In Africa’s cities alone there are more than 10 million informal shops selling over $180 billion worth of goods every year. In Kenya particularly, they are the economic and often social pillar of Nairobi, especially in the city’s informal settlements. Popular known as “kiosks” or “duka,” they account for 70 percent of the nation’s retail sales and they serve as critical suppliers and employers for some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
Despite their importance to local economies, these shops routinely stock out of products, have limited access to financial services, and lack proper business management tools.
One startup in Kenya is here to end these problems. Tanda, a Kenyan platform designed to make it easier to run a shop by allowing shop owners order and manage their inventory has launched after a four-month pilot with 200 kiosks and 5 wholesalers with large footprints in Nairobi spread across Kayole, Kawangware, and Kariobangi. This comes after raising an undisclosed seed round from White Rhino Ventures.
Tanda’s primary target is existing retailers with fully operational semi-formal retail outlets. It allows shop owners to order all the goods they need for their kiosk and receive free same day delivery, with the added benefit of vending digital financial services e.g. airtime, utilities such as power and water bill payment, Banking and Insurance services.
Inspired by the need to solve some of the most recurring inventory problems faced by micro-retailers. The founder and CEO, Geoffrey Mulei, spent most of his childhood helping out at a kiosk. He got a front row seat to some of the challenges micro-retailers face when sourcing for inventory and running their business. Stemming from his passion for solving problems and technology, Mr. Mulei set out to design a solution that could make it easier to run a kiosk, using his experience in running a shop as a reference.
“Tanda offers the widest product range,” says Geoffrey Mulei, Tanda’s founder, and CEO. “We are the fastest online inventory delivery service on the continent (Under 1 hour) and we are the first inventory service to offer an automated credit facility in addition to giving retailers the ability to vend digital financial services.”
At the moment, the Tanda app comes with the following features;
Inventory Management: Enables shop-owners a simpler way for them to record all their sales allowing them to know how much they’re stocking from anywhere and at any given time and alerts and prompts them to easily reorder once the product runs out from Tanda’s network of suppliers.
Inventory Credit: Leverages on historical purchasing data to offer access to credit whenever they run out of stock and lack the money to reorder.
Tanda Wallet: The Tanda Wallet turns a kiosk into a one-stop shop for popular digital financial services. Customers can now buy all airtime, pay their water & electricity bill and access banking & insurance services as a Tanda Agent.
“Our primary market, Kenya, has over 100,000 semi-formal outlets. Our platform will accommodate shop owners across all segments right from informal kiosks in low-income kiosks up to minimarts,” says Mulei. “Tanda will offer its retailers an affordable and reliable platform for sourcing goods, access to financing to help them buy more, sell more and grow their business and more resalable digital financial services such as KPLC tokens on which they can earn commission and lastly, tools that make it easier to manage their business and make critical decisions.”
The service is free for retailers and it only draws a commission from its network of suppliers on every good ordered by retailers. And because smartphone penetration isn’t that high among micro-retailers, Tanda’s pilot merchants received a free smartphone to get started. Going forward, Tanda has partnered with micro-lending firm Lipa later to get kiosk owners a smartphone that they can pay for overtime for up to 2 years.
For retailers in marginalized areas with no or little access to 4G, 3G, and even 2G networks, Tanda has a simpler version of its services on a USSD platform that is currently being tested.
With a team of 50 spread across the country and 8 fulltime at its head office in Westlands, Nairobi, The startup is working to grow the basket of digital financial services accessible at a Tanda Agent with a strong focus on Microbanking and Microinsurance services. In the coming months, users will be able to get a small loan or renew their health insurance policy in just a few seconds at a kiosk.
“We believe that kiosks are more than just where people get goods. Tanda kiosks will be a community’s access point for essential digital financial services that people need to get by. We also have a customer facing side in the concept stage. It will be possible to shop online on Jumia or Masoko and get your items delivered to your local Tanda shop or get your mail delivered here,” concluded Mulei.
Prior to Tanda, Mr. Mulei started his first company, Inkisha , dealing in environmentally friendly packaging, where he led a 3-year campaign to phase out plastic packaging in Kenya, earning him several major local and international awards. Mr. Mulei is now considered among the top 12 most influential social entrepreneurs in Africa and recently named among the Top 40 under 40 men in Kenya by Business Daily.
The youthful entrepreneur says he is inspired by the likes of Elon Musk of Tesla, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Jack Ma of Alibaba, he has studied their work extensively and applies some of their principles in his work. A big part of Tanda’s supply chain model is built around Alibaba’s aggregation model. Tanda also plans to visit the Alibaba HQ in June this year to pursue a partnership to help them roll out across the continent.
Tanda is backed by White Rhino Ventures and also works with On Demand Mobile, Google MB, Pesapoint, Surf and Ddaas as its partners and aims to roll out across Kenya in the next few months then expand into 4 more countries in Q3 of 2019 after a Series A funding round.
Check out their website on how to join as a partner.