" ITREALMS: Yudala, truly a revolution

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Yudala, truly a revolution


Eminent Greek philosopher and poet Nikos Kazantzakis must have had in mind one of the major imperatives to achieving feats of immense significance when he delivered the time-honored assertion that:  “In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.”

For indeed, when one considers the manner of Yudala’s bold entry into the Nigerian e-commerce sector last year, it is evident to see that, the belief that things can be done differently in Nigeria and by Nigerians is at the heart of the movement.

To begin with, Yudala had come up with a novel strategy, one which no one other outfit had been able to successfully implement with any degree of structure, prior to its entry. By fusing a real-time e-commerce platform with a chain of brick-and-mortar retail stores in major Nigerian cities, the company had taken the Nigerian retail narrative a notch higher and delivered a telling statement to the rest of Africa and the world in extension.

When Yudala rolled out this composite retail strategy in August last year, I had quickly done an online search to see where the whole idea came from, proving as it were, to be a master-stroke and an idea of genuine innovation and forethought. I was pleasantly amazed to discover that Yudala was actually setting a global precedent with its structured fusion of online and offline retail. Interestingly,  a few months after Yudala launched, Chinese e-commerce giants Ali Baba had followed suit with its founder Jack Ma announcing that the  company was fusing online shopping with good old-fashioned brick and mortar retailing.

And only recently, search giants Google borrowed a leaf from the Yudala revolution by venturing into physical retail with the launch of offline stores. Same thing has also been done by Amazon. Certainly, Yudala has not received as much recognition for this innovative strategy which the rest of the e-commerce world is now following. However, many avid followers of e-commerce in the country, myself included, have taken note.

Two months later, I had my first shopping encounter with Yudala – an experience which I consider worth sharing. Having followed with keen interest the impressive and savvy marketing style employed by the company and the confidence with which it made its entry into the market, I had decided to experience first-hand the revolution which the company had boldly promised at its inception. I had placed an order for an Innjoo smartphone which was going for about N13,500 on the Yudala website and had opted for the payment on delivery option. My order was confirmed a few minutes after I placed it on Thursday, October 22nd, with the courteous customer service lady I spoke with informing me that the item will be delivered within 48 hours. Well, I have had several other e-commerce companies make similar promises only to have my orders either delivered after a week or even cancelled at the last minute.

To my utter surprise, I had received a call at exactly 3:05pm while at my desk in the office informing of a delivery man from Yudala waiting to see me. Imagine my consternation and delight when I came out and saw my Innjoo phone delivered, barely 24 hours after my order was placed. It was indeed an eye-opening experience for me and the fact that this was achieved by a purely Nigerian-owned company only made the experience more exciting. I have had cause to argue with friends and colleagues over the status of Yudala’s ownership as many believe the company is owned by foreign investors. 

This is hardly surprising, especially when one considers the world class marketing strategies, innovative composite retail approach and more recently, the drone delivery which took the nation by storm – all of which convinced watchers that these feats could only be achieved by a foreign company.

In the not-too distant past, the idea of a Nigerian e-commerce company becoming the first on the continent to pioneer product delivery with the use of drones would have sounded like a pipe dream; a mirage, if you will.  Such an audacious step becomes even more outstanding when you consider the fact that the feat may actually be the first ever drone delivery in the global e-commerce market.

On Thursday November 26th 2015, Yudala had written its name and that of Nigeria into the history books by successfully undertaking what is, unknown to many, the world’s first e-commerce drone delivery to flag off its inaugural Black Friday sales.

According to reports which made the rounds in the media, the order for the delivered item– a Nokia Lumia smartphone, was placed by a female staff of Access Bank Plc., Yetunde Lawal, who was reportedly shopping on the Yudala website for the very first time. 

“I am extremely delighted and indeed short of words to explain how I feel to be the first person to receive an item via drone delivery in Nigeria, all thanks to Yudala. This is an innovative concept in the evolution of e-commerce in the country which I am sure other competitors will want to copy,” said an elated Yetunde, the recipient of the item.

From the facts on ground, though, Yetunde may just have turned out to be the first person in the world to receive an item via drone delivery through e-commerce.

This feat, coming from a Nigerian e-commerce startup is worth all its weight in gold and not one to be sniffed at.

To put Yudala’s landmark achievement in perspective, it is pertinent to locate it in the global context of things. Prior to the Yudala-powered drone delivery, there has been no recorded instance of delivery via drones in the e-commerce world. On Friday July 17th 2015, the United States had achieved its first ever drone delivery. However, this was a government-sponsored project and it was to deliver medical supplies. The government-approved drone had successfully transported 4.5kg of medical supplies to a rural health clinic in Virginia. The drone, made by Australian drone manufacturer Flirtey and approved by the US Federal Aviation Authority, in partnership with Nasa, had made three three-minute flights from Lonesome Pine Airport, Virginia, to the clinic at the Wise County Fairgrounds, carrying 24 medical packages.

Furthermore, global e-commerce giants Amazon and others are also developing the technology to make drone deliveries possible on a commercially viable scale, but rules and regulations currently governing their operation have held development back. On Prime Air - Amazon's incipient drone delivery system – Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief had recently disclosed that the "technology is very advanced already" but admitted that regulatory issues might hold it back, at least in the United States.

