Innovator on path to disrupt retail

By Harriet James
Wednesday, December 9th, 2020
A page of the Nanasi App. Photo/PD/HARRIET JAMES
In summary
    • 2015 DXD (disruption by design) upcoming disruptor of the year by Up Magazine
    • Queen’s Young Leaders Award 2016
    • Global Student Entrepreneurship Award 2017

Harriet James @harriet86jim

When 26-year-old Alex Mativo entered the technology world, he got in with one mission:  to disrupt the retail space.

With the informal sector as the largest employer in Africa and retail creating about 80 per cent of jobs, the sector is still underdeveloped because of little or no technology.

For instance, many retail businesses still operate manually, from stock-keeping to handling payment. 

Pricey infrastructure, time consumption and competitiveness of e-commerce sites are other factors that have resulted in a major shift from ecommerce to social media sites, particularly when it comes to small businesses in emerging markets.

Consequently, social media platforms have become the backbone of consumer engagement. However, not all people know how to navigate them to produce the desired results. 

Noticing this gap, in 2019, Alex developed an app dubbed Nanasi, a retail management platform that helps business owners to digitise and manage their operations from orders to deliveries and everything in between and maintain an authentic engagement with  customers.

“Most online brands are managed by one person who has to handle orders, tracking their inventory, responding to inquiries, while trying to do their core business.

The app brings all  these together in one place and integrates with the platforms you already use to sell. 

So, whether you sell on social media, your website or on multiple physical stores, Nanasi is your control panel where you can manage & automate everything,” he explains.

Frictionless shopping

The name is derived from Alex’s desire to embody the pineapple philosophy: Stand tall and wear your crown.

Once a business signs up, their social media accounts become shoppable and the app assists them to manage their entire business and give them access to useful metrics on how their business is performing and how they can do things such as increase sales, get more customers and scale globally. 

While regular e-commerce platforms such as Masoko, Kilimall and Jumia offer personal online stores to merchants, Nanasi’s goal isn’t to compete with them, but to focus on the social media market segment and make shopping from these platforms more frictionless.

“Since we started, we have seen a rise in the use of social media for doing business. It’s now easier to start a business and sell to a global audience through social media.

With customers shopping in more places than ever before, Nanasi helps businesses owners to easily link all their social media accounts and manage everything from a central point,” says Alex.

Though he learnt how to build a company at a young age, Alex says there are still many challenges he and other entrepreneurs face, including getting access to venture capitalist funding. 

Business expansion

“There’s no sure way of tackling this problem. I guess they just have to build a product that people want and get paying customers from the get go,” he says.

Nanasi is his second venture. The first one he tried his hands on was E-lab, a design company, which made bespoke jewellery and accessories from recycled electronic waste, which he developed at just 19 years old.  

He says such type of waste has become a major environmental crisis due to rapid industrialisation globally.

Within three years of operation, E-lab became one of Inc Magazine 50 most innovative companies in the world and Alex received the Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2016.

“It’s one of my all-time favourite moments and a privilege to have been acknowledged for my contribution in keeping the planet e-waste free.

The Queen is passionate about young people around the world making a difference because she became queen at a young age.

Therefore, after our interaction, her message to me was with any sort of privilege comes the responsibility to always help elevate people around me; words I always live by,” says the tech enthusiast 

He adds that such awards give the company credibility and have opened many doors into spaces he couldn’t get access to. It has also made the business expand 

“We were selected among the top 10 most disruptive startups in Africa and we pitched at the Harvard Business School in February.

We’ve also expanded to two major markets. Kenya and South Africa,” he says. His desire was to build a Pan African company as the apps provided solutions that could assist other African countries.