser read over 500 books during his career trying to understand the right patterns to create successful businesses, yet he found the answer in execution. This is where he decided to be part of building a startup or build his own. Results speak louder than words! Since joining Odiggo the company has been on top of the list of any candidate looking to grow and be part of this disruption, the company was able to grow 40-50% month over month in GMV, transactions and Userbase.

 

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Rhoda Aguonigho: Building a Fashion Hub for African Creatives to Create, Connect and Collaborate

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Rhoda Aguonigho is a Fashion entrepreneur and cultural & creative industry advocate who is very passionate about the Creative industry in Africa. As a consultant, she has worked with several fashion entrepreneurs, teaching them how to launch their businesses and achieve their brand goals. As a project manager she has worked on some of Africa’s top fashion events and programs like Lagos Fashion Week, Lagos Fashion Awards, The Leap Project and many more.  Rhoda is the Founder of Lhaude Fashion network an organization that creates opportunities for emerging Fashion Talents and the Creative Director of Rholabel. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on her journey as a fashion entrepreneur and her passion for the creative and fashion industry. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your brand, Lhaude? 

Rhoda: My name is Rhoda Aguonigho and I am a fashion entrepreneur. My work in the fashion industry includes consulting, project management and also running a couple of fashion businesses. I am currently the founder of Lhaude Fashion Network. A fashion organization that creates opportunities for emerging fashion startups and creatives across Nigeria and Africa to thrive and grow. We do this via our various initiatives and our digital community platform. We run a digital hub that is currently home to over two hundred creatives across Nigeria and we are spreading that to Africa in the next couple of months.

Alaba: What attracted you to the fashion industry and what do you intend to achieve? 

Rhoda: Honestly, I don’t think there was a major thing for me except that when I was pretty much young, I just watched a lot of lifestyles and my interest in the fashion industry was more of wanting to design outfits. Then, I started styling, writing and then grew into becoming a magazine fashion editor, I started to do project management, working at fashion events, etc, and that is how I have grown in the industry.

I intend to achieve an ecosystem in Africa where the fashion business is sustainable and profitable, a system where creatives get constant opportunities to grow and thrive, where there is no gap between the emerging creatives and the top professionals.

Alaba: What were your initial challenges starting off?

Rhoda: I would say the first challenge was access. At the time I started, I was in school, and not in Lagos which is the fashion capital. I was running a fashion organization and needed fashion experts. But things started to get better as I finished school and was able to get into the fashion industry fully with a job.

Another challenge would be funding. You don’t have a lot of organisations giving grants or funds to fashion businesses or initiatives. Being an organization putting together events, initiatives, and needed funds to execute them. There was no amount that we could charge the participants that would cover the cost.

Alaba: How have you attracted members and grown the organisation from the start? 

Rhoda: value! People gravitate to where value is given. From the very beginning, in 2017 when we had our first event which took place in ile-ife, Osun State. We had the Style infidel and a fashion designer – Samuel Noon come down to ile-ife. It was a Lhaude network cocktail and a networking session between grassroots, emerging grassroots creatives, and fashion experts. We have various initiatives, a business incubator program, business advisory and mentorship schemes.

Alaba: What issues have proved to be the most challenging in your attempt to help support fashion designers in Nigeria? 

Rhoda: I would say a mindset problem, which comes from lack of proper fashion education. Some of these creatives you are trying to help grow are not even as invested as you are in the development of their businesses. I mean we have those with great mindsets, but to a large extent, especially local creatives who have not had the opportunity to be exposed to the fashion business properly or on a large scale. They don’t see the importance of certain things like PR, Accounting and Bookkeeping, Business models, the core business part of fashion.

Alaba: How has technology impacted the fashion industry?

Rhoda: A lot of things are changing, gone are the days when you have to travel abroad for International fashion courses. You can sit in the comfort of your room and access courses with coursemates across the world. Technology is helping to widen access to the market, improve collaboration among fashion enthusiasts, experts and make the fashion community across the world much closer.  

Another way is how technology is cutting down on waste. With 3D fashion, designers don’t have to create a physical collection to present. They can do it via 3D and clients select what they want and the designer makes the actual pieces. But in situations where people don’t like it or people don’t receive it, those samples are wasted.

Alaba: The term Fashiontech is still quite new. What is your opinion on this invention? 

Rhoda: Yes, Fashion tech is quite new and I am so excited because the possibilities are limitless.  Initially, it was just on the e-commerce level, connecting and building networks. But then it grew to 3D and now NFTs. I see innovations coming out of the fashion and tech industry and feel like there is still so much to learn and catch up with. 

I mean, Africa, Nigeria, in particular is still growing but I don’t think we are doing so badly. I think orientation is getting so better, people are getting more aware, adjusting and beginning to adapt to technology in their fashion businesses. We still need more education on FashionTech, this is one of the things Lhaude is actually looking into more for next year.

Alaba: Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern fashion industry? 

Rhoda: One of the things that excite me is the Fashion Tech like I mentioned in the previous question. The fact that innovation is limitless. I am so excited about the innovation, new ideas, new technology that are to come out from fashion with technology. Another thing is how as an African, there are no limitations to how you can express your creativity or culture, there are no border limitations, because of tech, we can express it to the whole world.

