Khalil Halilu is the founder of ShapShap, a logistics company looking to expand into other parts of the country and continent. 

In October 2022, ShapShap, an Abuja-based logistics company, won the Supernova Challenge Pitch competition at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX) in Dubai. The competition, one of the biggest pitch competitions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, comes with a prize money of $8,000, which the startup used to facilitate some of its expansion plans. ShapShap, founded in 2019 by Khalil Halilu, has two offerings: a logistics app for drivers and vendors and an e-commerce app for vendors, with features ranging from delivery logistics to routing and payments. 

TechCabal spoke to Halilu about the challenges of running a logistics startup in Nigeria today and what opportunities for growth exist.

How did you come up with the idea of ShapShap?

KH: Logistics is something that moves everything. I was privileged to experience smooth logistics services while in school abroad. So when I came back to Nigeria, I thought investing in making deliveries easier was essential. There are a lot of SMEs in Nigeria, and commerce, primarily e-commerce, is thriving here. We must build a working system to enable products to move from retailers to consumers as seamlessly as possible. I saw a huge opportunity and threw my hat in the ring.

What have been some of your biggest challenges in four years of operations?

KH: I frequently tell people that I don’t envy anyone in the logistics industry because of the challenges. There are many of them, in terms of poor government policies, operational costs, and infrastructural deficits, but the biggest for us is the human element. By human element, I mean getting people to work effectively with the resources provided because that is within our control. You build a technology, and the riders use it differently or decide not to. We have riders who try to beat the system by bypassing payments, trying to get fake ratings etc. We don’t have the best work ethic here in Nigeria.

Another challenge that rocks the industry is government policies and the lack of regularisation. There are a lot of players in the industry and no clear guidelines on how to enter or operate properly. Anyone can start a logistics business, as all it takes is to buy a bike, open an Instagram page and set prices. These people you’re competing with, and the customers on the other end don’t care. They want the cheapest prices.

What is ShapShap’s strategy for improving the quality of customer experience?

KH: Our unique strategy focuses on our riders and keeping them satisfied. We value our riders because they’re the business drivers, literally and figuratively. We try to make the work attractive in terms of salary, which helps us attract quality staff. We also approach it like any other job, there are growth opportunities, and we incentivise riders with bonuses so that they know that it’s a real job with a future rather than a transit job they’re doing to pass the time.

What do you hope to see in the next few years in the logistics space?

KH: I’d like to see better policies in place. We need better policies to support entrepreneurs because few are currently on the ground. We’re dealing with the effects of the fuel subsidy removal and high exchange rates. All these repel investors from putting their money into the country because they don’t know what they will wake up to the next day.

What are the growth opportunities for ShapShap?

Africa has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world. We also have a booming e-commerce market, which makes last-mile delivery crucial. A lot of upcoming e-commerce platforms are looking for fulfillment partners that are already established, to take the headache of last-mile deliveries off their hands. We have over 400 riders and have completed tens of thousands of deliveries already, so we have the background required.

We also want to collaborate with as many other logistics providers as possible. We’ve collaborated with Red Star, one of the biggest logistics companies in West Africa. We are also working on collaborating with Max to give us access to electric bikes for our riders. Collaboration is one of the fastest avenues for growth, and we don’t play with being able to leverage another organisation’s strength. We’re constantly looking for partners and companies with the same values to expand into other African cities and ride the current economic recession together.

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