18 June 2020

Moving Business Online in the Era of COVID: What Do I Need to Consider if I am Interested in E-Commerce?

An interview with HeHe, Rwanda

The SME Response Clinic was able to speak with Richard Rusa and Crepin Kayisire of HeHe, a Rwandan business that is helping to digitize commerce throughout the country. We wanted to find out more about what it means to move online at a time when in-person business has faced many challenges.

Moving to e-commerce or other digital solutions became an area of interest for many Rwandan businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown in the country. While some businesses had been considering doing more online business, the pandemic created a situation in which many needed to take the next step forward.

Solutions like HeHe’s help to connect supply and demand, as well as to facilitate logistics – things like shipping between provinces, delivering products, or picking up stock from warehouses. They also provide free training and support during the process of moving online – from advice on marketing, providing digital payment solutions, tips on using social media, and regular feedback – that can help a business to make a smooth transition.

Those businesses that sell online with HeHe pay once they are onboarded, either a monthly fee for a dedicated site or on commission if they sell on the larger marketplace.

“We’ve onboarded a number of retailers but for the pandemic, some of the key sectors were things like fast-moving consumer goods like groceries and things people need day-to-day in their homes. Pharmaceuticals as well were actively engaged online, especially items for mothers and babies.” ~ Crepin Kayisire

Which types of businesses can benefit from an online presence?

Any type of business could benefit from an online presence. The key is choosing what is right for you. From HeHe’s experience:

  • There are some businesses – many falling under the “Made in Rwanda” category – that prefer to have a dedicated website for their products. These may choose to create their own website but could also become part of the HeHe marketplace with their own page.
  • Some businesses, like farmers’ cooperatives, do not need their own website in the same way that a clothing business or artisan might. For these types of businesses, they can sell directly things like groceries or produce online through platforms like HeHe or others.

What do I need before I go online?

  • First, you need to be registered legally as a business with RDB. This is an absolute necessity
  • Next, you or someone on your staff needs to have basic computer literacy and an internet connection, so that you can monitor and manage your online presence.
  • HeHe has found that businesses do better when they are not just “one person” operations.
  • Make sure you treat your online presence just as you would your brick-and-mortar store. There should be a staff person dedicated to online sales, who can follow up with customers who have questions or issues.
  • Make a list of your inventory and be sure that you actually have the products or services you will offer online. This will help to keep customers satisfied as well as to establish a good reputation for your business.
  • There are a number of other online or mobile-based businesses in Rwanda, to be covered in upcoming interviews.


HeHe offers two main platforms for e-commerce in Rwanda:

·       Online marketplace: https://hehe.rw/

·       Logistics: https://shypt.rw/

To find out more, you can visit the HeHe business site at www.dmmhehe.com, email at hello@hehe.rw, or call +250 788 317 916.