E-commerce at Kenya's kiosks
Kenyan company KOKO Networks brings together suppliers, retailers and consumers – at digital order stations in small shops. The online business is starting off with a modern kitchen stove.
Nairobi. A city pulsing with life. The Kenyan capital is a major city with international flair and over three million inhabitants. The streets are full of people and the roads are choked with traffic. A young man gets out of a bus and strolls across a marketplace. Looking into the camera, he says: “Forget the shopping centres”. And: “Your currency is on your smartphone.” And: “The future of business life – faster, smarter, simpler”. The scene is taken from an advertising film by Kenyan company KOKO Networks, founded in Nairobi.
KOKO offers an intelligent trading platform that brings suppliers, retailers and consumers together. Since last year, the company has set up 15 “KOKOpoints” in Nairobi and has its sights set on 1,000 by the end of the year. KOKOpoints are cloud-networked e-commerce kiosks where consumers can shop. They are assigned to supermarkets and small shops via a franchise system.
The first product to be sold by KOKO is the SmartCook kitchen stove, which is operated with liquid ethanol. To buy it at the KOKOpoint, all consumers have to do is set up an account on the touchscreen and make a cashless payment using their smartphone. Once the order has been placed, the SmartCook is ready to be collected in the shop within 24 hours. A canister is provided and ethanol refills can be purchased at the KOKOpoint. A SmartCook with a canister costs the equivalent of around 40 Euro. KOKO also manages the ethanol supply chain: a fleet of tankers supplies the KOKOpoints with fuel. The tanker routes are managed via a data cloud so that the drivers always know exactly how much ethanol is needed at each point at any given time.
The German development bank KfW subsidiary DEG – German investment and
development is cofinancing the scheme with an interest-free loan in the amount of 500,000 Euro from the Up-Scaling programme. As Dr. Tobias Bidlingmaier, Up-Scaling Team Leader at DEG, explains: “In this way, we help young companies to take their innovative business models to the next level”. He has no doubt that this model has a great future: “It creates jobs and offers shop owners a further source of income. It could become a kind of small-scale Amazon in the future.” He adds: “Lots of people in Kenya cook using charcoal, which is terrible for their health. The SmartCook offers them a cheap, fast and safe alternative. You can cook with it as soon as you turn the gas on. It really makes people’s lives easier.”
This is also evident from the advertising film: the young man meets a woman trying in vain to fire up her coal stove. Her hands are all covered in soot and she is coughing. He shows her how to order the SmartCook at the KOKOpoint – meaning that the chore of firing up sooty stoves will soon be a thing of the past. There are plans to introduce further products, for example SmartCook accessories and other kitchen aids.