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Jumia’s game plan – meet Sam Chappatte, the firm’s MD

Sam Chappatte, the firm’s managing director, hopes they will be selling huge volumes of everyday products in five years

Faith Gachobe @wangechigachobe

Jumia’s Managing Director Sam Chappatte’s first trip to Kenya was at the age of six and in a way he never left. As a young boy this adventure stuck in his mind and when he grew up he somehow knew he wanted to work in the African continent.

After getting his bachelor’s degree in Ireland and a Master’s in Management at a French university, Chappatte began his career at the Boston Consultancy Group, based in the UK. He worked at the firm for four years.

Chappatte was working mostly in media and retail. He was doing a lot of work in media companies and dealing with big retailers in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Chappatte always took any assignment that allowed him to come to Africa.

To that effect, he did a lot of work in Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Nigeria while still at the consultancy group. His mind was always drifting to his dream to work in an African country.

He then began looking for the right opportunity to come to the continent. He was specifically looking for the right business opportunities that would bring him here. He did a lot of research looking for big corporates and organisations that he would work with before he stumbled upon Jumia.

Right call

The half-British, half-Swiss from the UK, who has lived in many countries including Botswana, Belgium and Qatar, immediately knew that this was the right call. After spending a lot of time learning about Jumia, Chappatte finally got an opportunity to meet Jumia founders in 2014. He later went to Ghana, where he started as the country manager.

“Ghana was small at the time with only 10 orders a day and we managed to grow it to 100 orders a day in three -and-a-half months in 2015,” revealed Chappatte. The secret was having an energetic team, ambition and winning some key vendors.

Although he really enjoyed his job of trying to unlock deals and partnerships for the start-up countries, the opportunity to come to Kenya arose last year. “I was excited about both the business opportunity and the chance to come back to Kenya,” said Chappatte.

Big push

Over the last year, he said the most exciting thing is the increase in engagement and ownership the company has achieved. The other thing he is proud of is that Jumia has made a big push to diversify and move to new categories that include everyday products that have made them more relevant to their customers.

Jumia’s assortment has gone from 30,000 products to 150,000 products. Jumia so far has the same range as a major supermarket. It is no longer the place you go to every two years to get a phone; it has become a place customers frequent every week to get everyday products.

Chappatte hopes that by the end of the year the range will be two or three times more, with the aim to have one million products in about 12 months.

One of the biggest challenges Chappatte has encountered is the time it takes to change behaviour. “Kenyan consumers are increasingly connected to the Internet, but we have hardly scratched the surface.

For the number of Kenyans who buy online, getting them to trust online retail is not an easy task,” Chappatte admitted. In five years, the managing director hopes Jumia will be selling huge volumes of everyday products.

He hopes Jumia will be available offline for many across the country that have no access to Internet. Brands “Outside of Nairobi we will be working with some of the big brands in Kenya using our technology.

I hope to have grown five to 10 percent of online retail,” Chappatte said. Prior to his appointment, as the Jumia Country MD, Chappatte was managing Jumia’s New Countries, overseeing operations in six countries; Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania, Senegal and Algeria.

Work without play is never good for anyone. In 2015, Chappatte’s love for travelling almost turned tragic when on a trip to Mount Everest he was caught up in an avalanche triggered by the Nepal earthquake.

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