Africa Internet Group face shake-up with ecommerce MDs in Nigeria

Major ecommerce backer Africa Internet Group (AIG) has quietly faced an overhaul of leadership of its online shopping plays in Nigeria. Already, the Rocket Internet affiliate has completed the replacement of the heads of Kaymu, Jovago, Easy Taxi and Lamudi. Interestingly, the heads of these companies are choosing to remain in Nigeria.

In October, Marek Zmysłowski was replaced to ensure his new enterprise, Jovago, becomes the next big thing in online hotel bookings in Africa. And with the support of AIG, the platform is on its way to achieving that. But several weeks ago, news emerged that he had been replaced with Kushal Dutta as the Managing Director at Jovago Nigeria.

Zmysłowski was probably aware of his eminent exit from Jovago which was why he was investing in several startups including Talking Bookz — an online audiobooks publisher and retailer whose co-founder told Ventureburn that they are aiming to become the number one distributor of African audiobooks to the rest of the world.

Ventureburn gathered that even though Zmysłowski is no longer with Jovago, he has chosen to remain in Nigeria as a serial investor and will also be launching another startup soon.

Marek as the MD of Jovago was probably more effective in promoting the company than the ads sponsored by the company. Many in the industry do refer to Marek as Nigerian with a white skin because of his ability to impressively navigate the cunning and tricky business paths in the country. His face was everywhere and he preached Jovago gospel to everyone that cared to listen. These are essentially important to the success of the brand in Nigeria especially with fierce competition with and Travelbeta.

Read more: Hotel booking startup Jovago expands to Senegal, Kenya

For Jovago to sustain its momentum, Dutta has followed the steps of Marek and attempted to be more Nigerian — making more noise, building trust and relationships.

Marek’s exit reminded industry watchers of the rumoured-then-confirmed exit of Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Afaedor from Jumia, which was the company’s worst PR period in recorded history. Many Nigerians are still not happy with the exit of the founding partners even though Kehinde has gone ahead to launch Africa Courier Express (ACE), a company that recently secured US$850 000 funding from pan-African integrated payment, processing and transaction switching company, Interswitch; and Afaedor has also launched online grocery delivery service, a company that he told Ventureburn is on its way to profitability.

Kaymu’s evangelist

As the industry was getting used to the news of the exit of Marek from Jovago, news also leaked that Evangeline Wiles has also left online marketplace Kaymu. Last August, she spoke to Ventureburn on how the company which is now in 17 countries is fairing in Nigeria were helping SMEs to migrate to the cloud. Sefik Bagdadioglu is now the new managing director for Kaymu Nigeria.

Just like Marek, Wiles is reportedly staying back in Nigeria, set to launch her own online fashion platform.

The hurricane of leadership change at AIG startup has also hit AIG’s taxi hailing app Easy Taxi where the co-founder and former MD Bankole Cardoso has been quietly replaced with Adaora Asala. There had been several rumours in the past about Cardoso’s exit which did not materialise until now. Interestingly though, Cardoso remains with AIG, acting as the AIG’s global head of communications. Information gotten from Asala’s LinkedIn page showed she joined Easy Taxi in April of this year.

Read more: Kaymu seeks to accelerate Nigerian entrepreneurship with new campaign

In Nigeria, Easy Taxi is struggling to compete with Uber and other taxi services. Even though it recently won the award of Nigeria’s best taxi booking app, the company knows it is in a highly competitive space and it may take more than a new MD to fix it.

Another AIG startup that had recorded leadership change is online property portal Lamudi. Since 2013, Obi Ejimofo had been the managing director but has since been replaced with Akua Nyame-Mensah who until her latest appointment was the managing director of Lamudi Ghana.

The only person that has not been replaced yet at AIG in Nigeria is Guillaume Leblond, the managing director of online food ordering platform Hellofood Nigeria. Before a heaved a sigh of relief, I did a little research and found out he replaced James Gibson as the MD in September last year, making him the only one who has been MD for the shortest period.

Update: it’s unclear whether the MDs have left on their own accord or that of AIH.

Paul Adepoju


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