In Africa, maternal and neonatal care are essential aspects of healthcare, which presents many challenges and opportunities.
Despite recent improvements, there are still significant gaps in the availability of high-quality healthcare services, leading to several health issues for expectant mothers and newborns.
While some organisations, such as Babymigo and HelpMum, are stepping up to meet the healthcare requirements of mothers and their kids, eCommerce platforms, such as Jumia and Konga, are facilitating access to their other essential needs.
However, it’s arguable whether any African eCommerce platform has an online marketplace targeting mothers and their children.
Online marketplaces for mothers and their children are critical to assisting families in many ways. They open a world of products for mothers, giving them choice, convenience, and assurance on everything from necessary baby supplies to educational materials.
These platforms provide a lifeline of support in a region where mothers frequently juggle work and child care duties, saving time and easing the stress of conventional shopping. So, the lack of such resources or their rarity may present a challenge.
Anisha Bhojwani, Co-founder at Klick Africa, a Nigerian eCommerce platform, shared how difficult it was to get items like diapers or a birthday gift for her child’s friend on social media.
“You may spend up to a full day trying to buy one item, which can drain all of your energy. Also, once a delivery person arrives, the logistics company will call you several times, which might be very demanding.
“And the fact that they are not verified vendors is another issue with Instagram. Sometimes, you give money to vendors without knowing if you will get the product."
As working mothers, Bhojwani and her Co-founder — Rohini Chugani — realised that the problem with the market had to be solved in order to provide convenience for mothers like them.
“There is no online marketplace that aggregates all children's and women's businesses into one platform where you can buy everything related to women, children, and babies. So this is exactly why we started it,” Bhojwani explains.
Klick Africa wants to create a community for mothers
Nigeria's current birth rate — the number of live births per thousand population per year — is 36.026 in 2023, a 1.14% decrease from 2022. Expectedly, the country's rate will decline and reach 27 births per 1,000 people by 2050.
However, Nigeria reportedly has one of the highest fertility rates globally, with an average fertility rate of 5.3 births per woman.
Thus, with the growing population rate, Bhojwani says that Klick Africa aims to better serve this market by reducing the strain of parenting, making life simpler for mothers, and providing support for small businesses.
Klick Africa is a unified online marketplace where mothers in Nigeria can buy goods and services for themselves, babies, and children. The company focuses on this curated market space because the co-founders believe it is underserved.
The eCommerce platform allows customers to search for and get the item or service they want to purchase “without hassle”.
The company also wants to create a community for parents, which could be a blog or forum, to support one another.
“For instance, if you are a new mother and you have a question concerning parenting, or generally, there is a community forum where you can ask questions and get advice from other mothers,” Chugani says.
One company already providing a similar service in Nigeria is Babymigo, a web-based platform that lowers maternal and child mortality in the country. It provides expert-led information, tools, and resources via a community-led platform.
Babymigo works with women at various stages of their pregnancy and parenting journeys to empower, equip, and provide them with tools and resources that improve maternal and child health outcomes.
“While there are many mother-focused community forums with a sizable number of members, such as LagosMums or Babymigo, what they are not is an online store where you can purchase things for yourself, your child, or your baby that, as far as we are aware, do not yet exist,” Bhojwani declares.
She says the company wants to establish itself as the pioneer of a one-stop shop for mothers, kids, and carers.
"However, we approach this as people with first-hand experience with the challenges of running a small business in Nigeria. At Klick Africa, we also want to help promote the seller's profiles and branding," Chugani adds.
Klick Africa wants to help small businesses grow
Klick Africa wants to give small businesses visibility for their stores so that customers can recognise them by name, logo, and location.
While you might think Klick Africa as another Jumia or Konga, the co-founders clarify that it is not.
“Because no one knows who you are as a company on Jumia, Klick Africa is not like Jumia; we don't know your name or logo. However, on Klick, we also promote the seller [because] they're part of a mall, a digital one. So we're saving small businesses,” Chugani maintains.
Vendors set up stores on Klick Africa by signing up with their store name and a few personal details, saving time and stress.
Following that, the eCommerce platform's dedicated team simplifies the process by assisting them with the .CSV file upload of their product catalogue to the website.
On vendor verification, the co-founders say they know the sellers onboarded on the platform and plan to implement a verification method as the company scales.
Klick Africa plans to charge its merchants a monthly subscription fee rather than commissions because the co-founders understand the sellers’ pains when they must pay commissions.
Knowing how detrimental it is for small businesses to lose even a portion of their sales value, they chose a subscription model to help small business owners keep as much money in their own pockets as possible or grow the businesses together.
Because Klick Africa wants to grow alongside its sellers and vendors, merchants won’t pay subscription fees for the first three months.
