Building the Future: Lessons learnt from attempting to build an ecommerce platform in Nigeria, with Deepankar Rustagi

Deepankar Rustagi is the founder of Vconnect, an online business directory and local search engine in Nigeria. This episode is a lesson on how to get traction for your startup by focusing on ‘One Metric that Matters’. It is very tempting to do a lot of things at the same time as an entrepreneur.

Deepankar had the same challenge. But he had a good advisor who told him to focus on one thing only. They focussed on a single metric – the number of businesses added to Vconnect platform within a specific geography. And that was a major contributor to their early success.

I have seen this work a lot.

When I get the team at Starta to focus our energy and resources on dialing up a particular growth metric, we see traction. But it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of pursuing many rats. Deepankar fell into that trap too. They tried to pivot into becoming an ecommerce platform. That didn’t go well. But it was a good experiment that provided significant learning for them.

One of my biggest takeaways from this episode is this: Ecommerce business is harder and more complex than people think it is from the outside.

Ecommerce is one of the most difficult business to scale. And success is dependent on a lot of factors that is beyond the control of one company. Ecommerce companies are built on a lot of existing and continuously innovated infrastructure such as payment, logistics, stock management, consumer behaviour, merchant education and trust.

If you run a business that sells, or has a potential to sell via an ecommerce platform, this episode is for you.
Stay humble, stay focussed, stay grounded.

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How he started Vconnect after an accident on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway
  • Why he pursued a degree in software engineering as well as the jobs he did before starting vconnect.
  • How to get traction by focusing on ‘One Metric the Matter’ and specific market segment.
  • The conversation he had with his previous employers when he informed them that he was about to leave to start his business, and how they ended up funding his startup!
  • How well-funded competition helped educate the market, and what they learn from them.
  • How Vconnect tried to pivot  into ecommerce business model, why it failed and and the biggest takeaways from taking that experiment.
  • Why you need to really care about unit metric of your startup
  • The key things that matters before setting up an ecommerce business in Africa
  • Why it is important to build around your core competencies as a businesses rather than do-it-all
  • Why it is important to get your team to speak into significant changes you are making as as business.
  • What Vconnect’s plan for the next few years is as well as an interesting add-on they’ve included in their directory services
  • Why African tech ecosystem will be strengthened through collaboration