Zimbabwean businesses are finding their way in eCommerce despite challenges and the businesses behind this are becoming more and more visible. Pracnet is one of these businesses and it’s doing a great job in terms of growing the impact of eCommerce in Zimbabwe. Pracnet was invited to be part of the Total Energies Startupper of the year. Preachmore Mupfura, the owner of Pracnet gave us some time to answer questions about the business environment in general and Pracnet in particular.
Tell us all about Pracnet, please…
Pracnet is an online shop / eCommerce website that sells groceries, solar energy products, baby diapers, cosmetics, kitchenware and mobile phones. It allows people to buy from the comfort of their homes using PayPal (for those in the diaspora who would want to buy for their loved ones in Zimbabwe), Paynow (for zimswtch, EcoCash, telecash and one money) and USD (through buck’s inn, city hopper and cash on delivery) We deliver either at home or workplace of our customers.
How long have you been operating and how is the environment?
We launched last year in September so we are just under 6 months old, our capital base is still small since our source of funding so far is ourselves. Our operational capital is savings and money from friends and family. The business environment is stiff since we are competing with big players with a big capital base and goodwill which we are still trying to build.
Why did you start this business?
We saw the need and gap for a well-organized eCommerce shop in Zimbabwe with the growth of technology and the use of mobile phones and PCs in Zimbabwe and the introduction of fast and strong internet reception. People spent most of their time on mobile phones and PCs. Its obvious people would also want to spend their time doing productive activities rather than standing in a queue trying to buy 2 kg of rice or having to travel in town shop by shop trying to find a shop that sells a solar floodlight.
How receptive have Zimbabweans been to your business?
Online shopping is a new norm to Zimbabweans, there is still a resistance force from customers. Change is hard to do, some customers are used to their way of buying. Others have fear of being duped but people are grasping the idea slowly. In a few years to come, we will see many people opting for online shopping because of its benefits
Speaking of challenges, what other challenges have you faced?
Our biggest challenge is capital, for a business to grow you need a marketing department to run promotional campaigns, brand awareness campaigns, be able to attract brand ambassadors and have a viable logistics and supply chain department which cost a lot of money. When you are small influential social media influencers, are less likely to be associated with you because you cannot afford them. the other challenge is the exchange rate, it’s hard to get the USD when you want to replenish your stock.
What are some of the challenges that are specific to eCommerce that you have faced?
Running an online shop have many challenges; the biggest challenge is to know if the customer is pranking you or not especially if you are using cash on delivery payment option, some customers want to get the order without paying the whole amount. Some they just make orders for fun when you deliver, they will say we just wanted to see how it looks like. So, when you are starting up you will be losing a lot of money on logistics. We have also the challenge of the Online payment APIs for USD payment method, customers with USD cannot make payments online. Since we don’t have our own Online payment integration systems like PayPal, etc. This will force online shops to implement only cash on delivery payment systems, which has its drawbacks. We only have PayNow which supports RTGS currency. A service provider like EcoCash should be offering their payment API to startups so that it will be convenient for customers to buy online without being charged twice (by the service provider and the third party) Data challenge, for eCommerce to be successful we need our customers to have access to the internet. In Zimbabwe, there are no tailor-made data packages that support startups in the tech industry just like WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram data packages. Getting trusted by a new customer is also a challenge that eCommerce shops face
Any words you would like me to add for others who aspire to be like you.
Would love to say to those who have ideas just do it, start now. Every successful innovation right now was once an idea and some people rejected it. Also, perfection is the thief of both time and opportunity, don’t say I will launch when my idea is now perfect
What are your plans for the future of this business in 5 -10 years?
In the future, we want to see our business becoming the biggest eCommerce in Zimbabwe where people do online shopping just like at Amazon without customer’s fear of being duped