Kennedy Nyabwala, Nairobi: last-mile delivery for Africa’s growing e-commerce

11/26/2018 12:57:45 PM

In Africa, e-commerce businesses are looking for fast and efficient delivery of their packages. Meanwhile, consumers expect to pay on delivery, and return their order if they are not happy. In Kenya, Kennedy Nyabwala recognised the needs on both sides. Nine months after launching his successful last-mile delivery business Bwala in Nairobi, CEO and founder Kennedy is happy to explain his business ideas. 

Bwala Africa Group is the company that does the ‘ground work’ of e-commerce. The ‘last mile logistics marketplace’ that was launched early 2018 solves challenges that fleet owners face in getting the packages to the customers. After partnering with Kenya’s top retail and ecommerce brands, such as Copia, Naivas and Jumia, Bwala already recorded over 7500+ deliveries in Nairobi.  

Kennedy did not stop there: he recently introduced his BwalaPay escrow system that allows people to pay on delivery. 

Eight new trucks 

Bwala’s last mile fleet connectivity business is going well; the business recently secured financing from South African-based bank CFC Stanbic. Kennedy immediately bought eight new Isuzu trucks. Not all deliveries are handled by Bwala’s own trucks. Being a logistics platform and marketplace, Bwala offers a place to bring together logistics providers, fleet owners and mechanics. Kennedy Nyabwala: “We are not just delivering. Bwala offers an ecosystem of logistics services, repairs and maintenance as these are the important factors when running a fleet; hence we are reducing the turnaround time for repairs by having vetted garages. This enables logistics providers to have their trucks back on the road within a short time, on rental services, logistics providers can also hire trucks / cars when their trucks are broken down, the main important factor is the order fulfilment of the customer.”  

Step further: escrow payment 

Kennedy Nyabwala went one step further. His firm is also the first to offer an escrow payment service to its users building trust between the shipper and the receiver during the transaction. In other words: the truck drivers that deliver, also do collections, through its BwalaPay escrow system. Kennedy: “BwalaPay allows customers to pay on delivery and the seller on the other will either get cash when the item is sold. If the customer is not happy, we make sure the package is returned to the retailer”, says Kennedy, who believes BwalaPay is a big help to sceptical customers who are not sure if they will lose money through online fraud. 

Proven business concept 

Bwala Africa is currently working on a 12,000 sqm warehouse to consolidate the orders for Nairobi and the business is working on expanding to other parts of Kenya. The question is how long this warehouse is big enough to support Bwala’s activities. When asked about what the latest debt funding by the bank means to his business, Kennedy answers: “One is growth because we have already proven our business concept. The next phase is to connect the Bank with our future fleet partners that we will sign up and give an opportunity for last mile deliveries.” 

How will last mile fleet connectivity be in the next years? 

“One in every four Kenyans shops online. Hence there's a rising demand (growth of 14% from last year of online shoppers) for last mile fleet connectivity. The bottleneck and the challenge faced by e-commerce companies as well as small Instagram and Facebook retailers is the ability to ship items and to get packages to customers on time and in good condition.” 

What does Bwala offer that was not there before? 

“It is our ability to find local and available cargo movement solutions that are affordable. Solutions that get things done. Bwala also takes charge of cargo handling e.g. 100% liability on losses and damages while on transit, we are also offering warehousing solutions to our clients making them to have pre-shipments, and order consolidation.”  

What made Kenya’s top retail stores decide to hire you for their last mile deliveries?  

“We understand logistics. We have strong presence in Nairobi with a geographical coverage of 100% Nairobi, and other growing towns. We are also offering warehousing as a value add, enabling our partners to consolidate orders for dispatch easily. Finally, the technology side of it is also amazing, since we are working on a delivery app that connects various retailers and their last mile customers. This means that the distribution cost will be cheaper.” 

How important is BwalaPay to your business? 

“BwalaPay is a very important sales tool, crucial to success. The idea for this came from practice. In the first months, we have had issues where customers were not satisfied when the item delivered was not similar to the item ordered. By offering BwalaPay, if an item has an issue then the buyer can request for a refund. This reduces fraud, both on the seller side as well as on the buyers’ side.”

 

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