Innov8 launches online bookshop. An interview with Milton Kamwendo

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Book readers in Zimbabwe can now shop for books online on Innov8’s newly launched online bookshop. The launch of the new site was announced by Innov8 founder, Milton Kamwendo, on Twitter and can be visited on the address www.innov8bookshop.biz.

We held an interview with Milton Kamwendo to discuss Innov8’s new service, its chances of success in a country of low internet penetration and payment processing for the online bookshop. We post below the questions and answer we had with him.

1. Tell us about the online bookshop.

Innov8 Online Bookshop is a cutting edge and innovative channel recently launched by Zimbabwe’s fast growing Innov8 Bookshop chain. The service allows customers to shop for books, stationery and writing instruments using their cellphone or computer so long as they have internet access.

Through Innov8′s online bookshop customers can directly purchase products using their Mastercard and Visa cards. They can also opt to effect a bank transfer. Their purchase is then delivered to their home or office. They can also choose to collect from the nearest Innov8 Bookshop.

2. Why has Innov8 launched an online bookshop?

Innov8 Bookshop is always striving to increase customer service and to offer its customers world class service and convenience. The need to reach customers without the restrictions of time and distance is the main reason for launching an online bookshop.

The online bookshop provides a convenient, safe and effective channel to reach our customers. Now customers can access the store when they choose and that puts new power into the hands of the customers and changes the rules of book selling.

As a market leader and innovator, it was natural for Innov8 bookshop to be the first bookshop in Zimbabwe to launch this service.

3. With internet penetration in Zimbabwe still less than 20%, what is your target market and what’s its size?

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) internet penetration for Zimbabwe by December 2009 stood at 11.9% which meant that approximately 1,481,000 people were using the internet. The number of internet users in Zimbabwe grew by 2602% from the year 2000 to the year 2009.

Internet penetration has since continued to increase buoyed by the increasing using of the cellular phones many more people can transact online in Zimbabwe.

One needs to also factor in the fact that once you have an online store, your market ceases to be local but becomes global. There are many Zimbabwean books and products that can only be sourced locally. We have received inquiries for Shona, Ndebele and other local books in the past but had no channel that was easy, convenient and sure that customers could use. With the launch of Innov8 Online Bookshop, that channel is here and Internet use is growing globally by the second. This means our growth and appeal to the world is now uncapped.

4. What are the payment methods available for customers and how convenient are they for the bulk of Zimbabweans?

There are two payment methods currently available, online payment and offline payment. With online payment a customer pays using a MasterCard or Visa card. With offline payment, a client makes a transfer or cash deposit into our local bank account. We are also considering using SMS payment options.

These payment options are accessible and convenient to the majority if not all of Zimbabweans as some do not even require a bank account. Innov8 Bookshop is also actively promoting the use of FBC Bank’s prepaid MasterCard which does not even require anyone to bank with the bank. A number of customers are already transacting using this payment method.

5. What are the challenges you foresee selling books online?

The main challenge is behavioural. Many customers have not been used to making purchases online and they may hesitate. However, as people experience our service a lot more their confidence and frequency will increase.

The service we are offering is the way of the future. Any serious retailer who does not offer an online store is depriving customers of their right. The world is changing and shopping online will just be as ordinary for most of our customers in the next few years.

6. How much traffic so far is the online bookshop getting?

Since we opened the store to the public on the 1st of October 2011 the number of daily visitors has been on the increase and now averages 50 people every day. Like all things Internet the traffic is set to explode as the awareness increases and as we put into motion our marketing plan.

7. What are the major successes milestones that have been registered by Innov8 in the bookselling business in the recent months

Innov8 is now the clear market leader in Zimbabwe’s book selling industry. The bookshop now has 10 outlets and is continuing to grow. Innov8 has recently opened a new bookshop at 99 Robert Mugabe Road. It’s premium brand, Insignia is Zimbabwe’s first truly world-class bookshop.



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11 Comments

  1. Sandra Chisepo

    what about E-books? what he has done is a basic store front… Publishers and booksellers are steps ahead with e-publishing and e-book device and book sales. Go there Mr Kamwendo and we’ll be talking…

    Reply
    1. Sandra Chisepo

      It is a well designed site by Zim standards. I still think Zimbabwean entrepreneurs need to go world-class particularly in the E-Commerce arena…. From Zim with a Visa card, i can shop and have books mailed from kalahari.net, cna.co.za and also exclusive books to name but a few. In addition to this, i can buy an eBook and download it from any of these sites. This is Mr Kamwendo’s true competition, no use bench-marking himself with Kingstons lol  

      For now the lack of a mainstream globally accepted payment system for the ordinary Zimbabwean may cushion local entrepreneurs from global competition but it won’t be for much longer.

