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Kambeu: Zambia’s pioneer in e-commerce business

KALONDE NYATI, Lusaka
PEOPLE expecting him to carry various goods to Zambia from the United States and vice-versa each time he travelled home on vacation presented an opportunity for him to set up an e-commerce business that would enable him transport goods and enable Zambians to shop for various products from the US online.
Mawano Kambeu, then established DotCom in 2009, which became fully operational in 2013. Previously, he only operated the firm during weekends as he had a demanding job at Prudential Financial in the USA.
Today, Mr Kambeu, 33, is successfully running DotCom Zambia, a company that started in his kitchen with two employees but now has 30 members of staff with plans to increase the workforce to 100 this year.
He says the company has experienced growth and has diversified its operations, primarily by expanding operations in other regions, while domestically becoming an IT firm specialising in online shopping and bus ticketing services.
Mr Kambeu, who grew up in Kitwe, recalls how he advertised his business by word of mouth and how he went without a salary for two years to grow his business but ensured that his workers were paid.
“People would ask why I left my paying job in the US to come and sleep in the back of the DotCom office but it is the negativity that kept me going and wanting to make a difference for my country. Someone has to do something for the country to move forward,” he says.
A positive mind and passion have seen him grow the business to levels where DotCom has scored several achievements, namely; winner of the 2015 Harvard Business School-Africa new venture – an award that recognises creative enterprises in Africa, ZICTA business award in the creating accessibility category, and second place in the global innovation for science and technology, an initiative sponsored by the US State Department.
Mr Kambeu also got the best Zambian entrepreneur award last year.
Because of the company’s vision, it attracted a US$500,000 equity investment from e-Ventures Africa Fund and Kukula Capital to expand the business.
His journey to success was not rosy but had to prove to people around him that he was competent and able to stand out.
Mr Kambeu narrates how he went to the US in pursuit of greener pastures and had to sleep on his cousin’s couch for two years, drop out of university several times because he had no money for school fees and how he did shoddy jobs to survive. There were times he felt like calling it quits by packing his bags and returning home.
Mr Kambeu, who holds an MBA in Finance and a degree in Business and Marketing, says his breakthrough came when he got a job as a mail sorter for Prudential Financial on temporarily basis. His job entailed him to sort out in- and outgoing mails and customer statements.
One needed to have a degree or two years’ experience in finance to work for a financial firm but he had neither.
He was young with no formal qualifications but proved to be competent despite his status, age, colour and lack of qualifications.
The once upon a time mail sorter, was appointed as customer service officer in the firm due to his hard work.
“The impression some people had was that I was not up for the challenge, because I was young, had the wrong skin colour coupled with no formal work experience,” he says.
Mr Kambeu rose to various ranks including internal sales director for the company and his role was business-to-business selling of annuity investments with key clients being financial advisors at Morgan Stanley, UBS, Smith Barney, RBC and Dain Rauscher, among others. He also covered territories including Long Island, Western Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire.
Mr Kambeu was able to make sales worth US$32 million, to the amusement of his employers.
“I finished 2008 as the top internal wholesaler in the wire-house division generating sales of US$32 million in 2008,” he says.
He also worked as manager in charge of strategy and sales support between 2008 and 2013.  It is during this period that he decided it was time to return home as he had gained the necessary experience and knowledge which would enable him get a job or run DotCom successfully.
Today, he does not regret returning home as he has managed to establish his firm as a pioneer in the country’s e-commerce, with the company growing from a one-man operation to a major technology company with offices and staff in multiple countries around the world including the US, United Kingdom  and China.
A visionary, result-oriented leader and strategic thinker, who also owes his success to his parents who inculcated good morals in him, believes in the translation of strategy into results through practical and focused execution.
He also believes that “one does not become a millionaire overnight but it takes a lot of hard work”.
As Mr Kambeu expands his business, he also wants to empower local entrepreneurs, particularly small-scale entrepreneurs involved in fashion designing.
“I want to create a platform that will enable local fashion designers export their products globally,” he said.
He also organises mentorship programmes for youths to empower them with entrepreneurship skills so that they do not wait to be employed but instead have the mindset of one day being an employer.
Mr Kambeu says he is a laid back person who enjoys listening to jazz and quiet environments.

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