Ivan had never in his 25 year existence ventured into business of any kind. Then, when invited to an event where everyone was required to bring their own drinks, he felt he needed to impress; carry something different. But marooned in Najjera, he didn’t have much luck trying to find that late in the evening. Even venturing online didn’t help—there were no local solutions. He would have to go all the way to town—to a physical store. That wasn’t convenient. He would have liked that someone would bring the liquor to his doorstep. That’s when Ivan thought about starting an online store to help others that often find themselves in a similar predicament. That instant, Liquor Store came into being.
It helped, as he says, that he was into “anything tech” even before he embarked on his software engineering degree at Makerere University, where he enrolled in 2012. While studying for his degree, Ivan participated in a lot of hackathons, with the Orange Innovative Awards in particular providing his big break. His Terror Alert app earned rave reviews, giving the young Ivan both exposure and confidence to try out a few more things.
With an unquestionable gift for developing mobile apps, websites and web applications and with partnerships with some existing stores and SafeBoda to provide the delivery service, Ivan was ready to embark on his online shop dream. With six months of his final year at university still to go, the budding programmer had his venture up and running.
I could have started a [physical] shop, but it would not have been convenient. Convenience was the main thing, and also variety, because with Liquor Store that is what we are aiming for.
How it works
One has to log onto the website: www.liquorstore.ug and browse for whichever liquor or wine they want, then add that to their shopping cart. Like any other online store we need details like your name, your contact and the address where you would want your purchase delivered. There is a feature with the locations (neighbourhoods) around Kampala with the transport charges (on top of the liquor charge).
How they pay
Customers pay on delivery. Of course we are looking at options like mobile money but not now.
Business so far
Some months are good, some months are so-so. Weekends are best. Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays are really, really good.
What was needed to start
I did the website development myself but needed someone to help with the graphics.
How much it cost to set up
The website hosting and related charges cost 700k. If I were to pay someone to build the website, that would have cost about Shs2m. A quotation for an e-commerce website would be about that much, but could vary depending on what exactly one wants. For daily costs I would say running the website requires someone to monitor the clients, the orders…The other expense was data [for the internet].
On the challenges
There are two major ones: one is trust. The other one is location. Our addressing system is very poor, so you have to depend on calls. Someone may provide their location but to pinpoint the exact place you have to call and confirm and that becomes a cost. Advertising is also a very big challenge because it requires a huge budget. I try to get into partnerships but if they don’t favour the business I find other alternatives.
The prices must be competitive. Marketing is also very important.
On the risks…
There are people who change their mind after you’ve dispatched a purchase, or someone leaves a location. Some people want to test if this really works but you have already run into costs.