The third thing is building community. It is so amazing when you meet people from other cultures or countries who are interested in similar things as you. That is, as a fashion executive in Lagos, I can connect with a fashion executive or designer in London, Scotland, Australia, etc and we are building communities connected by our passion and drive for creativity, regardless of cultural differences.

Alaba: Where do you see Lhaunde Fashion Network and the Nigerian Fashion Industry in the next 5 years?

Rhoda: I see Lhaude being Africa’s foremost fashion community. The fashion hub where creatives across Africa and the globe plugin to Create, Connect and Collaborate. I definitely see Lhaude building a world-class hub for fashion creatives, where they get access to everything they need to build, to thrive, and to grow. 

I see the Nigerian Fashion industry as one of the leading fashion industries across the world. An industry that will be known for innovation, creativity, and originality. With a rich culture and creative people leading the fashion sphere across the world.

Alaba: What piece of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? 

Rhoda: My advice to them is, be resilient and innovative.  I would say to not give up, be resilient and do not just be comfortable with the state of your business or your business idea, constantly innovate, constantly grow. The idea for Lhaude came in 2016 and it didn’t start until 2017. At that time, I was still in college. It was quite difficult running an organization and building a career simultaneously. 

 

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Kevine Kagirimundu: The Rwandan crafting eco friendly and fashionable footwear from recycled car tyres

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Kevine Kagirimundu, CEO UZURI K&Y

UZURI K&Y is an African inspired shoe brand and manufacturer established in Rwanda since 2013. The company was founded by two women entrepreneurs (Kevine & Ysolde) who met at the University while studying Creative Designs. The two young women simply believed that it would be ideal to gather knowledge and create a common mission. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola speaks with Kevine Kagirimundu, the Co-Founder and CEO on her entrepreneurship journey into sustainability and fashion, why she is preserving the environment, supporting community and creating jobs through her eco friendly shoe brand. Excerpts.

Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your entrepreneurship journey?

Kevine: My entrepreneurship journey started when I was a young girl, I used to re-sew grandma’s clothes, no money came from it, just passion. When I joined university I changed my major from “Engineering to Creative & Environmental built”, it was an important step to starting my journey, I was 19 years old and determined as I started  gathering ideas in a book, during that time I also met my co-founder Ysolde Shimwe.

Alaba: What attracted you into sustainability and fashion?

Kevine: I come from a creative family of painters, poets and writers. I loved hand making things and I thought that creating was really my passion, with that I really wanted to add a meaningful value that will bring positive change in my community; that’s why our company is part of the circular economy with a focus on waste management.

Alaba: What’s the inspiration behind your brand, UZURI K&Y and the problems it is set to address?

Kevine: UZURI K&Y is an African inspired eco friendly shoe brand with a vision to brand Africa as an origin of sustainable fashion items on the global market. It was established in Rwanda in 2013 by two university friends Ysolde shimwe & Kevine Kagirimundu with a purpose to solve the environment and unemployment issues in their community. 

The company’s core problem that it’s solving focuses on recycling the wastes of car tires where everyday in sub saharan Africa, over one million of them are dumped in landfills  and sometimes taking up space from inhabited and vulnerable neighborhoods. In addition to that, it takes up to 80 years for a rubber tire to decompose while polluting water, air and even become nurseries for mosquitoes that carry diseases. Furthermore, in Africa the youth makes  60% of the total unemployment rate and young women are more likely to be unemployed even more often than young men. 

In order to tackle these issues we craft viable solutions to recycle car tyres to make functional and fashionable footwear for conscious millennial consumers. The company is also currently running its own production facility, four retail stores and using ecommerce to reach international customers. It is also equipping the youth with practical and soft skills  to increase their potential of securing jobs or even creating small businesses. So far, 1,065 youth have been trained and among those 70% are women and 10 have started small businesses.

Alaba: How have you been able to attract customers and build the company till date?

Kevine: Our customers are women who seek shop eco products. Our strategy is to use storytelling via social media channels, we also set to offer a wonderful experience via our retail spaces.

Alaba: What challenges did you run into starting out?

Kevine: I would say there are 3 major challenges as we started: lack of skilled labour, dominated market with second hand and imports and access to finance.

Alaba: Are there other areas that UZURI K&Y is aiming to be more sustainable?

Kevine: We have confidence that we shall be able to brunch into a more diverse range of products, such as sustainable sneaker and even turning the wastes into more useful products.

Alaba: One of the things that stood out on your platform was your intense screening process for each item. Can you explain why you decided to go with this process and what it actually involves?

Kevine: We developed techniques and ways to safely produce our products and it has become our unique proposition. It is an advantage and very important to our customers.

Alaba: Is your brand gender inclusive? What is the importance of gender inclusion in the brand’s choices?

Kevine: Yes, it is important with a special focus on creating jobs for women who are often left behind in different fields.  Inclusivity is crucial for the entire world to fight gender inequality, we are proud to be part of this change.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Kevine: I believe that entrepreneurs will be the key pioneers to changing the African continent, It feels like being part of a history book!

