Online shopping firm bets on MSMEs

John Karanja

Mr John Karanja, the Chief Executive Officer of MR Media.

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • The platform allows individuals to post job requests, while employers can also post job offers.
  • Company has set eyes on expansion in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria following its initial success in Kenya.

A new online shopping platform that is targeting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) is betting on a diversified product line to beat the cut-throat competition in a fast-growing market.

MR Media, which says it has already amassed 100,000 users, allows vendors to list their products on its digital platform for free to reach more customers even as more shoppers shift to online shopping owing to its convenience.

In a unique model, the platform combines listing of both new and used products and also serves as a platform for job listing as part of a strategy to gain more users amid a high unemployment rate where millions of Kenyans are looking for jobs. The platform allows individuals to post job requests, while employers can also post job offers.

“Most businesses we support through our platform are MSMEs engaged in Jua Kali, manufacturing, farming, online trading, phone merchandise, car dealers, property dealers, building contractors, service providers, IT firms, artists, job seekers and employers where they get an opportunity to reach their prospective customers easily and for free,” said MR Media Chief Executive John Karanja.

It also lists tenders where interested businesses can browse through tenders listed by both government and private entities for the provision of goods and services. Further, individuals who have household items such as electronics, utensils, furniture and property such as land and buildings may list the products on the online platform for free to reach buyers. The platform also offers opportunities to actual owners and also agents who post and sell on behalf of owners and earn a commission. 

Cost of living

The cost of living is at a five-year high, which is forcing some individuals to dispose of household items and property to get cash to meet their daily needs.

“A vendor may choose to post items from the MR Media main platform or may opt to open a sub-store called e-store where all the products are displayed from. Customers may shop for items from the vendors' store and interact with the store owner,” he explains.

The businessman hopes the platform will be a draw for many MSMEs which are cash-strapped and lack budgets for marketing and advertising.

The company, which targets to reach 1 million customers next year, has set eyes on expansion in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria following its initial success in Kenya.

John Karanja

Mr John Karanja, the Chief Executive Officer of MR Media.

Photo credit: Courtesy

“Our primary aim is supporting start-ups that do not have an advertising budget and would be locked up in advertisement and customer sensitisation. Buyers can also search a variety of items and compare prices from the platform,” said Mr Karanja.

The company also has its eye on the health space and allows individuals seeking urgent medical attention to source for blood donations and any other urgent campaigns that are not cash related.

For a fee, however, the platform has a premium membership plan where vendors pay for their product listings to be featured prominently in prime spots on the website to boost visibility among shoppers.

This comes at a time when the online shopping industry has been dodged with growing cases of fraud where vendors defraud shoppers by failing to deliver goods that have been paid for or deliver substandard goods, different from the ones listed.

Safety features

With this in mind, the business says it has safety features to mitigate against online fraudsters and continually boosts its security features to keep up with the growing retinue of clever tactics being employed by fraudsters.

“The main challenge in this industry is dealing with fraudsters who would take advantage of buyers and sellers, however, the platform discourages users from sending money before due process is carried out. It also carries out frequent technology updates to deal with spammers,” says Karanja.

This comes at a time when the popularity of online shopping has risen sharply especially in the last two years following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 that led to movement restrictions, forcing many people to seek goods online.

Now, many can shop for food, clothes, electronics, furniture, cosmetics, real estate and other products online, driven by the convenience and flexibility offered by online shopping.

The increased use of mobile money and increased internet connectivity has also helped grow the online shopping trade as customers are able to pay for goods and services easily before their products are delivered.

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