In Ugandas capital Kampala - a city with 1,35 million people and a barely mapped street system - a startup is building an online retail market place. The challenges are many - unstable internet connections prevent from fast progress. Read the story of Julius Muwonge and his story behind Yohomu!
Name of the Startup: Yohomu.com
Founded in: 2016, Kampala
Goal of the startup:
To be the leading online retail market place offering shopping and delivery services in Uganda and East Africa region.
What exactly does your startup do?
It integrates various big retail and wholesale chain stores on one online platform (website) from which shoppers can make a choice of their desired products and services that are later delivered by YOHOMU to the buyer’s desired delivery point at a delivery fee calculated basic on the bulk of order and distance of delivery point from the store.
What is your personal reason why you founded your startup?
When I was finishing my degree at University, I was hit by the high level of unemployment in Uganda and the fact that in a few months, I would be part of the thousands of young Ugandans flocking the labor market without a job. That prompted me to think about how I would use my knowledge and skills to start up an enterprise that would not only employee me but friends too that would soon need a job. In the same period, I used to help my older sister who resided in Naalya on the outskirts of Kampala city to do her shopping, an experience that made me realize the challenges that shoppers in Uganda face from the extremely heavy motor traffic to long queues in stores that made the shopping experience frustrating. That is when I came up with the idea of offering the help I was giving my sister to many more shoppers out there to improve their experience.
What general challenges have you been facing since then?
There is a general challenge in coming up with, training and equipping a team to work with and man the business. We also have logistical challenges in terms of machinery and motor vehicles to handle and make deliveries. Currently, we rely on my personal car to do deliveries and it would be easier if the business owned trucks and/or automobiles of its own. This reliance on outsourcing means that we make less profits. Lastly, there is a challenge with internet access in terms of a stable and fast connection to enable smooth transaction of our online business. Existing internet service providers with better network are costly.
What location/culture-specific challenges have you been facing?
Uganda as a country and culture has not fully embraced the digital world with fears and reservations to rely on online transactions in conduct of business. People are generally jittery when it comes to technology replacing traditional roles. In my business, a shopper will prefer to physically visit a store as opposed to logging unto a website to order for goods and sit back to await delivery. This mindset is a big hindrance in the growth of our business.
What is your goal for the next 5 years?
We want to be the number one go-to e-commerce site for Ugandan custom-made products in the next five years. We are also planning to raise capital to increase our capacity for deliveries and service from just Kampala to nationwide through purchase of equipment such as trucks and motor cycles and employment of more staff.