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Econet powered e-commerce platform, tengai.co.zw, to launch in a few days

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Earlier this month, we shared a bit of information about an e-commerce platform called tengai.co.zw which we had identified as an Econet project. Econet seemed to be keeping everything under wraps at the time.

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Now the mobile operator is going live with the platform. We were invited to the press launch for tengai.co.zw (it hasn’t been activated yet) which is slated for Monday 27 July. tengai.co.zw will operate as a classifieds platform, with free advertising for anything posted on the platform, along with free browsing for Econet broadband subscribers.

For Tengai, the team to beat in the Zimbabwean online classifieds space will be Webdev’s classifieds.co.zw which has managed to establish itself as the default local online classifieds platform with the greatest visibility.

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The invitation also gave a both more information about Tengai.

Yes, the platform does have Econet’s involvement stamped on it, and the operator is hosting the launch, but it’s actually a partnership between Econet and Tengai. Econet has called it

an exciting new e-commerce partnership between tengai.co.zw and Econet Wireless.

Beyond that, we can’t really tell who is behind the Tengai team and finer details like how this arrangement was brokered. We’ll just have to wait for more information on the 27th of July.


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41 thoughts on “Econet powered e-commerce platform, tengai.co.zw, to launch in a few days

  1. Econet, tatenda.
    As well thanking Techzim.co.zw for updating us with Tech information.

    God Bless you all!

  2. Mmm am very much concerned about this idea of free browsing of the tengai.co.zw classifieds for Econet subscribers. Doing so would meet the very definition of anti-competitive behavior and I am not sure that would be legal!

    1. I think zero rating the site is a good thing. It will knock down the barriers to Internet access and help bring Zimbabwean consumers online to experience ecommerce. I was at techzim broadband forum when the head of ecommerce for econet spoke about zero rating and argued it was a commercial decision – I agree it’s not much different to a company offering free deliveries or a toll free ordering number. If it kick starts ecommerce in Zim I really see no issues. Look forward to trying it.

      1. This is exactly what net neutrality argues against: special treatment of specific sites (speed or cost).

        This will reduce innovation by skewing the competitive landscape: partner with Econet on their terms or languish. Fortunately, it will also increase inneficiency for them as the partner they blessed won’t be motivated to improve, leaving room for disruption.

        The legality of this would be challenged in most countries.

        1. I disagree. Zero rating and net neutrality are different things. No one would argue against neutrality – we all want open and fast Internet. However, if a company wishes to pay for its customers data costs they should be free to do so. Just like a company will subsidise free delivery or provide a free number to place orders. So long as it doesn’t slow down speed of Internet access I can’t see the problem. I think this is a great development for zimbabwe and will drive the ecommerce revolution.

      2. This is same thing with amazon prime and kindle! l do not see anything wrong with that.

        I hate drm gardening done by amazon even though they have softened the edges. But they do not force me to buy.

        If people do not like what econet is doing, their is still more ISPs in Zim to go to.

    2. I think those net neutrality, perfectly equal competition arguments are luxuries for advanced economies or places where the industry is established. For an industry in its infancy, you need to focus on growing it and getting people on board. You have to give special treatment to specific services to drive usage – and that usage then drives demand in other areas. It doesn’t always go according to plan, like with the whatsapp bundles – but I think its still the only way to go for OUR situation.

  3. And what will happen to site developers that have no infrastructure so their sites can be visible. Pamberi ne infrastructure sharing. The informed minister is right. tengai is a great idea but kuti izowana iyo yenga free access vamwe vasina stinks

    1. Opposition to Zero rating is puzzling. Amongst all the rhetoric, the strongest argument for the opposition is that it will maintain a level playing field for all, primarily start ups. Really?

      It is absurd that level playing field is being defined in the narrow terms of data access cost. There are far more important things than data costs when it comes to level playing field.

      Pricing power – Forget start ups, can established offline players match pricing of well funded online companies?
      Access to talent – Huge salaries not only for top engineering talent but even for logistics personnel
      Service terms – 30 day no questions asked returns, 1 day delivery, COD etc.
      Should pricing, employee salaries and service terms be also regulated in interest of ‘level playing field’?

      Zero rating will help in on-boarding a much broader section of society and enable them access to the same content, services, market places from which limited section of the society has benefited so far. The scale of impact will be so massive that the advantages of zero rating will far outweigh any concerns around stifling innovation or maintaining level playing field.

      It’s time that the issue is looked at from the perspectives of those hundreds of millions of people who are going to benefit from zero rating immediately. Sure, large companies would be the first beneficiaries but it’s just a matter of time before the entire ecosystem benefits due to the significantly bigger market that would be created.

