Zero to Scale: Abdoul Kadry Diallo — Co-founder & CMO at ANKA

In this edition, Abdoul Kadry Diallo — co-founder & CMO at ANKA talks about ANKA's growth story, the importance of hiring a CTO and the e-commerce landscape in Africa.

Zero to Scale: Abdoul Kadry Diallo — Co-founder & CMO at ANKA

Zero To Scale (ZTS) is a web series that focuses on the journey of African founders and their startups from day zero until the day they achieve scale. ZTS is produced in partnership with OneRoute, an all-in-one tool for your customer communication needs.

ANKA (formerly Afrikrea) is an Ivorian e-commerce startup. ANKA — which means 'Ours' in Bambara and Djoula — is building an infrastructure dedicated to powering e-commerce for its 13,000+ sellers exporting literally "all things made of Africa" to a global community.

ANKA has grown its retailer base to include sellers from 47 out of 54 African countries and completed over $35 million in transactions across 174 countries worldwide. More than 80% are women who have grown their revenue by 50% on average since joining the ANKA community.

Recently, ANKA raised a $6.2 million pre-Series A bringing its total funding to $8.1 million. In this edition of the ZTS series, Abdoul Kadry Diallo — co-founder & CMO at ANKA talks about the origin, growth and prospects of the startup.

What’s ANKA’s origin?
We started our business with Afrikea – an online marketplace. During the pandemic, we were trying to find solutions for our sellers on the marketplace. We made partnerships with both DHL and VISA to enable the shipping and payment links services. With this experiment, we noticed that our sellers had more sales on the online marketplace and more people began to sign up as sellers on the platform. So, we decided to be more intentional by filling the full omnichannel experience of an African seller

Why did Afrikea pivot to ANKA?
We pivoted because we intend to help more industries than fashion and beauty, to manage more efficiently multiple sales channels.

The main goal is to provide a more robust infrastructure to enable our merchants to effectively carry out their commercial activities. Rebranding to ANKA was almost a natural move for us, following the increased demands by our merchants.

Even if we have a high demand for African products, without a proper logistics and payment structure, it will be difficult to meet these demands; that’s why we choose to focus on that.

How do ANKA and Afrikea work?
At ANKA, merchants have customized online storefronts [like Shopify], this enables them to showcase their products and when people want to buy them, we provide affordable and seamless shipping services; For instance, a 2kg parcel from Nigeria can be shipped to the US or UK for less than $20 - this includes DHL pickup and global tracking.

With our payment infrastructure, it is easy for merchants to receive payments from all over the world, through widespread tools like WhatsApp and Instagram. And best of all, all payments and funds from the different channels are on secure online wallet that you can also use to pay for shipping and receive payouts in local methods like instant bank transfers or our VISA card.

What has been the growth so far at ANKA?
It’s been overwhelming, our subscriber base more than tripled in a year and volumes have triple digits % of growth.. As I mentioned earlier, we had more sign-ups from merchants after we were able to incorporate payment options through VISA and swift shipment through DHL.

Our goal is to empower our merchants to export African products, especially our female merchants — 80% of the merchants on our platform are women.

Since 2016, ANKA has increased its transactions to over $35 million in 170 countries worldwide, with sellers from 47 out of 54 African countries. Currently, we record over 500,000 visits a month on our platform with the majority of customers located in Europe and North America.

What are some of the challenges you have faced while building this product?
We started Afrikea in France, and we moved to Africa in 2017. In engaging with the merchants on our platform, we have noticed that African countries are different; For instance, the challenges of sellers in Nigeria might not be the same as that of Kenya. Each country is almost a new market! So, the main challenge is building solutions that will adapt to each locality.

Related: How these six African founders scaled their startups

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How did hiring a CTO impact ANKA?
My co-founder [Moulaye Taboure] and I had no technical background or e-commerce experience. It was difficult to build an online marketplace without technical skills so we brought on Luc who has over 15 years as a software engineer within the e-commerce space; it was then easier for us to build the logistics and payments infrastructure that actually spur the platform to scale.

Does Africa have the tech talents required to build a viable product like Alibaba, as ANKA desires?
We have the talents in Africa. Usually, African talents get to work for bigger corporations so it's usually difficult in finding talents in Africa because not many want to take the risk to invest their time to work with a first-time founder.

What are your general assessments about investment in Africa’s e-commerce?
Well, the rate of investment is getting better but entrepreneurs have a lot of work to do to convince investors that there is a lot of potential in the sector. However, we are seeing more African startups attract sizable investments from foreign investors.

What lessons have you learnt?
Listening to our merchants! This enables us to effectively improve on our product so that it can achieve their needs. Pivoting to ANKA was natural, but it was enabled through our conversations with our merchants.

ANKA is currently hiring for various roles. Apply here.

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