Exclusive: Econet launches EcoShopper. Seeks to disrupt the supermarket

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

Remember Econet Zimbabwe chief, Douglas Mboweni, hinted last year at getting into e-commerce soon? They just did. The company will be launching its first foray into e-commerce today with the introduction of – you guessed it – EcoShopper.

It’s not your typical e-commerce. Or let me say it’s not your fully fledged e-commerce operation but there are some key things that make it interesting.

1. They are starting with basic commodities, probably because they are fast moving and therefore worth doing for a company their size. Econet would only get into this if its going to have some visible impact in the medium term, otherwise they would wait. The groceries are sold in baskets starting with a $20 one, $30, $60.


2. They are partnering a manufacturer – National Foods. They are looking to disrupt the Supermarket model. Econet are not the first to try commerce on basic commodities in Zimbabwe. The others before it have faced the problem of their prices being higher than the supermarkets’ because, well, they are supplied by the supermarkets. Econet’s strategy is to take the supermarket out of the chain and get direct from the manufacturer. That way, the price may be better than the supermarkets. Those who shop , please compare and let us know in the comments.

3. Econet won’t deliver. Yet!
The customers of EcoShopper will be required to collect their groceries from a National Foods pickup point. If you’re like me, this is ofcourse a deal breaker since getting to these pickup points takes away the convenience. I wish Econet (or National Foods) had more pickup points in Harare.My guess is it’s something they are working on. For those near the points, I hope pickup is 24 hours otherwise it’s attractiveness compared to regular shopping starts to get questionable.


On payment, Econet is requiring the use of its mobile payment platform, EcoCash. This is ofcourse brilliant but if Econet plans to make this big they’ll have to open it up to everyone, Mastercard, Textacash, Telecash, Onewallet, and even Cash etc… Though I use EcoCash, I don’t always have money in that wallet. Sometimes its in the Mastercard, sometimes in the Telecash wallet and sometimes just cash etc… why can’t I pay on pickup. Then, yeah, it’s just a regular supermarket!

What impresses me is that Econet put some thought into this and that they were bold (as usual) to want to change the way things work. Going via the supermarkets has made the e-commerce business unviable – they are cutting out that fat. Delivery logistics are a cost nightmare that threatens feasibility – they are cutting it out for now and trying without it. Buying separate units wouldn’t work so they are bundling the groceries and doing it anyway.

The danger with the basketing ofcourse is that the customer won’t want some of things in that bundle and, in these hard times, will feel they are paying for stuff they don’t need.

My guess is that this first iteration will likely not yield any significant results and that the company will have to do some things really fast before people write EcoShopper off and forget to try it again when it improves. They’ll have to introduce more pickup points. They’ll have to make it possible for me to pack my own basket online from a limited selection of products – the same range of products yes, except I choose.

In terms of how you shop online, from what we see, it’s via the website only. We think Econet will zero rate this website on its network otherwise if I need to buy expensive data just so I can buy groceries there’s a problem. Another way to do it would be to allow me to select a basket from my EcoCash menu and just buy it from there without ever using the web.

Econet will be launching EcoShopper later today, and we hope some of these issues are already addressed.

In the e-commerce business, Econet are trailing other operators like MTN on the continent who have indicated this is a key growth area for them.

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  1. MrsC

    Definitely going to cost the baskets at my local shops later. Well done to Econet for trying. Value proposition does need to be ironed out in order for them to differentiate themselves to the customer and drive uptake. Being able to make up and save my own basket is a start… I’m assuming basket would be packed and ready for pick up when I get to a pick up point? That would save me time if nothing else.

  2. Chris

    Econet cannot replace every business. They need to realise they need to concentrate on what they do well, and provide a platform for entrepreneurs to create businesses, so the whole economic sphere can grow together. This attitude of creating business to increase the profits, will put their own customers out of business, so in the long term, everyone will lose.

