Revealed: the Harvard grad tipped to lead Rocket Internet’s operations in Nigeria

Kasuwa
Kasuwa

Harvard Business School grad Tunde Kehinde is tipped to take the lead in one of the Samwer brothers’ more intriguing recent ventures – Kasuwa, the new “Amazon for Nigeria”.

Kasuwa

The Samwer brothers’ incubator Rocket Internet now runs e-commerce operations in every continent except Antarctica, including Amazon clone Lazada in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Egypt and the Gulf (trading as Mizado).

Nigeria, West Africa’s largest economy and Africa’s third largest behind South Africa and Egypt, can now be added to the list. Amazon-style Kasuwa is inviting registrations of interest. Fan comments on Kasuwa’s Facebook page suggest electronic goods will go down particularly well.

Rocket Internet is also gearing up to launch fashion marketplace Sabunta (similar to Rocket Internet’s Zalando, or Zando in South Africa). Sabunta briefly went offline earlier this week after Vertical Media (Gründerszene and VentureVillage) revealed the site contained fragments of inactive code copied from leading design marketplace Fab.

Nigeria’s internet explosion – and Rocket’s new recruits

Tunde KehindeWest Africa news site TechLoy reports Tunde Kehinde (pictured) is joining Rocket Internet to work on Kasuwa from its base in Lagos, Nigeria. Kehinde holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and co-founded invitation-only dating site Bandeka. Before joining Rocket as a managing director, he worked in business development for multinational beverage company Diageo.

Rocket’s expansion into Nigeria makes sense for several reasons. Nigeria already claims 45 million internet users, more than any other country in Africa, and this is set to triple in the next two years. Despite this, it’s not well-served by the likes of Amazon – providing the perfect opportunity for Rocket to set up shop.

Rolling out services like Kasuwa and Sabunta is an old trick for Rocket but the company builder should be prepared for new challenges. Nigerian online retailer Kalahari shut down last year citing a lack of profitability, after just under two years of operations. No further reasons were given but since Kalahari sold books, electronics, cameras, music, DVDs and games, similar to Kasuwa’s target offerings, it’s not a good sign.

That said, Kalahari’s marketing spend may give Kazuwa a second mover advantage – and its closure will provide a likely recruiting ground.

One way for Rocket to ensure success may be to focus more on mobile internet access. A survey by Opera last year found 90 per cent of Nigerian internet users between 18 and 27 used mobile phones more than desktop or laptop computers to access the internet.

It’s too early to know how these latest ventures will go but it’s an exciting step for Rocket. We’ll be watching this space.

For related reading, check out:

Berlin Web Week 2012: Why Europe can’t ignore East Africa’s Silicon Savannah

Access Industries’ billionaire Len Blavatnik sinks $200m into Rocket Internet

Zalando hits Belgium – where to next?