Founders Spotlight:Kago Tshenyo (Founder,E-Reka)

For Kago, tech entrepreneurship was definitely a calling. After quitting his job the first time to start a business and failing in 2018, he did not let this deter him. Instead, he took lessons from that failure and tried his hand at entrepreneurship again in 2019, starting E-Reka, an online merchandise marketplace. Read more about his journey and lessons in the interview below.

In your own words, tell us who Kago Tshenyo is

Kago was born in Kopong, 30 years ago. I did both my primary and secondary schooling there, I went to Letsholo Primary School, then Kopong CJSS. I later went to Moeding College for high school. In 2010, I started my tertiary education at Botho University Gaborone to study BSc in Computing. Started my first ever business as a student in 2012, as a Promoter/Events Manager/Artists Manager. I graduated with Computer Network Engineering and Linux Technologies in 2015. I started working as a Call Centre Agent the same year and I left in 2018 to pursue my entrepreneurship dream. Things did not go according to plan so in 2019, I went back to 9-5 to pursue my career. I left a year later, now we are here.

Briefly take us through your journey to a career as a tech entrepreneur 

Tech entrepreneurship is something that fascinates me. Most of my entrepreneurial heroes are tech people, so it is a field I am a fan of, so I study it closely. My tech entrepreneurship came very late. In hindsight, I could have started a bit earlier. I started my journey in 2019; E-Reka Marketplace being my first tech startup.

What inspired you to pivot from a corporate job to entrepreneurship?

I was always interested in creating and innovating, and I think being an entrepreneur gives one the room to create freely. Even before I graduated from varsity I knew that would be the route that I would take. I started my music business in varsity, so I tasted the fruits of entrepreneurship there. I always saw corporate as a way to fund my business ideas and a bridge to my entrepreneurship dream. 

Please tell us more about your platform, E-Reka

E-Reka Marketplace is an on-demand merch printing service. We allow sellers to create and list their merch custom designs on our marketplace for free. There are no upfront costs or out of the pocket costs for sellers and you get paid a royalty when a customer buys your product. All of our products are produced on-demand, which means you don’t have to source inventory upfront—products are produced once the order is placed. The seller simply uploads their designs/mockups, chooses colours and sets a price — then we take care of the rest. When customers buy your product, we'll handle production, shipping, and customer service on your behalf— all with no upfront costs or out of the pocket costs.

What was the motivation for starting E-Reka?

E-Reka was born out of the problems I encountered in the merch business (Apparel custom printing). I have been selling merch brands offline for years. One of the challenges we experience is inventory issues. We print bulks that we are not even sure will be bought, risking losing money on redundant stock. Another issue is cash flow problems. Sometimes people take forever to pay for your product and that leaves you with no cash for the next orders. Also, it is generally hard to start a business in BW because of funding issues. So our business at E-Reka solves all these problems.

How receptive have Batswana been to the E-Reka platform?

The reception has been good. There has been scepticism here and there because our business has that “too good to be true” element so it's easy to be confused as another online scam. But overall it has been good, especially on the seller's side. On the buyer's side, I admit we still have to raise more awareness. That’s one of the challenges of a multi-level marketplace, you have to push both sides of your business. The sellers and buyers side.

E-Reka currently only retails clothes merchandise. Do you have plans to expand the offering in the future or it is just going to focus on this particular niche?

We took the approach of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. He started with books while knowing that he is going for everything. So yes, the idea is to expand to everything store in future. But for now, we would just make sure we master this niche, execute it well, get the traffic, then we would take it from there.

As an online market platform, what challenges have you come across operating in a low internet penetration having and logistically challenging place like Botswana?

It is true that we have issues with the internet and logistics. But going back to read how Jack Ma built the giant marketplace in Alibaba. You'd find out that we are ten steps further ahead than where Jack started. I mean, that man had to convince people the internet works before people knew what it was. He started his marketplace out of nothing. So reading stories like those is encouraging to us. Of course, the government could do more to make sure the internet is cheap and easily accessible. One of the biggest challenges we experience would be the general scepticism about online business in BW. Another one is delivery/shipping app/software issues. Like integrating your marketplace with shipping services for automated costs calculations. We talk a lot about the need for tech entrepreneurship, while there is a lot of work to be done on the ground for that space to flourish. For example, to get something as simple as a payment gateway in our country, can be so frustrating. On the other hand, there are developments like “fibre to the home” that need to be applauded.

How have you been approaching these challenges?

When it comes to issues of lack of shipping modules for local delivering companies, we have been setting the cost manual which is harder than just using automated software. The other issue of scepticism we deal with it through education and awareness by building communities. The more the brand is visible, the easier it is to do business with them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of e-commerce platforms like marketplaces. As E-Reka, how have you been leveraging this fact for the growth of your platform?

Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise when it comes to this area. Since the pandemic, more and more people have been more open to the idea of shopping online, so we benefited from that as well as other online marketplaces in BW. Am sure when Statistics Botswana releases their numbers, we will see that online shopping activities in BW have increased. And we still want more people even after the pandemic.

As the pandemic simmers down, the logical expectation is that online shopping will also slow down as people go back to physical shopping. As an online marketplace,how does E-Reka plan on maintaining an upward growth trajectory even after the pandemic?  

People buy convenience and experience, so if people have enjoyed buying online I don't see them stopping when the pandemic ends. I alluded to building communities earlier on. We intend on having strong communities both online and offline. The more they see the need for our product the more they can help us do evangelism for our marketplace. 

With many E-Commerce platforms having launched in the country in the past two years or so in the country, what is your differentiating factor from the competition?

We are more interested in developing a personal touch to our online shopping experience. As much as e-commerce is the future, you can not do away with the personal touch that customers experience in physical stores so we are trying to merge that with our online experience. We are also a niche store which gives us more time to zoom on a single product compared to other local eCommerce platforms who are almost all “everything stores”. We are also trying to simplify our shopping process as much as we can. What you see now is a simplified version of what we had initially.

What else is in the pipeline for E-Reka in the near future in your quest to increase your market share in the competitive online marketplace scene?

For sure we are working on improving our technology. The other thing is that we outsource most of our services, so we are hoping to do a certain percentage of services ourselves for quality control. Who knows, we may end up having an Apparel manufacturing wing in future. Let’s wait to see how the future unfolds. We are also working on securing partnerships that would be beneficial for us and those other parties.

E-Reka’s future growth will in one way or another depend on the increase of internet penetration in the country. In your professional opinion, what can be done to improve internet access in the country so that platforms like E-Reka become the norm?

I think the internet should be extremely cheap and be just as easily accessible as water and electricity. According to my sources, Botswana is number 171 out 211 in average cost of internet globally. So clearly we can do much better. 

What advice would you give to local entrepreneurs who are still slow and hesitant to move their businesses online by availing their products on online marketplaces like E-Reka?

The world is moving online. We can never run away from the reality that online shopping will be a major part of how we do shopping in the future. Better get in now and enjoy the fruits of early movers later when the market matures. Online markets enable shopping without borders. By going online you open your product to the whole world instead of only for people in your area.

Lastly, please share with our readers where you can be reached if they are interested in getting in touch

Call/Whatsapp: +267 74194444

E-Reka Marketplace website:


Previous Post Next Post