ACE: easing consumers plight with technology
There is something about Tunde Kehinde, which strikes immediately: He has a lot of confidence; exudes such self-assurance that almost borders on arrogance. But he is not. He is just being himself, and delighted that he is contributing to the welfare of humanity.
In a recent chat, Kehinde told The Guardian that he is committed to providing jobs for young Nigerian graduates willing to work hard and grow with the company. And this is through the platform he is providing together with Ercin Eksin.
Eksin manages operations for Jumia across six African countries namely Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Morocco and Cote d’ivoire. Ercin had had prior experience at Rocket Internet.
Africa Courier Express (ACE), an indigenous African enterprise, founded by both of them in November 2013, delivers world-class logistics solutions to both businesses and individuals.
Kehinde explains that the company offers consumers easy access to goods through world-class technology.
“We help businesses take their packages from point A to point B. We deliver and help them make their payment at the point of delivery, as well as help track the package along the process using world-class technology.
“Our company works closely with some brands, and helps the brands go online. We start by creating and managing their ecommerce portals, and generally helping customers to access goods in a better way,” he says.
Shedding light on the workings of the tracking device, Kehinde explains that the fulfilment tracking software was built from the grandeur, and that it allows their merchants and customers to understand when their package has left a particular destination and when it will get to them, which offers customers transparency.
He was former Managing Director of jumia.com, one of Nigeria’s leading online retail stores, which he helped grow to its present level before leaving. He also had prior experience at bandeka.com, an online dating platform. He was a business development executive with Diageo in London, and was an investment banking professional with Wachovia Securities in North Carolina and New York City.
With his experience in the business world, Kehinde believes everything is possible, if one puts his mind to it.
Says he: “The biggest pin point we had was getting the goods from point A to point B. As we were dealing with poor infrastructure, it was quite challenging trying to locate addresses and so on. We realised that as ecommerce, businesses, banks and insurance companies grow, there will be a bigger desire to get goods directly to the customer, and they will need an independent world class performing partner.”
Reflecting on his job and the challenges that his company had to face, he says these include difficulties in finding the locations of customers, how to navigate traffic and manage cash at the point of delivery. However, the two major challenges are trust and talent. It was herculean getting customer to trust the company and getting the right talents on the team.
So, to ease tension, they “give our riders tools for update on packages, so the merchant knows where the goods are and we also know.”
Kehinde says ACE focuses on finding and training talents, and “the key is to give them responsibility, train them and let them grow. With the advance of technology, the company looks for intelligent and ambitious people, who are able to take responsibility. They can be 22 years old or older. All we care about is the willingness to build a business that could grow around the country.”
The young entrepreneur says the issue of trust is very important in the business, as “many customers are not yet comfortable putting their debit or credit cards on the site they cannot trust. Being the biggest direct consumer delivery business in Nigeria, though, it is new, it is very exciting, the customer is still getting educated on ecommerce.”
To him, e-commerce would eventually change how things are bought, just like the mobile phones changed the landlines. “I believe every single thing would be initiated from the Internet in the next 10 years, and so, it is important that we are the delivery partner that practises that,” he says.
On the impact of ACE on Nigeria’s economy, he notes that the investment opportunity Nigeria has in Africa is unprecedented, as it is the crowned jewel. “There are only a few countries with our size and population. For me, I am excited to grow a new industry here and what further excites me is the impact we can have, as we get more successful; creating thousands of jobs across the country.
“For any economy to grow, you need to get goods to the market, then to the end customer. We want to be the backbone that does that, and we believe that providing such services can be done in Africa, in a world-class way, and in a way that we can export that around the world. We are pioneering world class technology that can be used in different parts of the world,” he explains.
Kehinde says the brand is already gaining international recognition, as businesses in Europe are asking to use the company’s software.
“We now have brands saying, ‘I want to come into the Nigerian market and I want to use ACE as the marketing partner to help me import, warehouse and ship.’ I love the fact that as a country, we are now looking for new ways to grow our economy, and technology is going to be one of those ways.”
In his view, the best training is on the job. And working with some of the great minds in ecommerce, finance and logistics around the world would enable young graduates tap into different resources, which allow them to learn. This, perhaps, is the reason for his conviction that in the nearest future, “his company will attain a level, where consumers can easily access the application on their mobile phones, click on an item and it gets to them within the hour.”
The company recently partnered with Interswitch, its biggest investor. He describes the partnership as “a great one, as we can begin to co-produce products together to make the customers experience better.”
His word of advice for young graduates: They should define their value and capacity, as every entrepreneur is looking for young people, who are wiz kids as far as technology is concerned.
“Five years ago, there was no e-commerce in Nigeria, but today, there are 8, 000 jobs that have been created either directly or indirectly by it. What we need is innovation and policies, as well as investments to support the innovation,” he says.
He equally advises government to focus on policies that help foreign direct investment.
“I think they are already doing that, they are mentioning such things as assemblage, agriculture and manufacturing. But I really would advise them to focus more on technology, because it is the future, and Nigeria can become the hub for tech-novation in Africa.”
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