    1. Ash

      spot on man

      1. fresh kofie

        i dnt agree wth u Chris. Econet also supports entrepreneurship bt e prob wth zimbabweans is that we are not thinking outside the box. Actually people are invited to come up with their ideas and sell them to Econet and dont be surprised to learn that this was someone’s idea who sold it because he/she ddnt hev e capacity to implement it….

        1. Anonymous

          The credit for the invention is more important than the invention. I dont think its supporting entrepreneurship if you take your idea and they end up putting their name for the credit. I think its supporting entrepreneurship if they give you what you need to succeed and your name is credited then they get something out of it. Now that sounds more like entrepreneurship

    2. Econet is not an NGO but my real name is I & I

      Like my name says ..The problem with us africants(sory africans) is we want to be ”supported”.we think there z a godsend guy who will come and make us rich one day.maybe its coz of our ”sort of” socialistictixtixc ideals …lol just kidding….2..there is a term they call diversification.. you might as well want to tell google to stop the google glass, driverlesscar, robots, space things and concentrate on search engines… nobody is there to watch your back …econet has shareholders who want to be paid…. after alll the main purpose of business is to make yourself rich ”shareholder value”…. of coz in a sustainable way..


    talk about ecocash api, they should now release it to us developers , ndatoona business hombe regarding that script, i want it, no more zvima roots zveku PAYNOW, takuda direct

    1. TheKing

      Before you rush to the EcoCash API, have you tried playing with the TeleCash API?

  4. Trevor Sibanda

    They are also selling broilers ???

    They need to work on their shopping basket and allow people more choice, including choosing exactly what to buy. And in all honesty I would never use this unless they delivered to my doorstep. And FYI I stay a 10 minute walk from one of the collection points.

    More value needs to be added to this product, otherwise, uptake will be from a few techies and not the majority. Work some magic into delivery and we have a deal, or worst ase scenario, have pickup points in the city, not in industrial areas

  5. Mdhara

    A tacky piece of ecommerce. The reason why people shop online is convenience. There is nothing convenient about buying hampers that someone has chosen their contents for you, there is nothing convenient about going to a National Foods depot located in an industrial part of the city. The only plausible motivation to shop online would be delivery of the stuff I buy and not have to go to a shop to collect it.

    1. gore

      you nailed it mudhara

  6. ic0n1c

    I say well done to Econet! This is a good value add, and really gives me convenience particularly when I wanna send groceries to my relatives who are faraway. Of course it needs ironing out, they are just starting so give em a break.

  7. RG

    I think deliveries can be made by bike (motor bike or bycycle) thus cutting the delivery cost.

  8. RG

    On another note, rather disappointing that Bindura and Shamva are clustered under Mashonaland East (instead of Mash Central) whilst Kwekwe and Gweru are under Mashonaland West (instead of Midlands). Minor but something that needs attention

  9. CrazyOne

    Weekend Warrior? Who calls a grocery hamper Weekend Warrior? Was expecting to see some some shooterboots and a sixpack of beer there. I can’t picture my mother ‘warrioring’ in the kitchen.

    I think Econet is over-diversifying, they should retain ownership but handover these projects to vibrant entrepreneurs who have time for customercentric thinking, and run them under a different name. Ecoshopper?? I personally don’t want to associate my mobile phone network with my peanut butter.

    That distorted shopping cart on that logo is not working, i’m sorry. The colours don’t ignite my shopping spirit, feels like I’m purchasing…. umm… airtime! Surely,a company that big can invest in Customecentric thinking.

    Econet. I don’t think painting the nation red and blue is the way to go. Involve. Blend in. Collaborate. Let other names take the limelight, if you really want to remain relevant in the next decade.

    1. kevin Makoni

      Sensible idea..They should give vibrant entrepreneurs. Econet Brand at risk of being seen as a Bullying Bambazonke that is trying to get every one out of business. Econet must see themselves as a an agent/hub to foster economic activity which then leads to increased consumption of their core services

  10. Ini

    The key to business is addressing a problem by giving a business solution. The problem being addressed here is going kumusha with groceries, sending money for someone to buy on their own and prices. Why would you buy your own stuff using this? The last basket makes more sense: send the $299 basket to Chivhu and you cut on costs of going there in person, and you assured that your $$$ are not converted to Chibuku. That is a solution to a problem.

