In May of 2000, I moved to Atlanta with 2 suitcases, a bag of toiletries, a newly minted degree and delusions of grandeur. Coming from Tidewater Virginia, everything in Atlanta was fresh and fast. People jogged. Everyone drove a luxury car. You could quit your job at noon and by 4pm land a new one! I had everything I would ever want or need in Atlanta…except for a car. I rode MARTA faithfully (and grudgingly) for three years.
It was also in the year 2000 that the Dot Com Era had taken off in earnest. Because of Atlanta’s constricted (and inconvenient) public transportation system, the online world served a life-line to the rest of humanity outside of the confines of my shared Buckhead apartment. Thanks to our trusty dial-up connection, suddenly I could shop online, find jobs, visit virtual chat rooms and download music…as long as nobody was on the phone. It was in 2000 that I discovered Overstock.com, which quickly became my go-to online market for virtually anything I needed. If I needed a new rain coat in the midst of a torrential downpour outside, I’d sit at my desk and order it. If I needed a new set of pots because my roommate had burned rice in it for the nth time, I clicked away. I even ordered my first set of dining room chairs online, all conveniently shipped to my front door. (No way I was hauling chairs and boxes of pans on the backseat of the bus!)
It think back to my 20-something year old self and I’ll be honest: It never occurred to me fourteen years ago that there would ever be an e-commerce site in Ghana. I never thought it would work. Our cities –apart from Tema – are not built on any sort of grid, mail came (and still does come) to PO Boxes rather than to your home, and in 2000 most of us were still using pay-per-minute phone cards to contact folks back home! I figured it would “be nice” to have online shopping in Ghana, but that’s all it would ever remain – a wistful fantasy.
Guess what? Fast forward a decade or more and someone figured out how to make e-commerce work in Ghana.
Like many of today’s most robust startups Roger Adjadi was a student at the University of Ghana at Legon when he conjured the idea for RMart. He began by setting up an e-commerce site online that served other university students in the country from Legon to KNUST. Working with EMS – a subsidiary of the Ghana Postal Service (GPS) – Roger developed a model for delivery of goods and services built around convenience. He overcame the challenges of sub-par urban planning by employing a system already in place (the GPS) and combining it with cellular technology. If the delivery driver encounters any issues locating his drop point, he/she merely needs to call the customer to verify the location. When he graduated from Legon, he expanded his idea from targeting the student market and taking it to a wider customer base.
The linchpin of Roger’s business model is and has always security, which is how RMart distinguishes itself from Ghana’s other mega-online merchandizer, Tonaton.com. Whereas Tonaton (which literally translates as “buy and sell”) is an online classified platform that models itself more along the lines of an Ebay or Craigslist, where individuals can buy and sell used products or excess merchandise, R-Mart exclusively serves as a platform to purchase from vendors who have been verified by Ghana’s Registrar-General. This means that the consumer has the confidence that the product they are buying online is precisely as they see it online and has a greater chance of redress should the item not turn out as expected or promise. Tonaton offers no such guarantees, since the consumer is purchasing not just from reputable companies, but from individuals as well. And RMart’s website is verified as completely secure which means a lot to anyone who has more than ₵200 in their personal account. With e-fraud and 419 running rampant across the globe, shoppers can trust their purchases as well as their finances are guarded from infiltration from nefarious forces of evil.
If it sounds like I’m doing a commercial for RMart, I absolutely am. As a Ghanaian living in the Diaspora, RMart will soon prove to be an invaluable tool, just as Overstock.com was to me when I was a car-less Johnny Just Come to Atlanta. There are a thousand ways in which this service is beneficial to adopters both in Ghana and abroad. I’m thinking of Father’s Day, for instance. I haven’t been able to purchase a proper gift for my dad in years (the challenge being the expense of mailing an item from a different continent and his unwillingness to drive into Accra to check his mail), but through RMart’s delivery service and secure website, I can purchase and pay for a gift for him from the comfort of my living room and it will be delivered on time to him in the comfort of his.
I am definitely looking into using RMart as my vendor of choice to sell my books, as I believe it will solve the challenge for many an indie author’s distribution woes. Ghana’s publishing industry is lagging, and it’s like pulling teeth to get one’s books on shelves as prime shelf space is reserved for “better known” (read Western) authors. RMart will provide a level convenience and professionalism that Amazon affords my US and UK readers.
You can visit R-Mart at www.rmart.com.gh to learn more about the company and to view their product offering. They offer competitive pricing, great customer service and their site is easy to navigate.
Are you big into online shopping? Do you have options like this in your country of origin? How reliable are they? Let’s discuss when you’ve had a chance to look at it!