We have been working with Infobip for more than a year now and these are the things we enjoy the most in our partnership:

  • Becoming a part of their Infobip Startup Tribe program and benefiting from its perks (free product credits, outstanding support, visibility through events)
  • Using great authentication & marketing automation solutions
  • Engaging with Infobip teams to help us refine our customer engagement

Sophia Alj, Co-founder & COO, Chari

The startup

Meet Chari, an innovative B2B e-commerce and retail startup from Morocco, changing the way mom-and-pop shops in Francophone Africa operate.

Starting in early 2020, and currently numbering 185+ people in three countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire) Chari is on a mission to meet the needs of local retailers by ensuring a regular supply of consumer products and offering financial services. Their B2B e-commerce app with embedded fintech for traditional proximity stores in French-speaking Africa puts the power of e-commerce in the hands of retailers.

In short, Chari operates as a mobile app, allowing small local retailers to order any kind of consumer goods they sell. By procuring inventory in the Chari app (from partnering FMCG multinationals and local manufacturers), they get it delivered in less than 24 hours for free. On top of that, they can benefit from payment facilities, making Chari a one stop shop for traditional retailers.

In just over three years, this pioneering startup achieved milestones many dream of:

  • Validating proof of concept and creating an MVP in under six months
  • Raising a $6.5M seed round and currently closing a much bigger series A
  • Participating in acceleration programs such as the Y combinator & STATION F
  • Scaling geographically from, initially, just a Casablanca region in Morocco to currently three countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire)
  • Acquiring Karny, digital book ledger that allows mom-and-pop shops to keep track of the credit they offer and collect their cash easier
  • Adding the embedded fintech on top of the e-commerce solution
  • Helping 25,000+ mom-and-pop stores procure inventory in a more convenient way and grow their business
  • Putting the nascent Moroccan startup ecosystem on the map
The origin

It all started from a personal experience and a keen observation. The founders of Chari, Ismael Belkhayat and Sophia Alj, a married couple, would often go to their nearby shop to buy necessary goods, becoming friends with the local shopkeeper. After a while they noticed that every time they were in the shop, a different truck of goods would come by and the shopkeeper would need to stop all operations and quickly go buy the goods, making the clients wait for him. They started discussing this with him learning that was the only opportunity for him to procure inventory, and a real pain point in his daily life. After traveling through different parts of Africa, they noticed the same pattern, realizing that this was a general pain point in emerging markets.

The founders

Ismael Belkhayat, Cyrille Jacques and Sophia Alj, Founders of Chari

Thus Chari was born, with its initial e-commerce option to help local mom-and-pop shops procure inventory in a more convenient way. Accordingly, they have successfully positioned themselves as a central purchasing body allowing traditional retailers to fight the competition that comes from the modern trade. Even the name itself – Chari – is a hint, meaning I am buying in Arabic (the Côte d’Ivoire version of the name is Diago).

However, after learning that 70% of the Moroccan population is either unbanked or unable to prove recurring income, Chari decided to put lending in the hands of the aforementioned retailers by offering financial services such as micro credit or payment services. Why? Because traditional retailers know their clients to the core; in a country of 40 million people and about 200,000 stores, each shopkeeper serves around 200 customers daily. This means they know where their customers live, how much they earn and what they consume, making them ideal to do credit assessments, and to determine how much they can lend.

The Tribe

Having a strong presence and the best SMS rates in North Africa, Infobip was already on the minds of Chari founders when Infobip contacted them to join its Infobip Startup Tribe program which they gladly accepted.

There are many benefits to joining the Infobip Startup Tribe, from product credits that help us finance our activity, to boosting our visibility through the events Infobip hosts, like the meetup in which we recently participated. I also feel that there is a real support coming from the program which is helpful when you are in startup mode and have a limited number of people. The support team helped us to quickly understand how the technology works and how to use it, they were responsive to all of our needs, and the interface is user friendly.

Sophia Alj, Co-founder & COO, Chari

Chari has since spread its field of operation to three countries, with Infobip seamlessly working in the background. The SMS allowed Chari to add an extra step in the authentication of users on their app: by receiving OTPs through SMS users are provided with additional security, meaning no one can log in into their account or use their wallet. This proved to be crucial in establishing a safer user experience.

The takeaway

After establishing their presence in three countries, Chari is looking to spread its field of operation to others, such as Senegal, Ghana and Cameroon, over the next couple of years, and they are counting on Infobip to help them achieve safe user experience in those areas as well.

Besides that, they are looking to expand their financial services offering by becoming the reference wallet, microcredit and remittance platform for all French-speaking African countries and African diaspora living outside of Africa.

With a vision to help local mom-and-pop shops, which there are around 1.5+ million Chari enables their clients to generate more revenue and keep their businesses, while providing a great economic and social impact to their customers. They also prove that it is possible to make it in and from Morocco.

We are delighted to empower Chari on their path of empowering others.🤘

Interested in joining the Infobip Startup Tribe?

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