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      The problem being addressed here is going kumusha with groceries

      If indeed that were problem being solved by EcoShopper, then it would at least be good for them to know it and address this problem in a deliberate way. “Quick Meal”, “Budget Shopper”, “Weekend Warrior”, “Weekly Supplies” surely don’t sound like a grocery remittance service to me. Event the distribution of the pick up points doesn’t speak “kumusha”

      1. Optimus Prime

        Still need to sort out the delivery issue; suppose that will come later. Nobody wants to drive kuma industry kunotora basket.

  11. Grad

    For me without deliveries there is no convenience. What is the difference with me just going to a Spar or TM closer to me. And besides the fact that I will have to get a hamper packed and chosen by someone else. The convenience of online payments should be in delivery where I can buy my grocery in the comfort of my office and when I get home I will get it. Even when I need to send groceries to my loved ones it is best when they get the grocery delivered at their place otherwise I would rather Telecash them oh sorry Ecocah them and they buy the grocery of their choice. So two areas to be revised, selection and delivery.

    1. Brighton

      Have you seen/read or attended the launch show ….. read the product faetures it is positioned for sending purpose or kind of “Groceries Remittance” from City to village etc , buy for others … not for you and me who can drive and buy

  12. Sipho

    Seems my comments not making the site?
    I wont be using it. I want to buy what I want, when I want and not buy a prepacked basket of goods I don’t need. 2. Ecocash wallet is the most expensive for charges in the market and that alone makes the payment platform as unacceptable.
    If Econet stuck to the business of mobile networks maybe our calls would actually go through and we would not be double billed for dropped calls we have to redial again and again? Then again every re dialled call is money for Econet and that’s all they really want is it not? I will rather support my local corner store that contributes to my community thanks.

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      We’re sorry you’re having difficulties commenting. We don’t see anything in our pending comments list though so for now, just keep trying when it doesn’t work the first time.

    2. Brighton

      Its cheaper …You guys are great PHD scholars ……. do costing and dont Ignore number of packs written in brackets ….. Long live Zimbabwe some one is working to drive economy towards north rather towards south as always , also read the product faetures it is positioned for sending purpose or kind of “Groceries Remittance” from City to village etc , buy for others … not for you and me who can drive and buy

  13. fourwallsinaroom

    I just did the costing on foodworld.co.zw and guess what for $26 food world will deliver to my house. for $16 they will let me pick up. Thanks but no thanks Econet $14 over retail supermarket you are trying to make money out of the poor and diaspora!

    F&M Macaroni 500g
    x 1 $1.20 Remove
    Cooking Oil 2l
    x 1 $3.99 Remove
    Gloria Self Raising Flour 2kg Gloria Self Raising Flour 2kg
    x 1 $1.79 Remove
    x 1 $0.95 Remove
    Mazoe Orange Crush 2l Mazoe Orange Crush 2l
    x 1 $2.55 Remove
    Probrands Baked Beans – 425g Probrands Baked Beans – 425g
    x 1 $0.90 Remove
    FW Peanut Butter 375ml FW Peanut Butter 375ml
    x 1 $1.30 Remove
    Hullets White Sugar – 2kg Hullets White Sugar – 2kg
    x 1 $1.85 Remove
    Mahatma Rice 2kg Mahatma Rice 2kg
    x 1 $2.39 Remove
    Sub-Total: $16.92
    Total: $16.92

    1. Dee

      in this economy $16 is a lot of money and withthe introduction of bonds coins, one would try to save every coin. How did Ecoshopper come up with such ridicouls figures…considering they are getting directly from wholesalers?? i did my own estimate calculations for the Budget shopper and came to $23! Thanks but no thanks Echoshopper…. I live a few meters away from a shopping center anyway.

