The Design Institute, Lagos, was born at Konga, where two of the co-founders were involved in building the culture of experimentation, prototyping and innovation that helped Konga develop and pioneer winning products for the Nigerian ecommerce market.

From 2013 to 2015 the ecommerce industry in Nigeria saw astounding growth. Leading ecommerce players had some of the biggest average basket sizes globally. This growth brought about lots of excitement and investor dollars but it also quickly uncovered the very weak infrastructure on which the leading players – Konga and Jumia – were building. Jumia had the advantage of applying a “tried and tested” template from other emerging markets. The company also had the benefit of a strong engineering team based in Berlin. Konga on the other hand, had a visionary CEO with a good grasp of the local market. The CEO had no template to apply to Nigeria and minimal ecommerce experience. Konga also didn’t have an army of experienced engineers waiting to churn out new products needed by the market. This turned out to be a strength.

Marathon Vs Sprints – The first hurdle to cross was to understand the customers, the market, and to answer the question “what would ecommerce look like in Nigeria.” With no access to historical data and no real template to copy, we had to embrace experimentation and prototyping. We coined the concept of “marathon of sprints”. This means that we focused on developing minimum viable products “MVPs” and tested the prototypes in the real world. We used the tests to gather data. If initial results were lackluster, we discarded the prototypes. And where we saw initial promise, we iterated and updated the company’s strategy.

This approach helped us to move fast, learn quickly and gather interesting insight into the uniqueness of the Nigerian Market.

Codify & Share – JR joined Konga in late 2014 and he brought with him fresh Design Thinking experience from the Stanford d.School. He ran a Design Thinking workshop for everyone in the Konga Product Team after which the Product Managers (PMs) were tasked with applying the newly acquired knowledge to the development of existing products.

PMs went on delivery runs in order to meet customers. They took turns to answer calls at the Call Center. The insight they got was invaluable in improving the company’s products. Finally, PMs contributed to the Konga Product Development Framework – a customer-centric approach to product development.

Execute – KongaPay, led by JR, was an opportunity to apply our newly minted product development methodology.

Empathy – We met real customers on delivery runs to understand why customers wouldn’t prepay for orders.

Prototyping & Test – We created basic pictures (prototypes) of a payment product and took it out on delivery runs. We observed customers playing with the prototypes and collected feedback in the process.

The prototype-test cycle was done about four times until one day, we heard customers say, “When can we have that!?”

KongaPay was launched 3 months later with the immediate result of solving some of the challenges we had faced since inception:

– KongaPay increased the company’s prepay orders.

– Refund – KongaPay reduced the duration of the refund process from 2 weeks to 24 hours.

– KongaPay opened up new business verticals – airtime, DSTv, Konga Daily, and Konga Services.

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