Entrepreneurs / #ForbesEntrepreneurs

September 16, 2018,   10:51 AM

Dubai-Based Online Fashion Retailer Klasha Launches West Africa Service

Abisola Owolawi

I write about business, entrepreneurship, innovation, wealth and culture with a focus on global impact. Innovative, groundbreaking ideas and the structures that drive them over time, inform my subject choices. I cover industries that span manufacturing, service, technology, entertainment, healthcare and aviation among others, across Africa for Forbes Middle East. I have previously worked as Forbes Africa’s West Africa Correspondent, a wealth contributor on the annual Forbes rich list and as a CNBC Africa business contributor. FULL BIO

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As one of the most powerful consumer groups in the retail market, millennials are undoubtedly keeping retailers on their toes as the high street fashion industry once dominated by brick and mortar labels have since seen a shift in consumer fashion purchases. From merchandising to e-commerce, online fashion retailers are following today’s millennial through affordable fashion, online social influence and consumer convenience. 

In spite of the rewards, servicing this fast-paced and evolving demographic comes with great responsibility, as today’s millennials want their fast fashion, even faster. Dubai based global fashion e-commerce platform, Klasha, run by 26-year-old British-Nigerian Jessica Anuna, believes it has found a gap to fill in West Africa citing quicker shipping and local currency payments as its core edge.

Where it can take three to four weeks for Africa-based customers to receive orders from Western retailers, Klasha wants to get it to them in a matter of days.

As savvy quick fashion business strategies have earned great rewards over time with more dynamic models than high-street brands, the focus on affordability, quick turnarounds, and restock cannot be lost in order to accommodate the millennial’s wallet limitations and accelerate the retailer’s growth.

This also exists amidst a growing cause and consciousness for sustainable fashion and the use of eco-friendly materials – causing attentive retailers to zero in on every aspect of their supply chain.

For Anuna, many parts have to synergize for recurrent returns.

“Our main goal is to connect the young millennial consumer in Africa to the global e-commerce economy," she says. "We think global e-commerce can be better in this regard. Right now, the young population want access to e-commerce and are looking for it in brands that can’t ship to Africa. We want to be here for the young generation and give them that access to the global economy on a digital scale. A lot of fast fashion sites abroad do not offer payments in Naira, Ghanaian Cedi or Kenyan Shillings but we do. We also offer delivery in 1-5 days as opposed to other platforms that ship in 21-30 days. We want to give the millennial consumer living in an emerging market a place where they can discover and buy affordable and great quality fashion online. Customers want a path of least resistance in e-commerce, so giving consumers access to great service alongside a great product is core to our vision.”

With a $120,000 investment from Startup Accelerator, Techstars, and Dubai-based Ginco Investments, Klasha was launched in August. The platform has warehouses in the U.K and Nigeria.

Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana and the Ivory Coast are its current African target markets while the U.K distribution center services the rest of the world.

Anuna was also one of 25 African participants selected under the Alibaba and United Nations Conference on Trade Development’s (UNCTAD) eFounders Initiative last year. The platform has its Headquarters in Dubai, offices in Lagos, and a Los Angeles based studio.

“The Middle East is an emerging market where consumer behaviors are comparable to that of the African consumer. For example, cash on delivery, increased customer care and support, localized language, and culturally sensitive content were things we were able to harness and take it back to the continent,” says Anuna.

No stranger to the supply chain and digital marketing world, Anuna’s professional background at global e-commerce platforms such as Amazon and Net-A-Porter coupled with entrepreneurial activities in an online fashion magazine called Anuna Rose and a China-based FMCG export company called Restock China, makes her highly optimistic about the disruptive fast-fashion space in emerging markets.

Starting in Nigeria, which has a population of over 180 million and an annual fashion import spend of about $4 billion, makes sense because it is an attractive market.

It is no easy task however, owing to challenges such as multi-currency reconciliation, foreign exchange volatility, and rural logistics, which are all prevalent in the wider African market. Anuna cites the use of technology, automated logistics, and processes to help with scaling. The use of AI and big data is also emphasized.

“Coming from my time in China, where the e-commerce industry is so sophisticated, there is so much to be done in markets like Africa comparatively, where it is still at a nascent stage," says Anuna. "The use of big data from the merchant side to learn more about customers and consumers for instance, is becoming more understandable. The opportunity for companies to come in and make a difference still exists and that is what attracts me to this market. In 10 years, we hope to have a presence throughout the whole of Africa. We also hope to have the payment infrastructure in place to accept all African currencies. Customers want a path of least resistance in e-commerce, so giving consumers access to great service alongside a great product is core to our vision."

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