Emeka Mordi is the Managing Director of Buyam.com.ng, the third largest e-commerce marketplace in Nigeria, with over 100 merchants including some of the biggest retail giants in Nigeria; Park N Shop SPAR, Mega Plaza, Cash and Carry, Laterna Books, NIPEN and international brands such as McGraw Hill. Buyam.com.ng has been operational for just over eight months and has been making steady inroads in delivering value to customers all over the world. Emeka, a Management Information Systems graduate of Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA, talks to Connect Nigeria about his business, and about bringing his considerable international and local expertise to bear on the online retail space in Nigeria.
CN: Tell us about your professional background
EM: My career has had a clear focus on technology. I was Playstation Network (PSN) Consultant for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe where my technical prowess and experience were instrumental in exploiting retail opportunities on the Playstation Network for the European region.
I was Project Manager in the Digital Initiatives Unit of Universal Music, delivering digital content to partners such as Apple, Amazon to name a few. I helped launch the Apple iTunes store and famously my team was responsible for one of the fastest delivery of live recordings to iTunes.
As a Technical Analyst and Project Manager at Anheuser Busch, United Kingdom, I provided technical, audit and project management support to the largest beer maker in the world, helping deliver SAP implementation projects.
CN: What inspired you to start buyam.com.ng?
EM: Buyam was started out of a need to get the same convenience in shopping others enjoy around the world. With the terrible traffic situation in Lagos and the cramped and busy stores, the idea of goods and services coming to me in the comfort of home or office was very appealing. Not only did we not have to go to all the shops, we could go to more than one shop at the same time. The idea was to blend the familiarity of the shops we already knew and loved with the convenience of online ordering and delivery. I refused to believe we were completely hamstrung by infrastructure issues.
CN: How did you raise capital to start the business?
EM: We raised capital from our own hard earned savings and through family and friends who believed in the idea and put their monies where their beliefs were.
CN: Your model is refreshingly different from other online shopping sites. How is this? And what is your unique selling point?
EM: We don’t believe we have to completely reinvent the wheel. We believe there are many good things that existing brick and mortar businesses bring to the table and we try to bring out the best in them. We truly put the customer first and firmly believe it is the only way to get things right. We are passionate about our quality of service. Our USP is our complete dedication to customer satisfaction.
CN: What are the challenges of doing business online?
EM: The challenges of doing business online are same as doing business offline. There is a steep learning curve for all members of the value chain and there are significant infrastructure costs. Also, there are lots of external issues, which can take the focus off your primary goal that is to give the customer, our merchants and buyers, the best service possible.
CN: What are the advantages of doing business online?
EM: There are many advantages to doing business online namely the access to a huge customer base, which is one of the immediate advantages our merchants enjoy. Also, online businesses allow you to fulfil your needs and wants wherever you are and whenever you want to. The boundaries are truly limitless as long as innovation and customer satisfaction are your guiding values.
CN: How are technologies owned and deployed by banks useful to you?
EM: Banks play a pivotal role in securing payments and facilitating online transactions for our merchants and buyers. Our partner banks play a huge role in sensitising the consumer base and helping give them the confidence to do business online. The different payment platforms and online payment options have truly facilitated the e-commerce boom. Without the banks who are driving innovation and supporting commerce, customers would find it difficult to have confidence in the system. On the back end, reconciling and payment for our merchants would be a much more difficult task without the tools provided by our banking partners.
CN: How often do you update your website, and how quickly do you remove items that are not available?
EM: The Buyam site is updated on a daily basis and so discontinued items are constantly being removed. However, items which will be restocked are generally left on the site so that consumers who would like them can request to be reminded when they come back into stock.
CN: How would you rate the customer satisfaction level?
EM: Customer satisfaction and retention are of utmost importance to us at Buyam. We regularly carry out customer surveys with our Merchants and Buyers. We feel it is critical that we get feedback on what we are doing right and even more importantly, what we may not be getting right, so we can make improvements and deliver value which is what our customers are looking for.
CN: Where do you see E-commerce going in Nigeria?
EM: I see e-commerce changing people’s lives for the better in Nigeria. Not only are companies like ours employing large numbers of people, e-commerce also allows people to make an honest living where previously there have been few options. As infrastructure gets better and the population becomes savvier, e-commerce is going to play a huge role in growing the economy and giving the average man more access to wealth and wealth creation tools than were ever accessible in the past.
CN: Which books have changed your life?
EM: There is no one single book that has changed my life but there are several which stick in my memory for various reasons. Shogun by James Clavell and Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson are a couple that stand out for me. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis was another that stood out for me.
CN: What’s your favourite Nigerian meal?
EM: My favourite Nigerian meal will have to be beans and dodo.
CN: What is your long-term vision for your company?
EM: Buyam will be the one-stop shop for all products and services and will be synonymous with quality delivery in all aspects of the value chain. We will give all our customers, merchants and buyers both, real value and become the De Facto choice for shopping online.