    2. Tinashe

      What? You only costed 9 items whereas the “$30 Budget Shopper” basket on Ecoshopper contains 16 items!!! Rice, Sugar, Salt and Oil all come in double packs! Having costed things myself, it looks like Ecoshopper has a great value proposition! Look forward to trying it out.

      F & M MACARONI 500G (1)
      GLORIA S/R FLOUR 2KG (1)
      RED SEAL POPCORN 500G (1)
      MAHATMA RICE 2KG (x2)
      F & M SPAGHETTI 500G (1)

      1. colourblu

        I think we are seeing different baskets here, because on the $30 basket only sugar is given 3 of , and in any case there is nothing innovative about this idea, the pple they want us to buy groceries for already can access better prices and better service from the nearest tuckshops . Econet specialises in the business of stealing from ordinary Zimbabweans and this is one product running with their agenda.

        1. Brighton

          ts cheaper …You guys are great PHD scholars ……. do costing and dont Ignore number of packs written in brackets ….. Long live Zimbabwe some one is working to drive economy towards north rather towards south as always , also read the product faetures it is positioned for sending purpose or kind of “Groceries Remittance” from City to village etc , buy for others … not for you and me who can drive and buy

    3. Brighton

      Its cheaper …You guys are great PHD scholars ……. do costing and dont Ignore number of packs written in brackets ….. Long live Zimbabwe some one is working to drive economy towards north rather towards south as always , also read the product faetures it is positioned for sending purpose or kind of “Groceries Remittance” from City to village etc , buy for others … not for you and me who can drive and buy

    4. Ini

      Your list is incomplete, check http://www.ecoshopper.co.zw/full/index.php it has 13 items.

  14. Roger That

    deliver dem goods 2 da people full stop

  15. econet please

    What we want is an ecocash API and everyone can just use it for payment. Why do they want to monopolize everything. Is it that difficult to release an Ecocash API

  16. Dee

    “I think Econet is over-diversifying…” i couldnt agree more with Crazyone. Ecohealth, EcoFarmer, EcoCash,EcoSchool……what next EcoWater?, Econet should just stick to their core business and leave the rest to other players. What problem are they trying to solve? where is the convenience if i cannot get the groceries delivered to my house?

  17. moses

    not so bad of a concept. i think they should allow a customer to choose items into his basket than having a prepackaged hamper. hampers are not ideal for example i prefer cornflakes than cerevita it then means my needs are not addressed by this basket hence no business from me.

  18. AntiCompetitive Practices

    Econet is trying to take over every area they can get hands on. Sometime ago if you tried to get a short number for business from Econet, the Business Development Team would tell you: “we are planning to do that ourselves”, or else they would give you some ridiculous 60-40 revenue sharing proposal, with them getting 60 of course. They have got to learn to enable other techpreneurs to do business through their platforms, they will get more that way. Look at companies like Paypal, Clickatell etc, its a breeze to integrate with them. But all Econet does is overcharge people and turn away others. What a testimony Mr Masiiwa?!?

  19. Themba

    What a joke, cost of basket contents are almost double cost of the products in the shop…who in there right mind would go for something that silly, worst of all its probably a product which is not fully functional eg…paying dstv via ecocash.

    1. Snoop Bill

      Your Mathematics is Joke for sure , compare price with any super market and dont forget to notice quantities of each item in brackets

  20. collen

    flour ndobika hangu chimodho

  21. Simba

    Where is the convenience when there is no delivery? I don’t get it and i think these guys are losing it, that $20 basket of theirs has $3-4 added n to add to the inconvenience I stay in Greendale. How much will i use to drive 20km to either Ruwa, Lytton, Boka etc and 20km back home? Seriously econet….

  22. Tinashe

    Econet will probably launch delivery at some stage but a lot of countries now offer Click+Collect grocery services. Tesco (the UK’s largest supermarket) allow you to order your groceries online and pick them up at a time you choose and at a location that suits you. You not only save the cost of delivery fees but also don’t run the risk of being away from home when the delivery man shows up. Makes sense! I hope Econet gives Ecoshopper customers the option between delivery and collection soon.

