June 13, 2024
COPIA: The E-commerce Startup In Kenya

COPIA: The E-commerce Startup In Kenya

Every startup company takes risks to gain the trust from their targetted audience. In Kenya, something has been cooking and brewing among a brass of households.

Mwango Capital’s Wanjiku Njuguna feeds us what the entity(Copia) really entails.

I spoke with my mother last week while she was on her way to refill her gas cylinder, and I could feel her pain from thousands of miles away.

LPG prices in Kenya have increased by 16% as of July 1, 2021, due to the reintroduction of VAT on the commodity. Her budget was already stretched from supplementing her fuel with environmentally friendly briquettes.

Speaking with a friend recently, I discovered Jiko Okoa by Burn Stoves, which works exceptionally well with briquettes. I thought this would be perfect for my mother and immediately went online to look for it.

It is available on all major Kenyan e-commerce platforms, including Jumia and Copia.

My elderly mother lives 7 kilometers away from the nearest supermarket. There are small shops closer to home, but the prices and variety are not great.

Until Copia activated her neighborhood, she would occasionally take a matatu to the nearest supermarket where prices were lower.

Three years ago, while visiting home, we ran out of cooking oil, and rather than sending someone to get a replacement, my mother said: “If we can make this work for the night, I have cooking oil and other items arriving from Copia tomorrow morning.”

“What is Copia?” I asked.

She informed me that she could pre-order items from Copia at a local store and have them delivered in 1-2 days at no additional cost.

Copia gradually became a part of her shopping routine because it saves her both money and time. The Copia agent is nearby, so she doesn’t have to worry about carrying her shopping long distances.

When I saw the briquette stove on Copia, it was an easy decision! But could I place an order from thousands of miles away in a different country? I quickly set up an account, added the item, and completed the transaction with my credit card.

When asked for delivery information at checkout, I could declare that I was purchasing the item for someone else. I received an SMS and email confirmation, and to calm myself down, I opened a customer support session using the live chat option to confirm that the order had captured the recipient’s details.

The agent quickly recognized that I was there to inquire about ordering, which I found quite appealing.

She confirmed that everything was fine, and I informed my mother at around half past eight that Friday morning.

“Because today is Friday, it’ll be here Monday morning,” she said assuredly.

At exactly 11 a.m. the same day, I received another SMS informing me that my order was scheduled for delivery on Monday.

At 09:26 a.m. on Monday, another SMS confirmed that the order had been delivered to the agent for collection. I didn’t get to call my mother until the afternoon because I was so busy with my Monday morning work routine.

“I got an SMS that the jiko was delivered at the agent this morning,” I announced.

She laughed then said, “I picked it a long time ago. We’ve even used it to cook already!”

While I was impressed with Copia’s dependability and efficiency, she was very casual about it. I took a moment to consider it. A 79-year-old semiliterate woman for whom e-commerce has become the norm.

Despite the fact that she does not own a smartphone, she continues to shop online by placing orders through the agent and paying with M-PESA. She has no idea how digitized her life is. I’m sure she never thinks about the technology that allows her to do all of this. 

Well-designed technology and systems significantly improve people’s lives without requiring significant changes from them.

Copia and M-PESA do not require advanced devices or literacy. They work seamlessly, especially in bottom-of-the-pyramid situations.

In a country where delivery is a nightmare not only because of high costs but also lack of last-mile addressing systems, the agent model, as seamlessly as it revolutionized banking, is proving to be revolutionary for e-commerce, and Copia are leading the way.

Despite being over 5000 kilometers away, I was able to order something for my mother and have it delivered 200 meters from home without breaking a sweat.

Three days after delivery, I received an SMS thanking me for shopping with Copia. They also wanted to know how I learned about Copia. The SMS offered ten different options and assured the recipient that sending the answer back would be free.

The SMS was in Swahili, demonstrating inclusivity because more people would be able to read and respond compared to communicating in English.

Copia deserves credit for providing a service level comparable to that of larger cities with established e-commerce ecosystems. They truly live up to their slogan “Maisha rahisi” by making my mother’s and my lives easier.

COPIA: The E-commerce Startup In Kenya

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