7 minute read
Startup Story

Paps: going the last mile in francophone Africa

Clapping Paps group

How Paps powers e-commerce with end-to-end B2B logistics

French-speaking countries in Africa are the continent’s fastest-growing economies, according to the World Bank, but last-mile delivery solutions face traffic jams and poor infrastructure, often without the logistics support of a major player like DHL or UPS. Countries lack precise addresses, and it can be hard to count on reliability and safety for deliveries.

“When you look at the logistics space in Africa, we import a lot of products, and it’s a mess for retailers to get them from one city to another,” explains Bamba Lô, founder and CEO of Paps, an end-to-end B2B logistics startup based in Senegal. “We decided to build PAPS to enable companies to do business more easily on the continent. PAPS solves an infrastructure problem.”

Paps provides its business clients with the logistics power of a large company, including preferential shipping rates, parcel insurance, and a network of relay points throughout Senegal. Each customer is assigned a dedicated account manager who manages all shipments. Paps offers customers an internal application suite of three platforms; the first platform allows customers to make delivery and transport requests and track their shipments and stock. The second platform is a dashboard where Paps’ operations team receives and process information related to each delivery and transport request. The third platform is a mobile application that notifies couriers of their deliveries and routes.

Lô says the Paps team views their technical applications as tools that enable them to connect with users transparently, rather than as standalone SaaS products. “We built the products to support what we are already building in the physical environment and to give clients visibility into deliveries from warehouses, through our network, to the shipping fleet,” Lô explains. “Our clients have different points of entry: phone, email, and our application.”

Paps, which serves Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire, recently announced that it has raised $4.5 million in a pre-Series A funding round to expand across Africa. Since Paps was founded in 2016, the startup has put together a fleet of 530 vans and scooters, warehouses, sorting centers, and partnerships with major global carriers. A special Ivory Coast edition of Forbes magazine featured Lô and his ambition to turn Paps into “the largest logistic service in French-speaking Africa by 2025.”

“We started Paps as a logistics Uber-like model,” explains Lô, who started his first company, a call center, in France in 2014, and ran it for 2.5 years, expanding to Tunisia and Senegal, before starting Paps.

Google mentorship leads to a B2B focus and faster growth

The Paps team applied for Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa in 2018 to gain Google mentorship and product support to focus their services and learn strategies to grow and scale. The company began as a business-to-consumer (B2C) delivery service; for example, customers could reserve library books and have them delivered through the service, but growth, while steady, was slower than the leadership team wanted to grow. The mentorship the Paps team received throughout the program helped them establish a new direction for their business that would lead to faster growth. “Our goal for participating in Google for Startups Accelerator was growth,” says Lô. “We were serving the B2C Market and B2B Market, and once we started the program, we learned a lot about focus, and we decided to cut all the B2C activities and focus on B2B. That’s when we really started to grow.”

The Google mentorship and guidance they received during Google for Startups Accelerator: Africa resulted in Paps’ pivot to a B2B focus. Paps experienced 20% growth when they switched to a B2B model.

A Paps delivery person wearing a mask delivers a package to a customer.
A Paps delivery person delivers a package to a customer.

Paps continues to focus on growing their services and client base, while maintaining service quality.

“Managing growth and being able to provide the same level of quality over time is a huge challenge,” Lo says. “That quality can be defined by how you hire, how you deliver, and how you build your tools.”

Most recently, Paps was selected for the first round of investment from the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund in Africa, which provides Black-led startups with equity-free funding, Google Ad grants, and mentorship.

Lô says Paps’ authenticity and commitment to their clients is the key to their success..

“We are authentic, and I think our clients understand that we are not perfect, and that we always try our best to find solutions,” he says. “I think that’s why our clients trust us.”

Learn more about Paps