“While most competitors deal with a ‘client to business’ system, iProcure deals with the ‘business to business’ system”
Procurement in Africa is a process that is plagued by inefficiency. It cannot lay claim to be the most transparent and seamless process in the world. Bureaucracy and red tape make the practice very inhibitive. Stefano Carcoforo got a taste of this first hand when he was working with a construction/engineering/procurement company in Haiti. His experience left a sour taste in his mouth and he decided to develop a procurement system that would be efficient.
“Sourcing for supplies from reliable suppliers was a nightmare,” says Stefano.
“We were in short supply and prices were way beyond the market value and our construction projects were stalling.”
Prompted by the dire state of things, Stefano embarked on designing a system that would solve the problem.
“The initial system was quite rudimentary but it served its purpose to some extent. I then quit my job and came back to Kenya to work on ‘iProcure’ because of the better infrastructure in Kenya compared to Haiti. It was a tough decision leaving a well paying job to come start a business but I have never looked back” Stefano says.
Just like other start-ups, iProcure faced their fair share of difficulties. Being technical guys, one important aspect of the business was overlooked, marketing.
“Initially we focused more on developing the product and did not pay enough attention to marketing. Now that we have validated our business model, we need to aggressively promote our business.”
Another important requirement all start-ups must focus on is validating their ideas. iProcure lost money after paying a team of developers who worked on one of the earlier versions of the solution only for them to redevelop it after getting feedback from their clients. However this has resulted in getting a better product out there.
The company seeks to hire agents who will sell their e-procurement solution to businesses using a commission based payment method.
It has however not been all gloom for the young company. In the five short months iProcure has been around, they have managed to develop a system that has been well received by clients and prospective clients alike. This has given them a shot in the arm and has encouraged them to keep striving to be better. The system works in a surprisingly easy way.
“Our system is very easy to use and understand” Stefano declares.
The system works by allowing businesses to receive multiple quotations for the product or services that they are looking to procure and thereby obtain the best possible market value. This replaces the whole traditional system of buying supplies presently. Buyers can also create their own trusted supplier networks that they can manage and evaluate, create automated recurring orders and invite their own trusted suppliers to join the system. While suppliers can directly market directly to buyers that are actively seeking to procure goods or services that they offer.
In such a competitive playing field, it always pays to have a unique selling point. While most competitors deal with a ‘client to business’ systems, iProcure deals with the ‘business to business’ system. This gives them a lead over their competition and helps them carve up a niche for themselves. Close interaction with their clients also helps them get more traction.
“Being a small company, we are able to closely make follow ups with our clients and this enhances our relationship which in turn translates to more increased usage of our system.” affirms Stefano.
One integral part of their business has been their mentors. They have shaped their vision and have advised them to make certain changes which have helped the company immensely, streamlining the industries they focus on.
“When we started we were stretching ourselves too thin by focusing on very many verticals. When we got a mentor on board, he made us see the detriments of doing that. We then narrowed our focus to specific industries and that advice has been absolutely invaluable.” Stefano asserts.
From the almost bullish confidence exerted by the company co-founder and CEO Stefano, iProcure seems to be well on its way to dizzying heights of success!