CEO of Kenya’s Duhqa talks about its retail-tech solution and winning $500k at FTxSDG challenge

Ejike Kanife

While eCommerce has continued to grow in Africa over the years, online shopping on the continent is still well under the global average. Only about 35% of Africans shop online. This simply shows that many Africans (about 65%) still depend on retailers and small shop owners for their daily household needs like groceries, utilities and more.

Getting these items from retailers could, however, be very expensive for low-income individuals and households due to the profit-focus of retailers and most especially, difficulty in obtaining these items from manufacturers and suppliers. This is where a retail-tech startup like Duhqa comes in.

Duhqa was founded in January 2021 by Victor Maina (CEO), Catherine Masolia, Dudu Moilwa and Davis Angwenyi. This was after an initial product development stage in 2020. It is a B2B end-to-end supply chain and distribution technology marketplace that connects retailers to manufacturers.

In a chat with me, the CEO, Victor Maina said he and his team members were prompted to launch the solution because they were also affected by the problem.

“We are addressing a huge problem in Africa where retailers/microstores selling to more than 490 million people must close their shops and travel 20km to buy inventory. This is because the big distributors and wholesalers do not deliver to shops their size. Doing this leads to wasted time for the retailers. It also means additional costs to them and their customers due to transportation. Finally, it means they lose the income they would have earned if their shop was open. This means their businesses cannot grow,” Victor said.

Victor Maina, CEO and Co-Founder of Duhqa

He said Duhqa is optimising Africa’s micro stores with technology through its app. Asides from offering inventory solutions, the startup also offers financing to the retailers. This is in a bid to help them restock more at a time, rather than making return trips to the app.

In the end, the goal is to help the retailers remain in their shops and stores and focus on their core functions of trading with ease. This will afford them the opportunity to improve her family’s economic status.

With our solution, the retailer, through our App and at their convenience, orders the goods they need, obtains financing to grow their business and gets the ordered goods delivered free of charge to their shop.  

Victor Maina

Financial Times x SDG winner

Duhqa was recently announced as one of the winners of the Financial Times Sustainable Development Goals Challenge. The competition is targeted at early-stage startups and entrepreneurs from emerging markets. They will be expected to proffer innovative solutions that will help surmount the problems inhibiting the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Duhqa, the only winner from Africa, claimed the prize for the Reduced Inequalities category. This is for their role in helping small struggling shops selling consumer products solve their procurement needs, financing, and logistics.

Catherine Masolia, Co-Founder of Duhqa

And the excited CEO said the FT SDG win means a lot to the startup because the win promotes its brand beyond Kenya and Africa. He said that reducing inequality is something Duhqa is passionate about and remains committed to playing its part to make a contribution to addressing it.

“It’s a stamp of approval for the work we are doing in the African space to reduce inequalities and bring a positive impact. This award means a lot to us as an organisation. That we can be seen as a force for change when it comes to reduction of inequalities, such a huge global challenge, and be heard on a global stage,” he said.

Apart from the recognition, Victor said the startup is also on the path to receive $500,000 from this win. This means a lot to the founders who have been bootstrapping the company since they launched the product development in 2020 and started revenue generation in 2021.

He said the funds will go into expanding the startup’s reach and driving its business growth for the impact to reach as many people as possible. 

Longterm plans

Duhqa team

For a company already showing great promise despite just starting up, there’s every reason to believe the future could only be bright for Duhqa. Just like every other tech startup, its founders have plans to raise funding, scale and eventually expand beyond its current market.

And according to Victor Maina, the startup has very lofty plans for the future.

“Duhqa’s long term plan is to grow the business to be present in over 10 African countries in just three years. We will also be innovating in the fintech, B2C ecommerce and cold-chain spaces since they are solutions to the African market that are really needed,” he said.

Duhqa has already received seed funding from Techstars. We expect the next stage of funding to follow soon.

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