By YUSUF MOHAMMED
E-commerce is changing the way Nigerians live and work. This may not be surprising given the challenges facing the average Nigerians today who have to contend with some many hurdles both in business and ordinary living. Some of these challenges are economic and regulatory. As a result of the rising rate of unemployment in the most young people are longer looking forward to paid jobs; instead they are thinking of self employment but the problems of capital, taxes, rent and other hostile business factors task their courage.
E-commerce sites are taking over the business landscape. Physical stores for retail businesses are gradually giving way to e-commerce, because online businesses are easier and cheaper to set up. Virtually everything can be now be bought or sold online from clothes, electronics, cars to accessories, and the latest fad is now food.
A few years ago, hunger could only be quenched by either cooking yourself or walking to a restaurant to buy cooked food. That is no longer the case with the advent of online restaurant business. Now a person could sit in the comfort of his living room or office and have any food of his choice delivered to him.
With a mobile phone, you could start up almost any business of your choice. One thing no human being can do without is food. Man is expected to have at least three square meals in a day.
This innovation has come at a time when Nigeria’s economy is in a bad shape and the population is far more than what it was a few years ago. Nigeria continues to grow faster than many other countries with similar size. When it comes to the average Nigerian citizen, the country is relatively young. Youths make up most of the population. Graduates are churned out from over 100 universities in Nigeria yearly with no assurance of jobs.
With the humongous population, the jobs available are not enough to cater for the teeming youth. This has led to inventiveness on the part of many young Nigerians.
In a big city like Lagos where owning or renting a shop is very expensive, e-commerce has come to the rescue.
The working-class hardly eat any meal at home during week days because they leave home too early to eat breakfast and come back too late to eat dinner except those who are married and compelled to out of duty or obligation. Most single people going through this experience would hardly bother. They have the food delivered to them either in office or at home to save themselves the ordeal of cooking after enduring the erratic traffic.
The problem is that demand is becoming higher than supply, hence the need for more restaurants. While there is limited structure for this business in the real world, coupled with the fact that these spaces are on the high side, in the digital world, there is enough space to accommodate millions of people who want to go into food business.
Taiwo Fadeyi who works in an advertising agency at Isolo in Lagos, said it is not easy to find a proper restaurant where his office is situated. But with the advent of online food, he orders for food during his lunch break.
“My lunch break is usually from 1pm to 2pm. getting food to eat was a problem before, because there is no decent restaurant around. Now finding lunch is no longer a problem for me as I order online. And I have many options with many of them springing up daily,” he said.
Priscilla Precious Ogbonna, a 25 year-old lady, who worked with Multichoice, is one of the young Nigerians into the business of online food. The name of her business is Foodienation. In a chat with BusinessHallmark, she spoke about why she went into the business and some of the challenges.
She said “I deliver food to any part of Lagos. I thought of making healthy food available and affordable to everyone who enjoys good food. Asked about the price, she said, “It is a fixed price for the food but a token to be paid for delivery. It costs N1,000. However, we have special orders that are way above N1000 depending on the quantity of customer’s order.
According to her, she went into the business because she loves to cook.
“Cooking is one thing I enjoy doing,” said Precious. “I used to do it occasionally before. You know, just whenever I felt like doing it. But now I am into it full time. I went into it full time a few months ago. On Monday it is Spaghetii, Tuesday, Plantain and Egg Sauce, Wednesday, Yam and Vegetable Sauce, Thursday Rice and Sauce and Friday is Fried Potatoes with peppered beef sauce.
“I enjoy cooking and I had friends asking me to cook for them, so I considered making a business out of it since it is something I find interesting. People always call for it,” she said.
Ivie Ehigiator is also a 25 year old lady who takes food orders from any part of Lagos. She is university graduate who have been into it for six months and she does not intend to look for a white collar job. Ehigiator prepares the food from home. The name of her business is Ivory Basket.
Speaking to BusinessHallmark, she said, “I deliver to any part of Lagos but mostly Ojodu, Ikeja, Magodo, Iseri, Ogba axis and some part of the Island. Lekki, and Victoria Island. About 80% of my customers live in these environs.
“Charges to the areas I mostly deliver to is at a fixed rate. However, new locations are charged depending on the distance.
“Some of the challenges I face are problems of availability and reliability of most logistics companies. And dealing with unstable price of most of the items I use in production without causing any inconvenience to my clients.
“I want to be able to still give quality meals at the affordable price that I have promised my customers.”
While it is a business that is dominated by young ladies, there are some young men who are also into it. One of them is 24 year-old Buhari Yesufu, a former banker with a Micro-Finance Bank.
Yesufu is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Allen Avenue Lagos based food vendor, a company that deals with delivering Chinese food. Unlike most Nigerian online food dealers, he decided to delve into an uncharted territory.
This young entrepreneur told BusinessHallmark that he makes a profit of N500, 000 to N6, 000,000 monthly after deducting salaries and other expenses.
Yesufu said, “I looked for a business that the demand will always be high and one thing all humans and all animals need to do is eat. We all need to eat. And specifically in Nigeria, there are not many delivery services that deliver Chinese food late night.
“We are still very new and do not have a lot of orders like a lot of companies and we also don’t do conventional food like others.
“When we started, we were actually making more but averagely after salary and all other deductions, I will say roughly N500, 000 to N600, 000 every month.
Speaking of some of the challenges, he said “Staff is a major problem. It was difficult at first finding people who want to work at night as that was how we started. It was a night business before. Making sure we get food to people on time is a problem, especially with the Nigerian police who can make it difficult for your riders who deliver food to customers.”