Online initiative takes shopping to a whole new level
Shopa Lesotho Director, Lebohang Handy, says his company is now prioritising selling local products to empower Basotho businesses.
Shopa Lesotho affords customers a convenient shopping experience over the internet and in the comfort of their own homes, with the goods on offer displayed on the company’s website. Clients log onto the site and select their preferred goods, which are then delivered within a maximum of three days but only after payment has been confirmed.
Mr Handy said delivery could be made anywhere in Lesotho. Shopa was established in 2010 by Mpho Ramataboee, Lebohang Handy and Dr Mofao Phoka and currently has a complement of five computer-savvy staff members.
In July this year, Shopa and two other local youth-led companies won a combined M500 000 during a ceremony organized by Bacha Entrepreneurship Project and supported by Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation, Lesotho Revenue Authority and Standard Lesotho Bank.
Of this money, Shopa received M159 725.40 which the company is using to improve its operations.
“About three weeks ago, we created an inventory to enable us to sell products which we would have sourced from local producers. And like I said, this is deliberately meant to empower and promote local businesses,” Mr Handy said.
“In the past, products on offer on the website were being placed by individual sellers and buyers would contact them directly by email or phone. Delivery would be conducted by the supplier so we had little contact with buyers; ours was just to create a platform for the goods and services. However, we are changing this by having the products in our own store and delivering them ourselves to the customer.
“At first, we randomly selected products which could be found around shops in town with the hope of convincing clients to shop online instead of always queuing at supermarkets.
“But after learning that this habit was not about to change for Basotho anytime soon, we decided to embark on selling local products including crafts that are unique to our culture.
“This way, we wanted to broaden our target-market by not only focusing on the local consumer but also tourists looking for Basotho-made products.
“On our website, www.shopa.co.ls, we have begun by offering Seshoeshoe clothing and we are open to doing the same with crafts and other products which are more representative of our local environment.”
Mr Handy also pointed out that by introducing the new strategy, Shopa could now have more control of the enterprise.
“In the past, as mentioned earlier, we used to allow people to advertise their products on our website without establishing any direct contact with us. But we have since learnt that we need to take ownership of the goods that are being sold to people using our website to ensure they meet the required standards.
“And again, by taking the responsibility to make direct contact with both suppliers and buyers, we are assuming the responsibility of ensuring that all parties conduct business in a safe environment,” he said.
“Following the introduction of the new approach three weeks ago, we noted over 30 inquiries through the site. This is a new development; a record we were unable to see previously when buyers used to communicate directly with companies which advertised their products on our website.
“We are also trying to improve the methods of payments to enable buyers to pay instantly upon confirmation of an order, with mobile facilities such as M-Pesa and Eco-cash.
“We would want to make sure we avoid many inconveniences that come with delivering goods before payment. The standard delivery charge is M70 with applicable terms and conditions. The lead time for delivery is two to three days from the day of placing an order.”
Mr Handy attributed the new developments in the company to the continuing mentorship from the Bacha Entrepreneurship team of adjudicators.
“One of the reasons we were selected among the top three winners of the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project was the aspect of innovation, which our brand was found to possess,” Mr Handy said.
“The continuing support we are being afforded by that team has enabled us to develop these new strategies. We have been advised on how best we can improve our business, hence the reason we have been adding some innovative applications.
“With the money we won, we were able to buy a delivery truck, and this is why we have decided to also venture into courier services.
“The Shopa team comprises five staff members with a background of computer science. Because of this strong Information Technology background, we were seen to possess the skills to further develop unique concepts that would give us added advantage over our competitors.
“So by developing these new concepts, we are in line with implementing the training and mentoring we received for this project.”