For four years, Vconnect operated as a Nigerian “Yellow pages” of sorts. That is, a directory full of contact information for (mostly small) businesses in these parts. Vconnect slowly but steadily amassed location, contact data, as well as customer ratings for more than one million businesses, then seemingly overnight, they took way the lone textbox on the homepage, and the “Search for a business” call to action, and in its place, came a grid of products for sale – the kind you expect to see on Konga or Jumia. 2015 was the year of the e-commerce marketplace), and in 2015, Vconnect became the largest e-commerce marketplace in Nigeria.
Fast forward to today, and they’ve brought back business listings, letting it co-exist with the e-commerce offering – a chimera of sorts. “Our goal is to provide complete information that helps users to find and connect with businesses that are right for them.” says Deepanker Rustagi, VConnect Co-founder and General Manager, “Vconnect isn’t just a business search engine; it’s a discovery and engagement platform.” And that’s probably the best way to describe it now.
There’s no dearth of e-commerce marketplaces in Nigeria, and so a dumb list of products (like everyone else has) will just not cut it anymore, and neither will another long list of companies operating in the space. I think Deepanker’s thesis is that as consumer needs have evolved, there’s value to be gleaned by helping people make transactional decisions based on complete information (reviews, ratings, and lists) available on the main site. That is, becoming a one-stop shop to manage the relationship between businesses and their customers, make them feel…real to real people and in the process become a platform that delivers value on both ends (as I perceive it).
Will it work? Nobody knows, but in the meantime, I’m going to sit back and enjoy the new design.