Lagos-based startup Frakem is looking to give consumers the “power of choice” when it comes to buying building materials through its online store.
Launched in October of last year, Frakem is an e-commerce platform for building materials, seeking to take the hassle out of purchasing the necessary equipment and materials for a building job.
“To buy materials for building projects or renovation work one has to move from one physical store to another, or travel a long distance, wasting time, energy and resources. This is more difficult for individuals with busy schedules, who does not have time to look for these products in the bricks and mortar market,” Frakem co-founder Festus Nwagbo told Disrupt Africa.
“These are not conventional everyday products; buyers usually sacrifice their whole day moving around searching for those that meet their taste and quality. Sometimes they are at the mercy of middlemen like plumbers or contractors who go to the market to buy what they think will be good for the customer with little or no knowledge of their taste.”
Nwagbo’s answer is Frakem, which aims to give customers the “power of choice” when picking products.
“This way they take control of their projects through convenient online shopping. Our business is here to disrupt the status quo in this age-old industry, that is, to change the traditional way people source and buy these products,” he said.
It is a busy space – Gibadi is just one of the companies operating in a similar area in Nigeria. But Nwagbo believes Frakem, which has over 100 active paying customers and has recorded a 40 per cent repeat buy rate – can stay ahead of the game with its aggressive but budget-limited marketing strategy.
“We are succeeding in trumping our competition both in online presence and other activities. We presently offer a free plumbing advisory service. This has set us apart as the leader in our market over our competitors,” he said.
Funded by the founders, Frakem has already received a number of accolades, gaining some cash from the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) and taking part in SpeedUPAfrica.
“We have also recorded remarkable growth in sales within a short period of operation and we have achieved 70 per cent of our revenue projection for the year within eight months of operations,” Nwagbo said. “Our online presence has increased exponentially within this period. All these point towards strong evidence of market demand.”
Revenue comes in various streams, including commissions on sales, advertising and plumbing installation contracts. Frakem does have expansion plans, but will scale in stages.
“In the short term, we want to have an offline presence by opening a showroom where we can display some of our products for our customers to see, feel, and touch,” Nwagbo said.
“In the medium term, we are looking at expanding into other areas of building materials, such as roofing sheets, blocks, cement, paint and wood. We have started discussing with potential partners. We also plan to have pick up points in other states apart from Lagos.”
In the long term, the startup’s goal is to establish the first ever plumbing academy in Africa to train youths on the latest technology of plumbing installation.
“This will usher in a crop of professional plumbers in Africa and maybe plumbing will then be perceived as a professional job. This will create lots of jobs and become another revenue source for us. We have started putting in place frameworks to implement this,” Nwagbo said.
Frakem, like many other e-commerce companies, has had to implement cash on delivery (COD), but this has proven difficult at times.
“This happens when a customer rejects delivered goods for one reason or another or is not available at the point of delivery after confirming availability. You end up losing the delivery cost for that business,” Nwagbo said.
Though the e-commerce business has its ups and downs, he said it is without doubt a revolutionary business that has changed how people shop for products.
“It has come to stay. It is a very big market that has not been fully explored. There are many opportunities in the e-commerce space and many niches to explore. People just need to look deep to see the potentials,” he said.
There are all the more opportunities in the building materials niche, which Nwagbo said is big overseas but only just developing in Africa. And he wants Frakem to be at the forefront of it.
“Frakem is a disrupter. We are revolutionising the way building materials are sourced and purchased.”
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