Founded in January 2020, Chari is an FMCG and financial services digital distributor targeting small retailers in Francophone Africa. Chari launched its operations in Morocco before expanding to Tunisia in early 2022. With the proliferation of cheap low-end smartphones across markets globally, especially in Africa, the e-commerce market has continued to grow remarkably. Reports show further that smartphone shipments into Africa have grown by 13.2% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2021, to over 22.8 million devices. This is giving a needed boost to mobile app architecture and growth, especially in Africa. These numbers have invariably stimulated the retail and e-commerce sectors, with informal retail driving a large portion of the entire sector. Digital solutions in e-commerce, therefore, aim at accelerating and consolidating the level of growth and scale of retail business while combining with traditional systems.
Today, Chari has announced that it has taken over 100% stake in Diago, an Ivorian app that connects neighborhood shops to FMCG producers/importers. Earlier this year, the company had acquired Axa credit, the credit branch of Axa Assurance Maroc for $22 million. Prior to this, the YC-backed startup had acquired a Moroccan digital ledger book, Karny.ma. Speaking to Startup Lagos, Ismael Belkhayat, the CEO and Co-Founder of the retail startup highlights the company’s strategy of acquisitions as a key expansion play. Leveraging the network strength and adoption of the acquired brand, Chari is able to establish its presence in a new geographical market, maintaining palpable value to its growing customers. The startup is valued at over $100 million after a $5 million seed round last year October, and a bridge round early this year as reported by Techcrunch.
Chari intends to digitize informal retail stores across French-speaking Africa, and provide credit to them. Growing up in Morocco, Ismael Belkhayat, also known by the alias, Ironman, had had his early education in the country, before moving to Paris at age 17 on a state-sponsored education trip. Following his graduation from the university prep school in Paris, he secured a scholarship from the Moroccan government to see his education at Cornell University in the US.After his education, he joined BCG’s Paris office and was later transferred to Morocco to help with setting up the company’s presence in the country.
With over 4 years of experience, working for BCG, he took on a new challenge with tech entrepreneurship, founding VotreChauffeur, a ride-hailing startup operating in Casablanca, and a few other Moroccan cities. After four years of growing the startup, he exited through acquisition for an undisclosed amount by Avis Car Rental. He continues to serve on the board of the company.
During this time, he founded yet another startup, Sarouty, a marketplace that facilitates real estate deals within Morocco. The platform helps people discover, buy or rent land and houses across the country. After much traction, PropertyFinder Group, a Dubai-based multinational proptech startup, opted to acquire Sarouty.
As such, Chari is the serial entrepreneur’s third successful startup. Its acquisition of Diago app is significant. Founded in 2021 by Amidou Diarra and Ali Ouattara, two former managers at Glovo and PepsiCo, diagoapp.net operates exclusively in Abidjan. Ali and Amidou will remain CEO and COO, respectively, and will oversee local business growth before expanding their footprint to other Sub-Saharan countries.
Diago’s entire team will receive Chari’s full support functions. Chari’s Casablanca back office will help Diago team in setting up operations, IT tools, and customer service,said Cyrille Jacques, Vice-President of Chari in charge of leading international expansion.
After a successful proof of concept in Morocco, Chari aspires to become the leader of this business model in Francophone Africa.
The secret of a successful expansion is to build a local team that masters local market dynamics. The real challenge is to convince local entrepreneurs to join forces with Chari to grow faster. We continue to surround ourselves with young and ambitious entrepreneurs from Francophone Africa to build together a pan-African giant of FMCG and financial services distribution,says Ismael Belkhayat, co-founder and CEO of Chari.
Chari has acquired Diago, primarily, in an all-stock transaction. The deal was handled by AF Legal and RBB International firms, representing Chari, and Houda Law firm, representing the Ivorian startup.