I have been closely looking at ambitious projects from Zimbabwe which are busy setting up online platforms to buy and sell products.To be blatantly honest, these projects will fail, and I will explain later my reasons.
E-commerce is a huge business in China, so enormous to an extent that for a mere Zimbabwean and a first timer like me, I could not help but wonder how these people have managed to create a fully functional e-commerce system for them thanks to the eye opening program under the Huawei seeds for the future.
Almost anything can be bought online in China and they are literally millions of goods that are sold every day which has driven the e-commerce business into a multi billion dollar industry which not only Alibaba leads, but many more other players are actually are actually thriving.
Zimbabweans enjoy buzz words and like to imitate almost everything that is functional from any part of the world.To date we have almost everyone with capital trying to become the next Alibaba, but I doubt if they really understand how this system works.
For most Zimbabweans, both large and small players are somehow setting up complimentary platforms to trade online with all the missing links they really need to make it on the business.
The last few days I spent in Shenzhen were an amazing eye opener, I managed to get closer to the back houses and loading bay of their shops, which during day time they pose as normal shops operating with various wares, while in real essence, these are just visible wares of the real online market.
From around 6pm, Chinese shops shift all their business from the front offices to their back stores were millions of products begin to get packaged for transportation, heading to every corner of the world to compliment the touch of a button transaction.
All products which are bought from various countries or districts and are set to be delivered over 24 hrs are neatly and carefully packaged , where tons of trucks and transporting companies are cashing in on the business to deliver each and every product purchased.
This is a huge investment where most of these shops have few delivery companies transporting wares and they all share trucks to cut costs along common destinations .
However this is not where the real big deal lies, China is a billion population, they have hundreds of millions to serve literally every minute and I can confirm that it wont become as a surprise that every minute someone in China is buying something.
Most Chinese do not go out shopping, while us some few Zimbabweans and other locals could be seen physically shopping, millions were behind their screens buying the same goods and will be charged a small fare for delivery, surprisingly some online stores never charged transportation at all.
The big business is not on charging an extra on transportation, it’s a game of volumes driven and the owners of the products pay a reasonable premium to companies on delivery.
This is the major difference with Zimbabwean culture, all companies in e-commerce will charge you an extra for a purchase, a move which automatically discourages a purchase.
However the Chinese would rather have a supplier discounting them on any wares.They don’t even need to own any products,they sell other people’s products which they don’t even need a warehouse to store and ask for a discount for every sell they make and deliver the product at the same shelf price.
The other amazing thing is their internal mode of transport.In Zimbabwe, we have fancy transportation systems that inevitably makes the cost price soar, however in China, they simply deliver on traditional bikes, scooters and simple trucks for every local purchase which keeps the price low.
We think that for us to run successful e-commerce platforms we should also have these big warehouses and supply chains across the lengths and breathes of the nation, well the answer is hell no! Why not pick it up from my next trip to Nairobi, I cant wait for this one , it’s my first time ever to the eastern part of the African continent.