      1. So your argument for zero-rating is “things are already bad for start-ups, don’t complain because we are making it little worse”? That’s a terrible argument.

        Being zero rated on Econet will won’t just help tengai, it will hamstring the competition because people will end up not getting on the internet-proper, but stay inside Econet’s free version of it (you might have heard of AOL or CompuServe)

        Even though things are stacked against the little guy, the internet is/was the great equalizer: a web page is a web page whether it was made by Google or a 6th grader. They ought to be equally visible by people who want to view them.

        1. Tapiwa, is Econet blocking people from browsing internet? This to me looks like a loyalty returning scheme done by most businesses like bonus points for shoppers, flying miles for frequent flyers, etc

          1. If you were looking to sell something and you had depleted you Econet data bundle, would you A) Go out and buy airtime, load it and go to classifieds.co.zw or B) go to the zero-rated tengai.co.zw site? Econet is discouraging people from getting onto the internet.

            I’m not saying they shouldn’t compete, they just ought to do it fairly. Remember, not too long ago Econet was whining about international calls being routed via VOIP and refiled as local calls. VOIP is certainly fair game, IMO, but I acknowledged that it’s unfair competition to Econet.

      2. Zero rating will help in on-boarding a much broader section of society and enable them access to the same content, services, market places from which limited section of the society has benefited so far

        That’s not true, unless they are zero-rating the entire internet. That’s the root of the problem: that people are not gaining access to the same content and services.

        “Leveling the playing” field is not an abstract concept in anti-competitive law. It’s quite specific: an organisation can’t unfairly use it’s dominance in one field (say mobile service provision) to impose itself in a different field (lets say e-commerce). Nobody cares about salaries or logistical prowess: just let the market decide. There’s nothing worse than denying your competition aaccess to the market.

        1. What about facebook and their free internet.org service? Internet.org is available free of charge across many emerging markets. OLX (another classifieds platform) partnered with internet.org to offer access to online classifieds through the Internet.org mobile application, free of data charges, in emerging markets around the world. These partnerships with telecoms companies will help drive ecommerce in emerging markets such as Zimbabwe. It will be interesting to see how it works here. E-commerce until now has not taken off and I think the major reason is data charges. Tengai will hopefully change that ! It will also have positive spillover effects to the startup sector as more and more people will start using e-commerce in the daily lives!

          1. What about google with their flying internet balloons Project Loon? Isn’t that a way of getting people to their services?

            We need to always broaden our views on these things

          2. What about facebook and their free internet.org service?

            Excellent example! Unfortunately for you, it bolsters my argument: internet.org was criticised for going against the principles of net neutrality [1][2] in India.

            If Econet really wanted e-commerce to take off, they would make an internet-facing EcoCash payments API and make it widely available. This will never happen because they are obsessed with horizontal growth/muscling into adjacent fields, and Zimbabwe is worse-off for it.

            Personally, I feel that internet.org is a well-intentioned, but imperfect project. It is not right for disadvantaged people be restricted to limited set of websites. On the other hand, some internet is better than none at all.

            1. http://blog.savetheinternet.in/
            2. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/05/internetorg-not-neutral-not-secure-and-not-internet

          3. What about facebook and their free internet.org service?

            Excellent example! Unfortunately for you, it bolsters my argument: internet.org was criticised for going against the principles of net neutrality [1][2] in India.

            If Econet really wanted e-commerce to take off, they would make an internet-facing EcoCash payments API and make it widely available. This will never happen because they are obsessed with horizontal growth/muscling into adjacent fields, and Zimbabwe is worse-off for it.

            Personally, I feel that internet.org is a well-intentioned, but imperfect project. It is not right for disadvantaged people be restricted to limited set of websites. On the other hand, some internet is better than none at all.

            1. http://blog.savetheinternet.in/
            2. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/05/internetorg-not-neutral-not-secure-and-not-internet

  4. Do you guys ever get invited to places where you have to sign NDA at all? lts noble that you are bringing all this to us but its lacking punch, the tech juicy stuff like.

    Stuff like what platform they are using!

    What programming language was used!

    Is it running on windows or linux!

    Where are they hosting the server,

    If its in a datacentre, how reliable is it.

    lm just curious thats all

    1. Speculation: it looks like they are using an open source script “osclass”. see osclass.org

  5. Mark Zuckerberg CEO, Facebook: “Some people have criticised the concept of zero rating that allows Internet.org to deliver free basic Internet services, saying that offering some services for free goes against the spirit of net neutrality. I strongly disagree with this. We fully support net neutrality. We want to keep the internet open. Net neutrality ensures network operators don’t discriminate by limiting access to services you want to use. It’s an essential part of the open Internet, and we are fully committed to it. But net neutrality is not in conflict with working to get more people connected. These two principles universal connectivity and net neutrality can and must coexist.” I agree with Zukerburg, so long as telecom operators don’t restrict access by creating create fast/slow lanes, I see no problem with Zero-rating certain sites. It will empower people to experience online commerce and that can only be a good thing! Right now there isn’t really any e-commerce in Zimbabwe so hopefully tengai will open up that space and educate Zimbabweans on the benefits of online retail. I’m saying all this while being a hopeful startup founder myself!