      Reply
      1. rumbi

        If you take another look at the website you will find that you can make purchases using a Visa card and a MasterCard on http://www.innov8bookshop.biz which are classified as online payments. You can also make a bank transfer if you don’t have access to online payment methods. You will also note that this bookshop is also delivering its books wherever you are.
        In addition innov8 online bookshop has books that you cannot find on any other online bookshop.

        Reply
        1. Sandra Chisepo

          my point is not that you can’t use VISA on Mr Kamwendo’s site…. just that  his competition is every other site accepting the same payment options and shipping products. He needs to adopt a broader view of competition now that he is online, hence the comparison with kalahari.net et al

          Reply
  2. Prosper Chikomo

    Ini ndinonyora mabooks amunotaura. Ndinotengesa exclusively maE-Books paAmazon.
    (Interpretation: I sell my own books on Amazon.com as ebooks.)

    Kamwendo’s competition is stiff.

    Using Visa or Mastercard, anyone can buy the books from Amazon.com from Zimbabwe.

    My book is a Kindle Edition for reading on the Kindle and i am proud to say I formatted it myself into the Amazon.com standard file format.

    My words of encouragement to Milton Kamwendo are:

    1) he should have a security certificate on his website. I buy online, but i will never buy from a site like his that does not have a security certificate. All savvy buyers look for it before they buy. Fake sites are the ones that often don’t have them. Security cetificates build trust and confidence and inspire onluine consumers to buy.

    THE KEY IN ONLINE TRANSACTIONS IS GLOBAL STANDARDS AND NORMS.

    No one wants that site to be hacked like the ZSE site and have his/her credit card details stolen.

    2) get a better domain name and dump  the dot biz domain name. Already i am bored to think about it compared to Amazon.com, kalahari.com, kalahari.net. The long name with a number itself, which i will not go back to check for accuracy, is just a mouthful.

    3) The Zip code for Zim is 00263, not 00000 as it says in the website’s help section.

    4) heed the words of the first commenter above.

    If anyone wants to know what book i wrote, well it is titled: > Turning Iron into Gold: Golden opportunities: How to Spot Them, Create Them, Make Money from Them, and How Not to Miss Them <. It is available in many format's and you can read it on your iPad, kindle, iPod Touch, Blackberry, and even Nokia phones (i created a app for it (jar/jad format)).

    Also, anyone in over 50 countries can buy my digital books via SMS on my website. Credit cards work for the broader world, but in Zim, even the US$200 FBC prepaid master card is expensive for locals, not to mention the US$600-a-month-income Visa Gold card. I am sure right now more people have Ecicash than Visa Gold cards and Mastercards.

    [I am not tech guru, but i had to learn how to create such things, and managed]

    My book is over 300 pages big and contains many tech-start-up related ideas and info.
    Here is the link to the book on Amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/Turning-Iron-into-Gold-ebook/dp/B004UMEUEG/

    I HAD TO SAY IT BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE WILL SAY DON'T JUST CLAIM WITHOUT GIVING US THE PROOF!

    I wont post the website address where i sell my book via SMS because I don't want people to think i am trying to get free advertising.

    Reply
  3. Baynham Goredema

    Good advice and thank you for sharing, most Zimbas would have just rubbed their hands and hoped it fails then say tomorrow I knew it! I would just like to add on the website which is decent that the Innov8 Logo lives on a white background most effectively and the designer would have done well to make the background white so the logo doe not look like an after thought which has just been stuck on at the end.

    Reply
  4. Tonderai

    I agree 100% with Prosper. The move to creating an online bookstore is a great step but the launch may have been premature in terms of the website’s security. Like so many of our IT companies, Innov8 has made the mistake of creating a product without making use of widely available knowledge of other already active products in that sector. This being the internet and free information age, there is absolutely no reason to reinvent the wheel that is an online bookstore.

    The key now is to secure the site accordingly and engage local payment processors (e.g. Zimswitch) to allow those who do not have VISA/Mastercard to also make purchases.

    Reply

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