ZEENAT CHAUDHARY: How does Retailo work?
TALHA ANSARI: The Retailo app allows retailers to order inventory from the comfort of their shops – with next-day delivery. Retailo has a large selection of SKUs, a low minimum-order limit as well as the option of digital inventory keeping. A retailer no longer has to rely on multiple distributors that restrict them to weekly restocking, maintaining a weekly inventory cycle or visiting wholesale markets.
ZC: How did the idea for Retailo come about?
TA: Retailo was founded in 2020 by three friends and ex-Careem executives: Wahaj Ahmed, Talha Ansari and Mohammad Nowkhaiz. They wanted to address the breakdown of supply chains affected by Covid-19. Retailo ran a successful pilot and then raised seed funding worth nine million dollars in nine months. Rather than start in one market and then scale to other countries, the founders decided to be multi-market players and started operations in KSA and Pakistan simultaneously. Headquartered in Riyadh, Retailo is now present in six cities and has more than 700 employees.
ZC: What were the initial challenges?
TA: The technology transfer. Many retailers did not have access to smartphones or the internet and were used to manual operations and traditional processes. However, Covid-19 proved to be a catalyst and soon retailers realized the ease of doing business through a single app and saving time and effort while maintaining a shorter turnover and cash flow cycle.
ZC: What were, and still are, some of the supply chain challenges that exist for local businesses in Pakistan?
TA: The biggest supply chain issues are stock availability and on-time delivery. Often, the production cycle cannot keep pace with demand and this causes shocks all along the supply chain. Deliveries are critical since a retailer relies on continuous supplies to keep customers happy. If they have to go to the market to restock, in case of a non-delivery, or has a stock-out, he stands the risk of losing customers.
ZC: Retailo recently partnered with L'Oreal Pakistan – what other companies have you partnered with?
TA: We have strong partnerships with leading FMCG companies in both KSA and Pakistan. We approach companies for high-demand items and what is most needed by retailers: non-perishable food items, house-hold goods, beauty products, etc.
ZC: What does your target audience look like?
TA: Retailers. Most of our push and pull marketing is geared towards them and we use a variety of communication channels to reach them. The main way to attract them is by simply demonstrating how we can improve their businesses and their lives. We fully realize that we are not selling an impulse item, like pizza or an electronic gadget, and our communication reflects that ethos.
ZC: How did you market Retailo?
TA: We did a number of online and offline activities to reach our core audience. Our agents would meet retailers on a daily basis and developed a strong relationship with them, built on mutual respect and trust. The next step was creating an active communication channel for which we utilized text messages and WhatsApp to good effect. On the social media side, we realized that Facebook is the most popular medium for retailers and we changed our Facebook page strategy to convert it from a corporate brand building page to one purely for retailers; we announced deals, discounts, promotions, competitions, lucky draws, PSL updates and showed live cricket scores to keep our audience engaged.
ZC: What are Retailo's future plans?
TA: Pakistan has between two and three million retail outlets – increasing every year. Retail is around 20% of Pakistan’s GDP and comes to almost $80 billion annually. We are currently focusing on FMCG items and working with almost 50,000 retailers so there is some distance to go, to fully realize this opportunity. We are present in Karachi and recently launched in Islamabad. We have only tapped the surface of this humongous space.
ZC: What challenges do you see coming up in the future?
TA: Maintaining our quality of services as we scale up. We never want to compromise on our core excellence and service delivery. Working with 10,000 retailers is very different from working with 100,000 and we are continuously improving our technology, internal strength and processes to make sure we serve our customers and improve their lives, and livelihoods even, as we continue to grow.
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