MarketForce 360 is an African startup that works with companies to improve the management of their field sales and to help them expand and better maintain their distribution channels. It came about as an attempt to make the system more efficient as different parts of the value chain were affected, while the retailers experienced stock-outs, manufactures, distributors and service providers faced a lack of real-time visibility into the performance of their field agents, products and service leaving them with the inability to analyse and improve their sales.
Venture Mirror in conversation with MarketForce360, learns more about the startup and its different services aimed to help companies grow and expand.
What is the startup/product about? Give us a brief description of it.
MarketForce 360 is enabling FMCG companies to manage their field sales activities and grow their distribution channels in Africa.
Today, 90% of retail transactions occur through informal channels, with millions of corner shops and field sales agents acting as the first point of contact between retailers and brands.
With MarketForce 360’s mobile app, sales agents record sales activities as they happen, including orders, visits, deliveries, payments, and feedback. The data is then visible in real-time to manufacturers, distributors, and financial service providers, enabling them to monitor and optimize their sales and distribution channels across agents, shops, and regions.
How many co-founders are there? Please introduce them and their backgrounds.
Tesh Mbaabu, the Cofounder & CEO, is a creative and strategic thinker from both a product and commercial perspective; experienced in business process automation and building startups in the African scene, with a focus on business development, growth and partnerships.
Mesongo Sibuti, the Cofounder & CTO is a forward-thinking Techprenuer and Software Architect specializing in the design, development, and scaling of technology-enabled platforms with a special interest in the field of B2B Services, Last Mile Distribution, and Data Science.
The two met while pursuing their Computer Science undergraduate degree at the University of Nairobi and became friends. Later, they began Mesozi, a business process automation software consultancy where they implemented solutions for small and medium sized businesses, as well as several large multinationals. Together, they also recently successfully exited their previous startup, Cloud9xp.
How did you come up with the idea? What motivated you to do this?
Following several years consulting on business process automation for companies across various industries in the African market, the duo started noticing a recurring challenge for their biggest customer segment, consumer goods and services companies; Millions of field sales agents and retailers normally act as the point of interaction between the majority of African consumer goods and services brands, and their customers.
Over 90% of the goods and services consumed in Africa are sold through an informal network of over 15 million retail outlets and millions of field agents; and over 80% of the workforce in Africa, operates from the field. Managing these teams and fragmented distribution networks is a real pain for manufactures, distributors and service providers, who currently rely on pen and paper, excel sheets and WhatsApp groups to collect and submit data from the field, leading to challenges such as slow fulfillment of orders, error-prone data collection and most importantly, lack of real-time visibility into the performance of their field agents, products and service in the market, in order for them to make faster and better business decisions.
These inefficiencies trickle down to retailers who experience frequent stock-outs; and further down to consumers, who suffer from lack of timely access to essential goods and services when they need them. MarketForce 360 was born to address this challenge. We have developed an end to end sales and distribution management platform that helps these companies solve the last mile distribution challenge; by digitizing and unifying the entire distribution value chain.
What is your target market? Why do you think your product will appeal to?
Primarily, we leverage on the power and availability of mobile devices, through our mobile app, to enable field agents to record all customer interactions as they happen in the field. For manufacturers, distributors and service providers, we empower them to have real-time visibility into the market by aggregating and presenting the data collected through live web dashboards, from which they can easily and effectively monitor and analyze their distribution channels, informing them about who is buying their product, when they are buying it, where they are buying it, at what price, and what they’re buying it in conjunction with; enabling them to estimate demand and tailor their sales, distribution and marketing efforts based on real-time market trends and consumer purchasing habits. This enables them to harness the potential of the African market like never before.
What are the marketing plans apart from the product hunt/beta list launch? How are you planning to acquire new users?
We have teamed up with a strong corporate partner to launch a retail ordering application that will enable retail outlets in Kenya to order and pay for goods directly from their nearest supplier,whenever they need them, and get it delivered to them within a few hours. This would not only save informal shop owners time, but also give them access to a credit score for the first time, allowing them to access working capital loans that ensure they never run out of stock, hence making more sales and leading better lives.
We believe that we have the perfect combination of a strong value proposition and a relentless culture of delighting both customers and employees to become the leader in field sales and distribution technology for emerging markets.
Do you have a separate dedicated team to take care of marketing (digital marketing/traditional marketing)?
No. We have an internal sales and marketing team.
What according to you is the biggest challenge that you faced? Is it product development or marketing or scaling or … ?
We have learnt that technology is just an enabler. Therefore, we need to couple it up with essential services on the ground in order to create maximum output and impact. Now our clients purchase an access to both our product, a marketplace, and to a workforce(troops), typically agents that will go on the field and conduct retailer listing, order capturing on behalf of distributors and manufacturers, collect market information, such as identifying outlets selling a particular product, or assessing distribution performance, such as stock or merchandising presence.
Who are your competitors/alternatives? What sets you apart from them?
We have a number of competitors and potential collaborators across various segments of the value chain. Unlike most of them, we work with the existing/proven ecosystem and channels, offering “Technology as a Service” rather than building new distribution infrastructure.
What are the future plans with the product/startup? Any new features you are planning on?
Our latest product, MarketForce Troops, gives FMCGs and financial service providers access to a crowd-sourced workforce that uses our app to collect orders on the ground from consumers and retailers at the shop levels, and get paid through commissions. Through this, employment is created for youth in various communities and consumers get timely access to essential goods and financial services.
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