  23. LoveJ

    oops! major disruption to e-commerce startups… you wouldn’t wanna compete with econet… shame.

  24. Anonymous

    So we wait for the grocery bundle…hahahaha

    1. Brighton

      ts cheaper …You guys are great PHD scholars ……. do costing and dont Ignore number of packs written in brackets ….. Long live Zimbabwe some one is working to drive economy towards north rather towards south as always , also read the product faetures it is positioned for sending purpose or kind of “Groceries Remittance” from City to village etc , buy for others … not for you and me who can drive and buy

  25. Tommy D

    I hope Natfood thought about the pricing issue. The baskets a unit based, for me it means even if prices at Natfood shops change I should still get my hamper as is.

    Secondly, what’d the point of having a basket pre determined.I want choice of picking on my own.also why drive to industries to collect. why can’t there be a pick up point in town

    Is Natfood now going into main stream retail..?That will be interesting.I wonder what the retailers will think.Mr Zireva, your comments please………

    1. Anonymous

      I don’t think the retailers are going to be very happy.

  26. Jacob

    Why would Econet Partner Natfood instead of the big retailers like TM , Ok or Spar. TN a few years implemented the same thing slightly different in that it was not web based. Buy grocery of choice and we deliver . The bigger retailers would probably implement it better not a manufacturer . Clearly not a properly conceived idea. Econet go back to the drawing board we don’t want another half baked product.!!

    1. Tinashe

      National Foods = Wholesaler; TM, OK & Spar = Retailers. Econet partnering with Nat-foods = cuts out the middle men = more value to Ecoshopper consumer 🙂 Who doesn’t want their groceries at the most competitive prices.

  27. prico

    I respect Econet for pioneering convenience in the mobile money business but this time it has shot itself on the foot by launching a poorly thot out premature product/service. This is ECOSHOCKER!!!!!!!! Its shocking hw econet expects this service to be a gamechanger in Zim’s online shopping scene.

  28. chamhembe #1

    Some are complaining that econet is taking all the business.I can see some opportunities in this eco shopping thing.one can just organise a delivery business by just taking the goods from the nat foods depot and deliver it in homes,instead of mourning lets look for loopholes in the system and utilise it.
    Who ever thought the 5110 Nokia was going to be eclipsed by newer phones with virtually everything cameras,mp4 players hd…etc its all innovation on the existing product .
    who ever thought whatsapp is going to take over in the texting business its all about identifying opportunities and utilizing them

  29. Anonymous

    One needs to think from bottom – up , buying trends and partens of zimbos , removing brick and motor from people, minds, instead stick with the traditional shops , create a portal were traditinal shops put up their products , u become the vehicle to the consumers , which they are already doing , targeted marketing , econet customers , tm , ok package products . Create value by creating a portal site to have customers push goods in volumes u make money in 3 verticals adverts , royalties , and increase transcation on ur payment gateway e, cocash . Than creating a pararell structure to compete brick and motor,, partnet shops , they use ur site to push and promote their products at the same time u create synagy to drive traffic and target ur customers already on ur network , stick to core business of being the road to many places,,

  30. instanov

    With its many foes this seems to be a great thing for e-commerce in Zimbabwe saving the small guys from having to persuade and get the ordinary guy to embrace online purchases ….

  31. Leona Chinhara

    How come there’s no soap ??

  32. Don

    This reminds me of TN. Remember TN Bank ,TN Grill TN Furniture storees TN this and that. Somehow I think the failure of TN Grill to compete with other fast food outlets (besides management issues) has to do with branding issues. Before TN was acquired by Steward it had begun to have a not so good reputation in the market. I think this spilled over to its sister companies. I fear the same could happen for Econet. I dont mind their diversifying but i think its time to drop the Eco this Eco that approach.

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