Sukhiba Connect, a Kenyan social commerce startup, has raised $1.5 million in funding to expand beyond the country's borders.
CRE Venture Capital led the round with participation from Antler, EQ2 Ventures, Goodwater Capital, Chandaria Capital, and several angel investors.
Founded by Ananth Gudipati (CEO) and Abhinav Solipuram (CTO) in 2021, Sukhiba has developed a B2B conversational commerce tool that lets companies sell to their clients via Meta's messaging service, WhatsApp.
When Sukhiba first started, it was a community commerce platform that combined buyer orders and made it easier for manufacturers to purchase in bulk. Gudipati says the asset-heavy and capital-intensive model forced them to switch to conversational commerce in the middle of the previous year.
Now, sellers can send notifications, group customers, manage orders, and take local payment options like M-PESA, a mobile money service.
Customers can peruse product catalogues, add or remove items from carts, and even complete the checkout process without ever leaving WhatsApp.
In 2021, Kenya was the top African nation on the continent for WhatsApp usage, with 97% of Internet users there using the messaging service. Internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 reportedly preferred WhatsApp over other social media platforms, according to a survey done in the third quarter of 2022.
Due to its widespread use, WhatsApp has made communication for communities, including buyers and sellers, easier. Although the messaging app includes some features that allow businesses to create in-app stores, some features are missing, and localisation is required.
Gudipati claims that although Sukhiba and other social commerce startups, such as Tushop and Kapu, are helping to close some of these gaps, there is still a lot of unrealised potential.
Sukhiba has created a B2B conversational commerce tool that allows businesses to reach out to and sell to their customers via WhatsApp.
According to the company, over 30 businesses have used WhatsApp commerce, most of which are large distributors and manufacturers serving nearly 15,000 MSMEs, including retailers.
Gudipati claims manufacturers use Sukhiba to help their sales teams expand their customer base and reach new areas, as most of their sales teams are offline.
Sukhiba has also created several tools that enable manufacturers to customise in-app support based on routes, for example, by allocating customers to sales representatives.