Raphael Afaedor
is a Ghanaian and entrepreneur at his core. He is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO Prior to this position, he was the
co-founder of Jumia and has featured in several publications such as Forbes and
CNN. Raphael sat with MYOB to discuss his journey from being an employee to a
successful entrepreneur. Enjoy!
How did it all
start? Take us back to your story and how Supermart NG came to be
have always taken school and academics seriously from high school, university
and my masters in computer science. I joined for three years where
I rose to become a senior manager in charge of 18 European countries. I moved
to the States to further my education and did an MBA in Harvard Business School
(HBS). Harvard expanded my world view, changed my sense of self and enabled me
apply my God given talent. My desire to make a difference made me come back to
the sub-continent to apply myself. I felt nothing else would make me happier.
Tell us about
your transition to Nigeria after HBS
met a Nigerian entrepreneur who was doing his executive MBA in HBS. We spoke
for a bit and he said is should come check out what he was doing in Nigeria.
That was my first time in Lagos in 2008. When I landed, I immediately knew it,
I asked to finish my internship and if offered a full time job I would take it.
I finished in a year and worked with Notore for 16 months where I headed the marketing
and business development for West and Central Africa. I applied myself and
after 16 months, I decided to go out and start something.
Before starting, you worked with Jumia, tell us about that
Notore, I asked myself the question: “what will be the next best tech venture
to start” and everything around me pointed to the fact that the country was
ready for e-commerce. There was a difficulty getting access to goods coupled
with the traffic situation of moving from one point to another and I could see
from the cars people were driving on the streets that people were willing to
pay. The internet was also in the hands of people with mobile devices and the
cost was dropping. Almost all the factors that needed to come together for this
to work were coming together and so was Interswitch. It was also difficult to
start something like that because you are literarily replicating the entire
supply chain from sourcing, warehousing, distribution etc. and so I decided to
start a coupon business because all you had to do was send people electronic
coupons and have them pick up the items themselves. That was a very good way to
test the market. After one year, I was convinced and contacted the guys in Rocket
computer and we started Jumia from there.
Image Source: Techpoint
Take us to Why did you make that switch to Supermart?
is a Yoruba proverb that says 20 children cannot stay together for 20 years. So
we built Jumia for 2 years and thought of the next best things to do. The
company was on its feet and someone could take that and run with it. I saw
grocery delivery as a better way of doing that so I thought why not aggregate
grocery inventory online so within 10 minutes’ customers pick everything they
want and people deliver it to their homes. If you think about it doesn’t make
sense to go to the local market to pick up groceries and be stuck in traffic
for 3-6 hours which can be used for to spend quality time with friends and family.
Also today there is a fuel scarcity and also the deregulation with the 70%
price hike. I believe a service like ours is even more necessary because of
these conditions.
Image Source:
 Founders Raphael Afaedor and Gbolahan Fagbure
Let’s talk about
the value of research, what it took to understand the market and how it
translated to your success today
have to research what you are walking into and to get started. I think one of
the mistakes people make is that they have a product and believe everyone is a
customer for that product. What you want to do is force yourself to tailor your
product to a specific individual. Once you are done with that you have to hit
the road, change things and keep improving gradually
How do you understand
customers and what they want?
a business like mine, you have to start with the customer in mind by over
pleasing the customer. Customers also have a demand that you yourself need to
manage. For example, does not have a call centre we just have a
contact centre. You send an email and get a response between 5-10 minutes.
customers want to be able to pick the phone and call and they think that is
customer service. Customer service is however more about solving the problems
of customers. We therefore have to create a world where it is easy for the
customer to communicate with us and we solve the problem the first time a query
is sent. You should understand the problem, tailor your solution to suit the problem
and educate the customers. So you have to ensure that what you are doing
ultimately changes the customers’ world view.
Where are you
taking this business?
wholesale and retail are everyday essentials and cover about 70% of the
Nigerian retail space and we believe that for some people that is further broken
down. Some people love to go to the local market, some have the time to go to
different supermarkets while there are some people that really need services
like ours who are urban professionals, experts, reparts, mums, office admins
etc.  Those are people we target.
If you were to go
back 17 years, what are the key lessons you have learnt which you would have
done differently?
think the choice of being an entrepreneur is nature and nurture and you need to
find something you are passionate about. For some of us, it’s being out there
building something. You conceptualise the view of what you will want to create.
Part of who I am is creating something that doesn’t exist. For others being an
investment banker or consultant is what they are passionate about. All in all,
you need to find something you are passionate about and invest in it early.
However, as soon you can find that passion I think you should go very hard to
achieve your dreams.
Founders Raphael Afaedor and Gbolahan Fagbure
What is the value
of education?
absolutely value education. I don’t know if it makes sense to do a masters
degree but take your primary, secondary and university education seriously.
What it does is that it provides you a safety net. You can have all the
experience in the world but there are a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses who
value education. As an entrepreneur, when you go to the world you will find
that there’s a lot to learn than when you go into formal employment. Your value
to any employer is enormous because you come in from a CEO’s world/perspective.  The worst you can do to yourself is not have
formal education but experience.
What are some of
the toughest challenges you have faced running a business and how do you
approach them?
is about facing challenges, dealing with them and waiting for the next one to
come. There is never a point where you say it’s all done so it is important to
embrace the challenge. Also, never get too excited or deflated. I don’t let
money affect my demeanor because I remind myself that tomorrow is another day.
To growing entrepreneurs,
what will your big advice be?
experience is very important. If you don’t have the money to start its either
you worked but didn’t save enough or you haven’t gained any experience at all.
I wouldn’t give money to anyone who hasn’t gained any experience. You should be
able to learn and understand the challenges, structure a presentation etc. A
background is important to know you have actually learnt something.
Three lessons for
1.  Passion: Find something you are
passionate about. A lot of people think of entrepreneurship as something you
start for 2 years and leave aside. This is not it. Entrepreneurship is almost
like finding a wife. You start with it and stick to it through thick and thin.
It is almost a journey of 5-10 years plus. You should be able to wake up and be
motivated to get back to what you do
Patience: You will get your first share
of lucky breaks. I have had experiences of almost closing a deal and the person
is moved from a role. You have to be patient and keep pushing.
Perseverance: You have to persevere and push
forward. You have to think about it as banging your head against a wall it is
either your head breaks or the wall breaks. You have to keep thinking about
with a smile on your face. I wake up and say a loud good morning to everyone I
see which lifts my mood up. One of the things that can’t happen is for people
who work with you to see you deflated.
      You can listen to the podcast here:


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