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One of Ethiopia’s fastest-growing ecommerce and delivery platforms, Zmall is expanding its services to Juba, South Sudan, and Hargeisa, Somaliland. The East African push expected to cost the startup $350,000 will see a full-fledged launch of Zmall offering similar services with localized features.

Zmall, who joined hands with partners from the two countries to make the expansion possible, will first open shop in Juba in two months. Starting the service with nine employees and 22 motors, the startup says it has already acquired a license and has opened an office in South Sudan’s capital.

A product of local technology firm, ETTA Technology Solutions, Zmall, deliveries food from restaurants, groceries from supermarkets as well beverages, flowers, and beauty products from suppliers. The platform that aggregates suppliers while also providing package delivery service aims to be a one-stop online shop.

With a population of 11 million inhabitants and an internet penetration of 10pc, South Sudan has very few business ventures offering products and services through a digital platform. Meanwhile, the autonomous region in northern Somalia, Somaliland, has a more vibrant e-commerce landscape. Zmall’s Hargeisa office will open in four months, with a budget of 200,000 dollars.

The bootstrapped startup founded by Temesgen Geberehiwot (Ph.D.) is also embarking on regional expansion and has tripled its motors in Addis Ababa to 92. ETTA invested 7.2 million birr in buying Hero Motocorp 130 Cc motors from Tagrow Motors, a local assembler.

“We have arranged a credit scheme in which the drivers will be able to own the motors with a monthly installment of 2500 birr,” said Temesgen, who is also the managing director of the company.

Zmall came to the scene in 2019 and currently features over 170 restaurants and 10 supermarkets and has an average delivery time of 35 minutes. The company charges 50 Br for its shortest delivery distance, up to three kilometers, and 7 birr per kilometer after that.

“We have delivered 100,000 orders while transacting 50 million birr since our launch. Now we have reached transaction volume of 1 million birr per week,” said Temesgen.

Against The Trend 

While a growing number of food delivery platforms in Ethiopia are resorting to cycles, Zmall is avoiding them after an initial try.

“In Addis Ababa, cycles and e-bikes are not the most suitable way to deliver items. From uneven terrain and vastness to the need for fast deliveries, neither cycles nor e-bikes are feasible to use in Addis,” Temesgen told Shega.

Temesgen states that the new motorcycles can travel up to 45km on one liter and argues the issue of environmental friendliness is not a problem.

Past Endeavors

Before the tech company got into the delivery business, ETTA was one of the first taxi-hailing service providers in Ethiopia, and is where its name comes from, “Ethiopian Taxi.”

Launched in 2016, ETTA plugged the line on its ride-hailing business at the beginning of 2020.

“Things didn’t go as smooth as we had expected and pushed us to shift our attention to other software services,” Temesgen was quoted by Fortune Newspaper at the time. Temesgen believes ETTA’s experience with logistics has helped Zmall to become successful.

Besides Zmall, ETTA has other platforms under its portfolio. Last year it launched Madeya, an app that informs car owners with nearby gas stations’ real-time fuel availability as well as queue status.

Madeya launched with the belief that lack of information on fuel availability and queue status on stations leads drivers to waste time and fuel, is a crowd-sourced platform, available on both Play Store and App Store.

Users are rewarded for their contribution in providing real-time status updates on nearby gas stations. Madeya has started operation with selected gas stations in Addis Ababa, with plans to include all gas stations in the capital and expand to major cities in Ethiopia.

ETTA is also adding a digital store to its platform and Zmall will soon sell digital items such as content and tickets. Furthermore, Zmall, this week, have won the North Star Dubai Ethiopia Startup pitch competition organized by Laurendeau & Associates and the Dubai World Trade Center. The startup will go on to represent Ethiopia and pitch at the Supernova Challenge, which offers $200K in rewards

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Kaleab, Shega's Editor-in-Chief, Specializes in Reporting on Small Businesses, Innovation, Technology, and Startups in Ethiopia

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