Eyo Bassey Francis is the software developer and entrepreneur behind Nigeria’s first Omni-channel retail company, PayPorte Global Systems. He is also the GMD of Rom-Flex Group and has been involved in several projects across Africa including enterprise business solution for the Ghana Post, roll-out of the e-passport for the Nigerian Immigration Service, setup of the largest e-library and e-learning hub in East Africa (MUBS Uganda). In this chat with MILLICENT AREBUN ONUOHA and NKECHI NWOKOBI, the e-commerce CEO speaks on the challenges of the POD business model for an e-commerce site, the need for government intervention and his grand plans for PayPorte Global System
Our greatest hurdle is cash on delivery payment form. When you shop in major online in major stores and e-commerce sites all over the world you pay before delivery. For instance Amazon, Alibaba and the likes. Even Google, apps, eateries and more you pay before the product or service is delivered to you. But when it comes to online shopping in Nigeria, pay on delivery is demanded. This is why a lot of online-based retail sites are going under not because they don’t have a product.
I’m using this opportunity to challenge and appeal to the Central Bank to end by way of policy any cash on delivery as a service for companies that trade online. it’s not viable and was never viable, not in any way. This is because when someone orders a product online, as a business, first of all, you can’t consider it a sale or have not even balanced your books because the sale isn’t concluded.
Payporte runs a seven days return policy, so it is not until the eight days an order is considered successful. This is so because, there is a possibility that even on the seventh day, the order might be returned. I can only start processing the fund and balancing the book when the transaction is complete and there is no possibility of return. The challenge of cash on delivery is when a customer returns a product on the pretext that he or she didn’t order these specific goods or varied other reasons. The dilemma of how to process that after the eight days can be a headache. I personally think cash on delivery is a major problem for online based business. This approach to life is not a sustainable business model.
Another major challenge is also the local capacity. In Payporte right about now, we are spending over 12,000 dollars every month maintaining our servers. If we can have the local capacity, I know the cost will be a whole lot cheaper. A lot of local company will say thay can provide us with the required service but the truth is that we have tried a couple of them and they can’t deliver.
The next major challenge is that of logistics, but thankfully more entrepreneurs have identified the need and moved to bride gap in the supply chain. Right now we have several great logistics companies in the country.
Manufacturing is yet another issue of concern. It is very costly and time-consuming to produce outside the country but we do so because of the lack of adequate manufacturing facilities in Nigeria. We don’t have E-COMMERCE expert and our universities are not offering courses around E-COMMERCE. So when you bring somebody in, the person has to learn from scratch sometimes because some don’t know basic terminologies.
On the issue of disparity between the quality of the product showcased/ordered online and the delivered Item.
Okay, I think there are channels that are guilty of this but resolving it is simple. If you order for something and you didn’t get what you ordered for, you can take action by returning it immediately via the delivery personnel, asking for a refund from your bank or, even legal actions. One can even escalate the matter by reporting the site to the Consumer Protection Council.
Is Payporte strictly an online store or will there be onsite stores where people can browse displayed products and buy directly?
Yes. Before the year ends, we are going to have up to ten break and mortar stores in Nigeria.
Between foreign or local product, which one do you prefer?
It depends. This is because some products are better when it’s foreign, while some are better when sourced locally. As a businessman, I will tell you, I wish every product I retail was local. I wouldn’t need or have to go and start looking for dollars nor how I would get the money out of the country. The burden of convincing both buyers and suppliers that my money is okay would be lifted. This is because any money coming from Nigeria will be questioned and more. So yes I prefer local and Nigerian.
Why did you switch to fashion only?
We switched to fashion only because we feel that’s the fastest track to impacting our customer’s comfortability, and making our them happy. I have more control over the quality of products and can make swift changes when anything goes wrong because I’m the person manufacturing it. This is how important customers satisfaction is for us.
Are your pieces and fabrics produced or manufactured locally or otherwise?
We have always supported local manufacturing, we still hope to continue to do so going forward gladly. The last Big Brother reality show, all fashion product from start to finish were produced locally. So yes we have the capacity to produce but the issue is fabric. Both design and production. The challenge of trying to process and access payment across Nigerian and beyond.
Well, basically we are opening a new store in Abuja, another store in Lagos before our anniversary in September by the grace of God. Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Benin, Enugu are lined up next. Afterwards, we are looking at opening a store in Accra Ghana in the first quarter of next year.
Fashion item you will go back home for?
The one thing I would go back home for fashion-wise is my shoes because it’s the only item am very particular about. But it’s impossible for me to leave the house without one on. Someone can tell me what to wear or how to dress but none can help me pick out a shoe choice because it has to be comfortable and I have to be okay in it.
What’s the place of social media in your marketing scheme?
Social media is Payporte, Payporte is social media. Without social media, there’s no Payporte. It has its own advantages and disadvantages. The place of social media has really helped us, we have been able to connect well with our customers and being able to meet new clients. Social media is extremely important to us, in fact, that’s the main channel we sell our products. The Payporte website has improved and dynamic product images, WhatsApp shopping, instalments payment plans, dynamic products images, among others.
What is fashion to you?
Fashion to me is what you wear, what I wear, and what makes you look good. That’s why here in Payporte, our target audience age is from 16 to35.
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