Alaba: Where do you see UZURI K&Y in terms of products and markets in the next 5 years?

Kevine: A household African brand, with a tremendous impact on the youth through skills transfer and entrepreneurship.

Alaba: Finally, what’s your advice to budding entrepreneurs, especially females in the sustainability and fashion industry?

Kevine: Trust yourself that you can do it! 

UZURI K&Y footwears

 

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Opeyemi Adeyemi: Addressing menstruation stigma with her invention, The Flow Game

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Opeyemi Adeyemi fondly called dryemz is a Public Health Physician and owner of the sexual health clinic which runs under O and A Medical Center Ogun State, Nigeria. She had her medical training in Sumy State University, Ukraine and MscPH from the University of South Wales. Opeyemi invented The Flow Game in an effort to address menstruation stigma and has written two books on sexual and reproductive health. Her foundation runs the Brave Boys and Girls club which travels around the South western part of Nigeria to provide sex education to children and teenagers in the effort to fight against public health issues like teenage pregnancy, STIs, HIV/AIDS and Sexual assault. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on her social entrepreneurship journey, The Flow Game and why she is addressing sexual and reproductive health issues. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your social entrepreneurship journey?

Opeyemi: I am a public health physician who is passionate about sexual and reproductive health. I am also the creator of the FLOW GAME which is West Africa’s first board game that teaches menstrual health. My journey started in 2017 during my NYSC program where I met with the impact of misinformation and lack of access to youth friendly sexual clinics had on teenagers and young people. This led me to the start of The Brave Boys and Girls Club tour around secondary schools where students are given age specific sexuality education free of discrimination and judgment. From touring, it gave birth to menstruation workshops, consent workshops and now creation of board games that are afrocentric and youth friendly.

 

Alaba: What inspired you to launch O & A Medical Center and The Menstrual Flow Game?

Opeyemi: The Sexual Health Clinic is under O and A Medical Center in Asero, Abeokuta where anybody regardless of your background, gender, sexual orientation or any other status can get care for sexual and reproductive health issues. We offer a wide range of services that are cost friendly for the average Nigerian. The Flow game was created because during the tour, I realized the power of menstruation stigma, so decided to involve the team of expertise and the girls from the club in the creation.

 

Alaba: What is the core issue you are addressing with the Flow Game?

Opeyemi: Menstruation is a subject that still has a great level of shame attached to it. Some cultures still see menstrual blood as dirty blood. Some girls use harmful products to collect their menstrual blood. The Flow Game is a fun way to teach menstrual health and hygiene. The game covers four main areas: the female reproductive system, menstruation and menstrual related health issues, menstrual products, pregnancy and contraception. Other issues touched on include sexual assault, consent and sexually transmitted infections.

 

Alaba: How have you attracted users and grown the platform from the start?

Opeyemi: The platform is currently being reviewed as the plan is to take it digital; decided to start with a board game as it is easier with the tours, besides an average Nigerian teenager might not have the resources to play the game online and did not want to miss out on these sets of people. The buzz around the game is increasing, the game was recognized on Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 by the African Coalition for Menstrual Health Hygiene and the Indian Commissioner of Women Affairs during a conference held in Bangladesh.

 

Alaba: Data protection is a concern for users of health platforms. Could you explain your data protection policy?

Opeyemi: Right now we are are currently working on our policy but I can assure users that they would be protected besides the data page in design would require nickname, age, sex and email address.

 

Alaba: Would you expand in the direction of male health (fertility, contraception, etc)?

Opeyemi: Yes, in June, 2021. In a bid of getting a project with an international organization, the Play It Safe board game was created and it is currently being tested in the school tours. The game is for both genders and covers safe sex practices.

 

Alaba: As a social entrepreneur, what has been your biggest challenge up until now?

Opeyemi: The field I chose is still faced with a lot of stigma, so a lot of sensitization is involved, changing mindsets and cultures associated with it. The second I would say is finances, balancing the cost of production and the ability of the target community to afford the services rendered.

 

Alaba: The term Femtech is still quite new. What is your opinion of the state of Femtech industry and its growth? 

Opeyemi: Femtech has had a massive impact on female health, so many innovative ideas that are gender specific. A good example are period tracking apps which have allowed women to track the menstrual cycle, have a better understanding of their cycle and make informed decision about fertility. I am happy to be in the industry and I know there is still so much more to be done especially in Nigeria.

 

Alaba: Where do you see the Flow Game and sexual wellness in the next 5 years?

Opeyemi: This is one question I keep asking myself every day, I desire to go beyond the Flow Game. Very few innovations on sexual and reproductive health tailored to the African woman. I would like to be one of the women creating sexual health innovations that are Afrocentric in the next five years.

 

Alaba: As an inspiring social entrepreneur, what piece of advice would you give to fellow female entrepreneurs?

Opeyemi: Invest in knowledge; learn from those who have done things in your desired field. Also understand that gender is nothing more than a social construct it does not define YOU, whatever you want to achieve is not tied to gender. Dream big and take steps to turn the dreams into realities. 

 

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