  6. Answer to who Econet is partnering with is in the colours used on Tengai….Anybody notice which other large classifieds site uses the same colour scheme? 10 points for the bright spark that answers first.

    1. From what I understand, Tengai is a new Zimbabwean startup launching in a strategic partnership with econet wireless. While I can’t confirm 100%, i’m pretty sure. Heard some cool things about it internally – pretty exciting!

      1. I’ve heard otherwise. This is a partnership between Econet and a very large, well established foreign classifieds company. What’s unique about Zimbabwe is that they’re not using the global brand, they’re using Tengai. Presumably because econet will want to buy them out down the line and it’s easier if this business has its own identity.

        Zero-rating of services which the operator owns or has a stake in is NOT compatible with the principles of net neutrality as it is a form of price discrimination (exempting some services from data limits and not others) .This is not the first nor the worst anti-competitive behaviour that we have witnessed or will witness from Econet so can’t see anybody putting up much of a fight, least of all the regulator.
        Only one other classifieds company with same distinctive colours, Purple, Green, Blue and Orange.

        1. Lol. Someone has let their imagination run wild. Why would econet partner with olx – a company in 40+ markets globally? I’m sure they are developing their own competitor service to roll out across econet markets. Why share the pie when you eat the whole thing yourself. I hope it is econet as we need Zimbabwean success stories in the field of ecommerce.

          1. Why would econet partner with olx – a company in 40+ markets globally?
            Maybe because Econet promised to zero-rate their content? If they had refused, Econet could have just gone to Gumtree and zero-rated them instead. Do you think OLX would get a fair shake? This what I’ve been saying all along: zero-rating = unfair advantage.

  7. Some interesting points made in the comments – personally I all for zero rated and am very excited to see what this platform into the world of e-commerce in Zim has to offer!

  8. Some interesting points made in the comments – personally I am all for zero rated and am very excited to see what this platform into the world of e-commerce in Zim has to offer!

  9. Don’t see what the fuss is about. I’m all for zero rating tengai. Will open it up to the masses and help stimulate commerce. To my knowledge, no ecommerce site has been zero rated in Zim before – and just look at our barely non existent ecommerce sector! We need a game changer in the market to start the online retail revolution – its long overdue in my mind. Tengai zero rating could actually be a blessing in disguise to all ecommerce startups in Zim who could benefit from the greater awareness of ecommerce across our nation.

    1. This is not just some fuss. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-33605253 . Such anti-competitive behavior will distort the market. I think this is the problem with most Zimbos, despite the horrible policies those in power seem to push and the populism that is often in support of such ideas, they seem to be unaware of the fact that a Macroeconomy is a minefield that has to be navigated with caution.

      It sounds good to you now but down the line the consequence will become apparent to everyone including yourself. People with economic training, including myself, can see it afar off. It would be monopolistic and terrible.

      That is why it’s against the law. I took the time to look it up http://www.competition.co.zw/legislation?download=8:competition-act-1428updated Its an illegal restrictive trade practice.

      1. I’m pleasantly surprised that the Competition & Tarrif Commission has a website (and that it exists at all). They even have a complaints form: who’s going to snitch on Econet first 🙂

        1. Our selective application of anger. ZESA gave Netone(OneWallet) the only right to sell prepaid electricity token through mobile money, leaving out Telecel (Telecash) and Econet (EcoCash) disadvantaging over 4 million mobile money wallet holders, condemning the whole nation to queuing. No you mention CTC and net neutrality, EcoSchool has zero rated education sites. Win the Zesa issue first and maybe we can start on this one.

          1. Again Economics my friend. These entities are in the public sector. The reasoning is that they provide essential services of a strategic nature. Said services will be too important.

            They are not above the law, they are regulated by the government which must implement sound strategies or lose the following elections.

  10. Our selective application of anger. ZESA gave Netone(OneWallet) the only right to sell prepaid electricity token through mobile money, leaving out Telecel (Telecash) and Econet (EcoCash) disadvantaging over 4 million mobile money wallet holders, condemning the whole nation to queuing. Now you mention CTC and net neutrality, EcoSchool has zero rated education sites. Win the Zesa issue first and maybe we can start on this one.

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