The African B2B e-commerce and retail space is buzzing today with startups ensuring the swift movement of products and provision of credit to market players. But there is a cash overdependency problem that isn’t getting as much attention as making products and credit available. With simplified B2B payments, Duplo wants to change that narrative.
Since launching its pilot in November 2021, the embedded payments product has worked to ensure seamless and simplified for B2B in Africa.
Why is Duplo’s presence important? The cash overdependency situation, particularly in the cash-based FMCG sector, creates inefficient processes.
How’s the Lagos-based fintech tackling these efficiencies? CEO Yele Oyekola narrated this and more in an exclusive chat with Technext.
Addressing the cash overdependency problem
With the FMCG industry in Nigeria still big on cash, Oyekola says Duplo is optimising the process there.
Cash is still king in the FMCG industry. But it’s also industry-specific. For example, the oil & gas industry is heavy on bank transfers. The FMCG industry, which is the open market, is cash-heavy and that’s not going away anytime soon. Most of our businesses and revenue lie in the FMCG space. As a business, we are optimising the supply chain there.
Narrating the brand’s steady maturity in providing “simplified solutions” for businesses on the continent, Oyekola said, “What have we learnt? What have I learnt? A lot. The initial idea for Duplo was to enable business payments and the focus then was the fast-moving consumer goods industry which is incredibly heavy on cash.
About 80% of payments (there) are in cash. So we started with the goal to digitise payments from our collection and then disbursement perspectives for these businesses.
For Duplo, the biggest lesson is understanding “massive differences between the ways of making payments possible across these different industries.”
According to Oyekola, Duplo isn’t giving up on ensuring that businesses see the bigger picture: embrace digitisation with payment flows and reconciliation and come in contact with the benefits of relying less on cash (transactions).
“Cash isn’t going away anytime soon. What we can do is just enable businesses and simplify the way they collect cash. They are going to become more digital, slowly but surely.”
Expanding payment solutions
With eyes on more revenue, the startup is seeking inroads into more industries. Duplo wants to serve businesses in the construction, oil & gas and health sectors.
“Now we have expanded beyond the FMCG industry into more digitised industries in Nigeria like construction, oil and gas, hospital payments as well. We have seen massive differences between the ways of making payments possible across these different industries,” Oyekola said.
‘Multi-layered solutions for Africa’
Duplo thrives on a multi-layered offering model for businesses. The offerings comprise Duplo for commerce, Duplo for finance and Duplo for developers.
From a solution point of view, the offerings are interwoven but serve different purposes.
“For us, we are trying to make businesses more efficient, transparent and more cost-effective in the way they collect and make payments. So in terms of what we are doing, we currently have Duplo segmented into three buckets.
“One is Duplo for commerce which is basically heavy on the value chain, supply chain and that is big on FMCG. We optimise the way distributors collect payments from smaller retailers and make payments to their vendors, to their manufacturers, to their suppliers in real time.”
With Duplo for Finance teams, the target audience comprises the CFO or Head of Finance for businesses.
“We provide tools that enable such businesses to instantly collect payments, have these payments reconciled and booked into their ledgers in real time. The solution is a strategic tool for accounting and finance for these businesses”, Oyekola said of the benefits of Duplo for Finance.
Duplo for Developers helps provide (efficient) APIs for B2B marketplaces. With this solution, the startup ensures businesses are ‘treated’ to reliable check-out options for supply retailers on their app.
The combined value from these has helped Duplo win the hearts of hundreds of businesses, from mid-size businesses to small enterprises.
A convincing footprint
In seven months, the business has attracted and sustained the interest of businesses in their hundreds. And this is backed by tailored solutions, from mass payouts to reconciliation.
“We have hundreds of businesses currently using Duplo and they range from mid-size to small companies. Also, there are scores of enterprise businesses using our products for mass payouts and reconciliation as well”, Oyekola told Technext.
As the business deepens its presence and offerings in Nigeria, Oyekola says Duplo has its eyes set on conquering the African continent. The startup is also gunning for an IPO, all in the space of 10 years.
“We are eyeing an IPO (initial public offering). That is our goal. My co-founders and I want to continue building this and scaling this for as long as possible. And yeah, within a decade, we want to be one of the few companies on the continent that are actually listed.
“We are putting in the work to make that happen. For us, we want to make B2B payments as simple as P2P payments. So imagine a business in Capetown making an instant payment to a business in Nigeria or Cairo for example. Right now, that will take days. There’s a lot of follow up with invoices. But with Duplo, we are saying a business in Capetown should be able to make payment to another business in Dakar in seconds without any intermediary. And having these payments reconciled in real-time as well.”
It’s beautiful to see that Duplo has a robust plan for scaling, with the startup positioning to become a ”powerhouse” for B2B payments in Africa.
“We want Duplo to become that powerhouse we think it will be. Yes, we have continental ambitions and also want to get into emerging markets across the world. That is how we see our scale and growth over the next decade.”
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