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Kenyan Startup -Sukhiba Connect – Raises $1.5 Million for WhatsApp-based E-commerce Expansion in Africa

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  • Sukhiba Connect is a social commerce startup that is expanding its business across Africa. The company's platform enables businesses to reach and sell to their customers through WhatsApp. Sukhiba Connect is well-positioned to capitalize on the growing trend of social commerce in Africa.

Sukhiba Connect, a Kenyan social commerce startup, has secured $1.5 million in a funding round to drive its expansion beyond Kenya’s borders. The investment was led by CRE Venture Capital, with the participation of investors like Antler, EQ2 Ventures, Goodwater Capital, and Chandaria Capital, along with contributions from angel investors.

Founded in 2021 by Ananth Gudipati, who also serves as CEO; and Abhinav Solipuram, who doubles as CTO, Sukhiba Connect initially started as a community commerce platform. However, the startup had to pivot to conversational commerce in the middle of the previous year due to the capital-intensive nature of its asset-heavy model.

Sukhiba Connect offers a unique B2B conversational commerce tool that empowers businesses to interact with and sell to their customers through WhatsApp. Sellers can effectively manage orders, accept local payment methods like M-Pesa, and categorize their customers, while buyers can seamlessly browse product catalogs, modify shopping carts, and complete purchases – all within WhatsApp.

Kenya stands out as a significant market for WhatsApp usage in Africa, with a large share of internet users relying on this messaging service. The survey data from the third quarter of 2022 reported that WhatsApp was the preferred choice for internet users between the ages of 16 and 64.

Sukhiba Connect’s CEO, Ananth Gudipati, highlighted that they have “brought to WhatsApp the ability to do the entire transaction from conversation, purchase and payments to delivery.” To date, the startup has enabled WhatsApp commerce for over 30 businesses, mainly large manufacturers and distributors catering to nearly 15,000 micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), including retailers.

African customers order via trust, and trust is often built with relationships. Salespeople have that relationship with retailers and we are not trying to replace it, that is why routing the chat was a very essential innovation for us. We can power an entire CRM function through WhatsApp with routes, sales staff, view mapping, monitoring and all other features that manufacturers need,” said Gudipati.

Manufacturers find value in Sukhiba Connect to expand their customer base and reach new areas, especially as their sales teams predominantly operate offline. The startup has also created features that enable manufacturers to provide tailored in-app support based on routes, leveraging WhatsApp to strengthen trust and relationships between buyers and sellers.

Read also: Luzia, an AI-assistant company, raises $10m in Series A funding round

Sukhiba Connect’s funding will drive its expansion beyond Kenya, exploring markets like Ethiopia, South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria. WhatsApp’s substantial usage in these regions provides an opportunity for businesses to connect with customers more effectively. While WhatsApp offers some commerce features, startups like Sukhiba Connect are bridging gaps and unlocking the full potential of social commerce.

With the continued growth in WhatsApp’s role as a business communication channel, Sukhiba Connect aims to create innovative, scalable software to facilitate commerce on this platform. Their approach challenges the need for a separate app by enabling businesses to conduct transactions entirely through WhatsApp.

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