EXCLUSIVE: Rocket Internet To Launch E-Commerce Site in Nigeria

We’ve learnt that Rocket Internet, a German-based incubator is planning to launch a new e-commerce service in Nigeria, with huge potential to compete in the West African region’s e-commerce market.

In case you don’t know, Rocket Internet is one of Europe’s most powerful internet businesses founded in 2007 by two brothers Oliver Samwer and Alexander Samwer, and have launched over 38 Internet companies across 58 countries, according to GigaOM.

Some of the online ventures on its stable include Wimdu (holiday accommodation, a Airbnb clone), Zalando (fashion, a Zappos clone) and FoodPanda (food delivery). It was recently reported by TheNextWeb that Rocket Internet would soon launch a price comparison site called PricePanda in South-East Asia.

Already, Rocket Internet has a presence in South Africa having launched its hotel accommodation service, Wimdu; its cosmetics site, GlossyBox; its Zappos clone, Zando, a clothing brand; its IKEA-clone, 5rooms.com, offering kitchenware; and Dropgifts, its social gifting tool launching soon.

But Rocket Internet is expanding its footprints beyond South Africa.

According to TechNewsEurope, Rocket Internet “is actively recruiting for the region of “Sub Sahara Africa” and does not stop with South Africa but recruits for Nigeria as well.”

I did a little digging and found that Rocket Internet now has a Managing Director in Nigeria since March 2012: Raphael Afaedor, an MBA from Havard Business School.

Afaedor, a native Ghanaian who lives in Nigeria has had extensive experience in the online services market having worked at one of the world’s largest employment websites, Monster.com where he managed internet product development and marketing across 18 European countries.

He is one of the pioneers in the e-commerce space in Nigeria having launched QluQlu, a daily deals site (now defunct). But it is likely that Afaedor has given up his daily deals startup to head Rocket Internet’s operations in Nigeria. [I’ve reached out to him for his comment and will update this post].

For now, we’re not sure how Rocket Internet would be entering the Nigerian market, but my guess is that it would be launching a fashion/clothing brand in Nigeria soon.

Or perhaps it could be venturing into daily deals in order to compete with Dealdey. After all, the company sold its own daily deals site, City Deals to Groupon, so they might be looking to explore Nigeria’s nascent daily deals market.

But, then, Rocket Internet could be planning a price comparision site. We don’t know yet. But what we do know is that, the company is launching an e-commerce service soon.

That said, with the huge success of its online fashion brand, Zalando —  arguably Europe’s biggest e-commerce site — with valuations around half a billion dollars, its strengths in pulling in funding, as well as its expansions across Europe, Asia, South America and Africa, we could just see the company launch an online fashion brand in Nigeria soon.

Besides, there’s really no strong online fashion brand in Nigeria at the moment that caters to the fashion needs of Nigerians. As TechNewsEurope notes: “the most populated country of Africa (+150 Million) is not yet covered with online models.”

While I’m not sure, it could be called Zalando, as already, the domain name zalando.com.ng redirects to its main site, but of course, this could just be a way to rule out domain squatting on the Zalando brand which has since been launched in Germany, the UK, Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.

Or it might just be a local brand name. We’ll see.

Whatever the case, while many still think of Rocket Internet as a European phenomenon, the reality is that its rocket has quietly landed in Nigeria already — and needs to be kept an eye on.

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