Is Algeria ready for an online supermarket?

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Despite significant challenges for e-commerce sites in Algeria – including the fact that only 14% of Algerians are internet users – two young entrepreneurs want to believe that Algeria is ready for an online supermarket.

Launched on September 24, Superetti is the first online grocery store in Algeria. The people of Algiers can buy the same food, service, and beauty products that are available in stores at the same price, according to Oussama Araar, one of the two co-founders. The only difference is that clients who spend less than 500 DZD ($61 USD) will pay a 300 DZD ($4 USD) delivery fee.

Araar explains that this amount was not randomly chosen: he says it is the average amount spent by Algerians every two weeks. Based on this unverified statistic, he seems to believe all Algerians can potentially afford this service.

Superetti’s target customer is someone looking for the prestige of home delivery and an extensive imported products catalog, as well as those who want simplify their lives.

But given that the average per capita income in 2011 was just over $4,000 USD, $120 USD a month seems like a lot to expect regular people to spend on groceries. Will Superetti be able to attract the broader public or will it remain an elite service?

Far from the launching with great fanfare like some other big sites, the Superetti founders want the site to develop at its own pace. They made this decision based on their wish to test the service properly, as well as because they lacked sufficient funds at the outset; Araar and his partner Lyes Guise bootstrapped their project.

The Superetti team, consisting of Araar, two full-time employees and Guise, who works half-time, manually handle all the orders – limited, for now, to the city of Algiers. Once they receive an order, they send it to a partner supermarket and one of their two employees retrieves and delivers it.

One of the biggest challenges is the payment system. While awaiting the authorization of online payment in Algeria, Superetti doesn’t have any other choice but to use COD (cash on delivery). In order to make sure that orders are not fake, the team must verify each order by phone.

To remain competitive, the Superetti team wants to make profit not by relying on products sales but by selling ad space on the website or by using marketing services (for instance, including catalogs in every order). But Araar confesses that nothing is certain yet and he prefers, for the time being, to focus on the product and its delivery.

Moreover, Superetti has to compete with at least one other newly-launched Algerian online grocery store. Ardis, the new supermarket chain that seems poised to invade Algeria, recently launched a website to sell products online. But given the quality of the website – no photos for the products – Superetti is as yet on top of the Algerian online grocery store market. Whether this model is sustainable remains to be seen.

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