The Internet is a useful tool both for citizen empowerment and disruption of industries. All around the world, from Egypt to the United States, we have seen how the Internet has helped topple governments and disrupt industries ranging from the music industry to the retail sector.
Though the Internet is still in its early days in many parts of Africa, it has increasingly began to usher in new business models in multiple sectors.
As such, when Berthran Ugeh, C.E.O. of Rebug Edge Limited, owners of a newly launched platform, Zuuta.com reached out to share his story with our readers, we were curious to learn more about his business which tries to solve two problems in Nigeria using the Internet; unemployment and sales generation for manufacturers.
Depending on which source you cite, unemployment in Nigeria is currently estimated to be at a staggering rate of 25% or more. Evidence of this can be found based on the number of applications delivered for various positions on the internet. The Nigerian Government has come up with many schemes including the famous YouWin program, which was designed to enable enterprising Nigerians build businesses but it is not clear that they have achieved their goal of easing the country’s unemployment problem.
However, Zuuta.com plans to do so.
Here is how Zuuta works. Nigerians register on Zuuta.com as agents or “Zees” and Zuuta connects them with Nigerian manufacturers. Manufacturers then pay each of these agents a commission/fee for each sale they bring back. It’s basically affiliate marketing with an online, offline business model. Zuuta has already started taking sign ups from agents. If interested, you can sign up here.
Berthran shares more information about Zuuta with us in the interview below.
CP-Africa: In your own words, what is Zuuta?
Berthran Ugeh: Zuuta to me is simply “sharing”. The Platform enables eager young entrepreneurs who we refer to as “Zees” to connect and source confirmed sales for brands or manufacturers. In turn the brand or manufacturer will reward them monetarily for their sales. We refer to Zuuta as “The social commerce experiment”.
CP-Africa: How did you come up with the idea for Zuuta?
Berthran Ugeh: The idea first came to me while I was stuck in traffic in Lagos. It was raining and I was looking out the taxi window in amazement of how the street hawkers where still hustling to make sales in the pouring rain. It struck me that these people where carrying products for brands who didn’t know they existed. So I thought to myself that so many companies spend a ton of resources trying to market and sell their products. It occurred to me then that there must be a way to connect the needs of the unemployed with the need of more sales from manufacturers/brands. Given the population size of Nigeria crowdsourcing sales seemed like the perfect solution. Though this model won’t work in developed markets, I believed it has a good chance of being very successful here. So I spent the last 6 months researching and working with our team to bring the idea to life. We looked as various direct selling models like Avon, Dell and so on to come up with our own model.
CP-Africa: How does Zuuta aim to solve the unemployment problem in Nigeria?
Berthran Ugeh: The unemployment problem across the African continent is significant and Nigeria with a large population suffers the same problem but on a bigger scale. The majority of those unemployed are below the age of 35. The Zuuta platform aims to connect this large number of young, technology savvy people with brands looking to expand their reach and secure more sales. We believe the exchange of cash for sales will bring about personal employment for the unemployed and more revenue for the brands. Selling 1000 products that have a reward of N500 can easily earn you half a million naira.
CP-Africa: How does Zuuta intend to help manufacturers distribute their products?
Berthran Ugeh: The critical question for every manufacturer is usually “How do we increase sales and gain more market share”. The Zuuta platform enables new and old manufacturers to expand their distribution reach by crowdsourcing sales. For existing manufacturers/brands that already have an existing brick and mortar distribution strategy, this platform will compliment that by providing a multichannel sales strategy through online direct sales. For the new manufacturer/brand this platform will give them instant penetration into the market, bypassing the critical barrier to entry of distribution. The question we pose to manufacturers or brands are “How does potentially adding thousands, if not millions to your sales force sound? and “What if there was a platform that enabled them achieve this at a very cost effective rate”.
CP-Africa: How do “Zees” or agents get paid?
Berthran Ugeh: We work with the manufacturer or brand to determine how much can be rewarded for each sale. The rewards are usually a flat amount than a percentage so for example, A manufacturer can decide to reward N500 for the sale of N5600 product. Once the sales transaction has been confirmed we credit the Zee’s account online and make cash payments every two weeks. We are looking at mobile payment options like PAGA to facilitate the payment to Zees.
CP-Africa: What is Zuuta’s revenue model?
Berthran Ugeh: Zuuta earns a slight percentage on every transaction as well as charging a setup cost from each manufacturer.
CP-Africa: What has the response from brands/manufacturers been like?
Berthran Ugeh: The responses have been very positive, with some hinting they would like to sign exclusivity contract barring others within their industry from being able to use our platform :). There have also been concerns like is Nigeria ready for something like this? Or how can we handle the back-end logistics to make this work. We have been able to effectively address some of those concerns.
CP-Africa: How do you intend to solve the trust issue that Nigerian e-commerce sites face regarding payments?
Berthran Ugeh: It is important to understand that e-commerce in Nigeria is still in its infancy stage. I think as people interact more with e-commerce sites, that trust will build over time. Zuuta is a transitional e-commerce platform, because our model is slightly different from those of traditional e-commerce sites. The Zees, our agents are part of the Zuuta family, so even though they will be operating from various locations, we plan to keep close contact with each member. Our belief is that if we are transparent in all we do and fulfill our promises for delivery and payment, we would earn the trust of those who use our platform. We plan to use a combination of mobile payments and cash on delivery.
CP-Africa: Where do you see the Nigerian e-commerce space in the next 5 years?
Berthran Ugeh: I think the e-commerce space in Nigeria will be very vibrant. The cashless policy direction of the CBN will make more people become accustomed to non-cash transactions. I believe that added with the current demand for more formal methods of sales will help grow the e-commerce space. Also with a growing young population that is tech savvy, we might have more e-commerce transactions within Africa than anywhere else in the world.
CP-Africa: Do you eventually intend to expand Zuuta beyond Nigeria?
Berthran Ugeh: Yes. We believe this model will work very well in similar African markets. At the moment we see Ghana, Cote d’ivoire and Kenya as potential markets. Though there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, so all our concentration will be on the Nigeria market for now.
CP-Africa: Thanks very much for letting us know about Zuuta! To our readers, to sign up to be a Zuuta “Zee” or agent, visit www.zuuta.com
About Berthran Ugeh
Berthran Ugeh is CEO of Rebug Edge Limited. Rebug Edge is a Technology Company he founded with Regis Bamba (Co-Founder) and Judes Tumuhair (CTO) that develops software products to deliver unique solutions to problems for African businesses and Governments. Prior to founding RebugEdge, he was an Assistant Director at Columbia University’s Data group in New York. He has also worked for a Market Research firm based in Washington DC, U.S.A as a Senior Project Manager.