On fostering community and visibility among merchants, I spoke with Little Tulips Kids Spa, one of Klick Africa's clients. The Lagos-based mobile spa offers services, including kid-friendly manicures, pedicures, and movie specials, to kids 2 to 16 at celebrations, play dates, and children's events.
Iniye Emelife, Tulips CEO, is constantly looking into new ways to increase its visibility and wants to continue building its database of loyal customers and clients as a brand.
“So being on the platform is a great way to expose our business. This way, we will have a better chance of reaching our target audience that we do not already have, and we can use this partnership and the platform to reach out to more people and encourage them to use it,” Emelife says.
B.Claire Kids — another company onboarded on the Klick platform — is a retail store that sells baby essentials like feeding items and sensory toys.
The company chose Klick Africa because Bunmi Ali (CEO) thought it was a “fantastic idea” to have a platform for mothers and children. She expects to increase awareness of her brand and then sell more products.
Klick Africa also wants to support female business owners.
Per the African Development Bank, 25.9% of women in sub-Saharan Africa are starting or running a business. This means Africa now has the highest proportion of female business owners globally.
A National Bureau of Statistics report (PDF) states that women own 40% of the companies in Nigeria. The report shows that women-led MSMEs significantly contribute to economic growth and job creation.
Consequently, Klick Africa wants to promote these women-led businesses in Nigeria. Also, the co-founders say they can identify with and comprehend the challenges of managing work-life balance and being a female-owned small business.
Built by seasoned experts with a love for children
Bhojwani is a certified chartered accountant with over nine years of accounting experience. She has extensive knowledge and experience in management, sales, marketing, and business operations.
She majored in management studies at Nottingham University Business School and earned a Master's in International Management from King's College London in 2009. Before relocating to Lagos, she worked in London, where she also got certified as a chartered accountant.
Chugani, on the other hand, majored in economics at Royal Holloway, University of London. She worked for three years at Rabobank, a multinational banking corporation, after her three-year economics degree in 2005.
In 2008, she moved to Credit Suisse, an investment bank, where she worked for nine years spending the first five in London and the next in New York before returning to London for her last three years.
Chugani is a seasoned professional with over 17 years of experience in varied fields such as banking, client relationships, and retail.
The co-founders met in January 2017 through mutual friends and connected over the difficulties of starting a business in Lagos. Before Klick Afrca, they have separately launched three small businesses.
For example, in 2021, Bhojwani launched Cuddle Club Nigeria, a brand focused on high-quality and sustainable products for children aged 0 to 5.
In the same year, Chugani founded Little Picassos, a business specialising in wholesale arts and crafts for kids.
In October 2022, Little Picassos held Sip and Shop, a marketplace event where children could enjoy themselves while purchasing necessities. It was there that Chugani came up with the concept for Klick Africa.
How Klick Africa plans to address challenges
Transportation and last-mile delivery services are all part of Nigeria's logistics infrastructure, which can be expensive and unreliable. Online retailers may experience delays and higher operating costs due to urban traffic congestion and poor road systems.
However, Klick Africa is considering including a premium logistics provider with a pan-African base on its website. Its ongoing negotiations with a provider have reached an advanced stage so they are almost set to offer seamless logistics services.
"We are also looking to offer competitive logistics rates. Our website will have a pickup option. Thus, it goes beyond delivery. There'll also be a pickup feature,” Chugani reveals.
The startup will integrate Google Maps into its platform to notify customers when they are near a vendor. Knowing their distance from the vendor will help them decide whether to choose a pick-up. Customers who live closer to a vendor will benefit because they can pick up the item themselves without paying a logistics fee.
However, it can be challenging to gain customers’ trust because of ongoing worries around online fraud, fake goods, and data security. But Bhojwani believes having the trust of their merchants and customers makes Klick Africa stand out.
The platform plans to integrate an escrow service to ensure the security of transactions.
Since many of its sellers occasionally import goods from other nations, the online marketplace is well aware of the volatility of the exchange rate. Thus, the company plans to help them save as much money as possible.
The startup has a policy that will evolve along with business growth, even though it cannot alter the macroeconomic environment.
“So, we want to guide them as much as possible through these changes. We have talked extensively with our logistics provider about providing preferred rates and delivery rates because of this,” Bhojwani says.
The company is launching a website, but there are plans to develop an application.
“All of these are currently in our pipeline. It is also like, you know, simplifying things for parents. I have always felt that cutting out the time [spent on shopping online] makes parenting simpler and easier and makes me a better parent,” Chugani shares.
Currently bootstrapped, Klick Africa plans to onboard 1,000 vendors and 10,000 customers by the end of 2023.
With a team strength of six, the online marketplace plans to grow to 25 in the next six to twelve months.
“We were very confident because we are one of the pioneers in this field. We’re not aware of anyone else doing this, especially in Nigeria. We have discovered an issue that countless mothers and carers face, and we are very optimistic that this will be a very profitable market space,” Chungani concludes.