"We continue to work with different regulators around the world. One of the regulatory agencies that's moving fastest on this is the UK, so it's possible that drone deliveries will start first in the UK,” Bezos had stated.

The foregoing throws into sharp relief the momentous significance of the Yudala drone delivery. Many of us still do not realize it as yet but this generation may just have witnessed what is a potentially era-defining achievement on that fateful evening of November 26th 2015 when the Yudala drone effortlessly glided across the Gbagada-Oshodi highway, bearing the Nokia Lumia smartphone for delivery to Yetunde.

More stirringly and in what is bound to be a source of inspiration to every Nigerian youth out there, Yudala is led by a brilliant and visionary 23-year old Nigerian – Prince Nnamdi Ekeh.
When in August 2015, the company followed up the launch of its Experience Stores in Lagos with the flag-off of Yudala Online, Prince Ekeh, Founder and Vice President of the composite retail platform had predicted that the company would usher in a revolution in the conduct of e-commerce business in the country.

According to him: “We are offering Nigerians a revolutionary, platinum experience of online and offline retail with Yudala. With the launch of Yudala Online, Nigerians are guaranteed a mind-blowing experience of online retail with the official launch of Yudala Online.  Apart from the innovative strategies we have in the pipeline, the launch of Yudala Online will usher in a revolution in customer experience and service. Very soon we shall be guaranteeing same day delivery nationwide.

“Furthermore, we are offering a faster and more efficient delivery and logistics chain which will keep the customer abreast of details right through the order placement to the delivery phase. More importantly, you enjoy core after-sales support on both warranty and out-of-warranty products when you buy from yudala.com from any of our offline stores nationwide as we shall be populating every nook and cranny with Yudala Experience Stores.”

Today, the signs are there of the immense impact Yudala has had in elevating standards in the e-commerce sector.

Prior to its drone delivery, Nigerians had been treated to a series of innovative and creatively thought out marketing campaigns and promotions which has endeared the brand to many. It was hardly surprising that the company had subsequently come out at the very top of a list put together by world’s leading search engine, Google, highlighting the top trending Nigerian brands in 2015. Yudala had emerged second behind Air Peace – a commendable achievement considering the fact that other major players in the sector were missing from the top ten.

The Nigerian economy has also benefitted immensely from the emergence of Yudala, with more opportunities still in the offing should the company keep up with its upward trajectory.

Findings show that Yudala employs over 400 Nigerians on full time basis. Considering its long-term plan of having at least a Yudala store in virtually every local government council in the country, as outlined by Prince Ekeh, it is evident that the Nigerian economy will reap amazingly from Yudala’s expansionary ambitions. 

With reduced earnings occasioned by falling oil prices and the dwindling value of the local currency leading to massive job cuts in various sectors of the economy, the unemployment situation in the country presently looks dire, with forecasts gloomy and no signs of a respite in sight, at least in the short term. Worse still, the linkages between unemployment and social problems including crimes and other ills is a well-known one.

This is why Yudala represents a refreshingly hope-inducing light in the midst of the gloom. 

With its ambitious strategy of populating every local government council nationwide, Yudala will arguably take an estimated 10,000 Nigerians out of the labour market, providing opportunities for self-actualization for them and indirectly easing the pressure on their dependants and families. Having stated this, a major draw-back observed in this regard is the paucity of technical know-how and experience in e-commerce, considering its status as a fledgling industry. On this, Prince Ekeh solicits the assistance of government in building capacity.

“Based on projections, e-commerce in the MEA region is expected to grow by at least 20% this year and that is the highest projection in the world. If you look at countries like China and the USA, they have seen their growth in e-commerce, so this is the time for Africa and Nigeria. We are going to see a lot of jobs coming into e-commerce and very soon we will see Government pay more attention to e-commerce in Nigeria because it is a huge market, with potential to become a multi-billion dollar industry.

“The major challenge we face, however, is the dearth of adequate skills in the e-commerce and retail space. Government needs to invest and train citizens for the e-commerce market. That way, we can have ready human capital to bring on board as what we are presently doing now is to recruit people and start training them from scratch.

“This is why we are also setting up an entrepreneurship scheme known as YUBOSS. Through YUBOSS, we will be building capacity and giving millions of Nigerians a chance to learn the ropes of e-commerce while earning money at the same time,” he noted.

A company such as Yudala deserves a place on the Nigerian Stock Exchange so that many more Nigerians can get an opportunity of being a part of the impressive revolution being unveiled by the company. One can only pray that Yudala keeps up the momentum although a note of caution is also required, considering the speed with which the company is growing.

In a year that has seen most investors hedge their bets in Africa’s biggest economy based on dwindling economic growth indices, the government battling to keep the wheels turning and unemployment figures approaching record highs, the rise and rise of Yudala holds out huge promise of hope in the re-emergence of the giant of Africa – Nigeria.

*J.P. Adekunle, e-commerce enthusiast and founder of the Action Policy – a think-tank of young Nigerian professionals contributed this from Lagos.

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Pix: Prince Nmamdi Ekeh, Founder, Yudala

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