See the original story in Japanese.
Nairobi-based Africa Incubator (Afri-inc), the Kenyan startup offering the Senri sales optimization platform for manufacturing and distribution businesses in Africa, announced today that it has fundraised 80 million yen (about $7.2 million US) from three Japanese VC firms – Money Ventures, Leapfrog Ventures, and Anri. The funding round at this time has not been designated but appears to be a seed or pre-series A round. This follows their 40 million yen ($3.6 million US) funding back in 2015 from Japanese confectionary company Morinaga and Anri, which made the total funding raised up to 120 million yen (about $1.1 million US).
Afri-inc will use the funds to strengthen the capability of the Senri platform including adding payments function in addition to expanding the platform into Nigeria, or Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest market.
Since its launch back in 2015 by Kentaro Nagai who has launched and operated several projects at JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) in Africa followed by managing projects at global several strategic consulting firms, Afri-inc has been offering the Senri platform for about 50 manufacturing and distribution businesses centered on FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) including Japanese companies like Honda and Morinaga.
In Africa, the distribution process costs more because most of consumer goods are likely to be distributed through traditional retailers, which makes it harder to build a efficient distribution network. Leveraging the SaaS model, Senri has helped users streamline their distribution process including sending and receiving orders, eventually improved their productivity by over 20%.
In Africa, as the population explosively increases, it is necessary to establish and grasp the network for distributing goods. Africans basically do not trust each other in deals but there are many IT and mobile solutions that can tackle these issues.
According to Nagai, Senri originally launched in Uganda which can easily validate business performance before total roll-out because of the country’s market size, so then advanced to exlore more business opportunities. With all this, he realized streamlining distribution channels to be in high demand regardless of whichever market in the region, eventually made up his mind to start expanding into multiple markets. As long as having an English interface, the platform will not require much localization effort when expanding to other countries. With earlier market expansion efforts, they aim to be dominant in African key markets like Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Afri-inc is not the only company offering this kind of service. There is definitely a competitor in Kenya, so may it in Nigeria too. But Nagai thinks the existence of competitors proves market potential. This market is still immature, so he looked confident to take the lead in every country by offering better customer care and user experience.
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy