Moroccan start-up Chari launches chain of B2B stores to digitise informal retailers

Moroccan start-up Chari has launched a new chain of B2B stores to cater to local grocery stores seeking to digitise their operations. The firm, which focuses on the digital distribution of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), was founded in 2020 by husband and wife team Ismael and Sophia Belkhayat. Chari has on-boarded over 20,000 food businesses in Morocco, and has since expanded into Tunisia and Ivory Coast.

As a participant in the Y Combinator S21 batch, Chari has secured significant investment since its inception, including a $5m seed round in late-2021, followed by additional funding in January 2022, and most recently, a further $1m from Orange Ventures in February of this year.

Chari’s new chain of stores will offer grocery stores access to a wide range of quality products at competitive prices. With a focus on digitisation, the shops will be entirely electronic, allowing grocery shopkeepers to order products through an electronic terminal and receive delivery within ten minutes or directly to their stores. Chari will also offer a click-and-collect service, providing shopkeepers with the flexibility to pick up products at any time.

The stores will serve as a training centre for digital tools offered by Chari, including its ecommerce app and, a credit management and bookkeeping app. Furthermore, the stores will serve as dark stores and neighbourhood warehouses for a two-hour delivery of any products ordered from the Chari e-commerce app. The first two stores opened last week in Casablanca and el Jadida, with Chari planning to open 100 by 2024. The B2B stores will offer a product range of more than 1,000 SKUs covering about 100 brands, including food and hygiene products.

Despite the growth of modern retailers like Marjane, Carrefour, and BIM, traditional retailers in Morocco continue to dominate sales, accounting for 82% of the total or about 200,000 traditional stores, according to Boston Consulting Group (BCG). These retailers also provide an essential economic function, with 90% of them offering credit, which partially explains their resilience. Informal retailers are characterised by their close proximity to customers, the exclusive use of cash payments, and their independence in procurement without relying on central purchasing bodies.

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