Friday, March 11, 2011

A New Era

My name is Michael Bwalya, I am the Ordering and Supplier Payments Sales Assistant.Since December 2010, Mobile Transactions had been developing an online ordering system that allows retailers to order products from suppliers. Initially retailers needed to have internet access on their premises, or needed the direct help of Mobile transactions field staff who carried laptops and wireless moderns to facilitate the transaction or on occasion they had to go to internet cafes. This posed obvious challenges on all the parties involved, however February 2, 2011 marked the dawn of a new era when the service was introduced and could be accessed on any WAP enabled mobile phone and the first transaction of this nature in the history of this country was made when a retailer successfully ordered 200 bags of mealie meal. This might very well be the dawn of a new era for retailers and suppliers on the Zambian markets and a rather distinct step towards a cashless Africa.


The product has been well received on the Zambian market, the number of orders made on mobile phones has been rising since the first transaction last month, as noted by Thulasy Balasubramaniam, the product manager “the product saves retailers the trouble of running into town searching for the right price. The system makes market prices more transparent, reduces the risk of carrying cash in hand and for the suppliers the product and gives them access to new retailers”.

The product has so far been used by over 30 retailers in Lusaka and a little over 5 retailers on the Coppperbelt, and all these are World Food Program voucher retailers who are expected to redeem electronic vouchers at least twice every month and thus have access to electronic credit and can easily make orders. Further these retailers are guaranteed at least over 200 beneficiaries with electronic vouchers every month, and this enables them to make large volumes of orders on the system.

However the planned ending of the WFP voucher programme by WFP has posed a challenge for the retailers and the team (Kanji, Chris and I) Vouchers provided the retailers with the much needed electronic credit to facilitate the transaction, and provided a market for the retailers to make huge orders of mainly maizemeal for the WFP beneficiaries on the system. However even in the absence of the electronic vouchers we have had a dozen retailers who are willing to come into town and make deposits into their Zoona-Kwacha accounts so that they can be credited with electronic funds and make orders. Our challenge going forward is to implement a plan that will provide easy access to electronic credit , and further to capture retailers who may not be part of the WFP voucher program, show them the value of the service, and provide them with easy access to electronic credit.

As earlier mentioned the other challenge is to increase the volume of orders on the system especially now that the WFP voucher program has been suspended. This means providing retailers with as many products in the system as there are in their shops. One Wholesaler has so far been moving with our vision and has been supplying non WFP orders to Kanyama, Chawama, Kalingalinga Matero communities and other locations within Lusaka. The trick is to add more suppliers who are able to deliver to retailers and who stock fast moving consumable products.


As a member of the Mobile Transactions staff particularly of this team spearheading the sale of this product my vision is to see every product on the Zambian market that can be bought and sold be accessed on our system, a situation where our retailers can easily convert funds from there bank accounts into electronic credit on their Kwacha accounts only by the click of the button on there mobile phones and make orders with ease. This product has been launched on uncharted waters thus the limit should only be our lack of imagination.

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