Nairobi based startup Sokowatch which receives orders from small shops while providing consumer goods companies with a distribution network via SMS has hit 1,000 customers in Tanzania.
The high demand highlights the relevancy of the startup in the regional market signaling the possibility of further expansion and fundraising call. Shops order from Sokowatch via SMS and receive free delivery of their goods within 24 hours.
With over 5000 customers in Nairobi, Sokowatch was launched in 2014 to meet the gap left by the lack of reliable deliveries to backwater shops due to poorly developed infrastructure. This inturn stabilizes the availability of consumer goods which leads higher profitability by both the small shops and consumer goods companies.
It started as Reliefwatch launched by a University of Chicago student Daniel Yu in 2014 to track inventory in health clinics using “dumb phones,”. He came to find out that data-tracking tech is attractive to multinational companies looking to distribute goods in emerging markets.
He then rebranded to Sokowatch and moved to East Africa launching in Nairobi and quickly expanded to Dar es Salaam.
Yu explained that the distribution channels for multinational corporations in emerging markets often depends on networks of informal “street hawkers,” who buy merchandise from wholesalers and go around to small shops sell product, often making less than $2 per day.
The street hawkers spend time and energy trying to sell product to shops that may not have a need, and corporations aren’t able to track the demand for products.
Sokowatch moved to Da es Salaam in February this year after its massive success in Nairobi and says it will expand to other urban centres in East Africa region.
“We’ve been excited to demonstrate the potential and replicability of Sokowatch’s model to address supply chain gaps across urban East Africa, and we’ve found the barriers faced by Dar es Salaam shopkeepers in ensuring product availability to be even greater than those in Nairobi,” said chief executive officer (CEO) Daniel Yu.
The 2017 winner of Innotribe Startup Challenge says they will be seeking partnership with consumer goods companies such as Unilever and expand further in Nairobi and around the region.