Cato launches with Caribbean and global ambitions

Business editor

Friday, June 16, 2017

Print this page Email A Friend! a new Jamaican online mall, is out to be the Caribbean's answer to Amazon and Alibaba. So far more than 50 local businesses have signed up wth the newly launched company, opening them up to consumers on the world wide web.

The start-up has three co-founders — Bert Williams, Anup Ghosh and Jomo Cato — and currently has more than 30 employees in Kingston, New York and Kolkata in India. The company was launched at the Jamaica International Expo in Montego Bay.

With a focus on the Caribbean, Quikanou (from quick and canoe) has a strategy of attracting customers with a commission rate that is lower than international competitors such as Amazon and being more cost-effective than a stand alone internet website.

Quikanou charges eight to 15 per cent commission, significantly lower than rates of up to 65 per cent charged by some other providers, according to Co-Founder Cato.

The company could have the potential to shake up Jamaica's existing retail trade, which has relied mainly on brick and mortar stores, even while more and more Jamaican consumers are shoppng online largely with US-based companies.

“Quikanou will strengthen brick and mortar operators in Jamaica and the Caribbean by delivering a channel they currently do not have to reach consumers,” Cato told the Jamaica Observer.

“We currently have over 50 Jamaican businesses signed and more that are in the initial stages of onboarding.”

“This already makes us the biggest mall in Jamaica and it's all online! We currently also have agreements with other businesses across the Caribbean, including St Vincent, Trinidad, St Lucia, St Kitts and Barbados.”

Departments on the Quikanou site include: groceries, pharmacy, health and safety, home and hardware, lighting and decor, automotive, restaurants, spas and gift cards.

The company has been in the works for some three years. Without stating a dollar figure for the size of the investment, Cato said, “Over the past three years we have heavily invested in the infrastructure required for this robust ecommerce platform. It is world-class and proprietary built.”

The company will deliver goods to customers both locally and abroad. For local delivery it has created strategic alliances with several local delivery providers — Tara Couriers, Jamaica Post Office, Doorway, Just Call, PayPak and OnPoint.

For export, DHL, Caribbean Airlines and Amerijet will be the preferred airfreight providers and the company is currently in confidential negotiations with major ocean freight operators.

“We have the ability to deliver right across Jamaica, the Caribbean and the world,” Cato said.

“We have presented our business to the PSOJ, JMA, and the JEA who have all embraced the change and opportunity that we are bringing to Jamaican businesses,” he said.

Quikanou hopes to make its mark by solving problems, according to Cato.

“For businesses — we provide a super store that opens global online access to Jamaica and the Caribbean, so persons can interact with your business and buy your products,” he said. “For consumers — now you can shop the Caribbean and have your goods delivered wherever you are in the world, straight to your home.

“So at our core we deliver local and export growth for Jamaica and the Caribbean,” he said.

“The effect is that this expands the market for business. We grow their customer base; we deliver significant incremental growth by taking local businesses into the digital economy. This is truly the New Market for a Bright New World.

“Fundamentally we are changing how we sell and how we buy in the region,” Cato says.

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