After Reshaping Business Journalism in Africa, Rishabh Lawania Takes Another Leap of Faith
After three-and-half years of tremendous impact in the tech-focused digital media landscape in Africa, Rishabh Lawania, Co-Founder/CEO of Wee Media is handing over the reins and transitioning to a new challenge.
The outgoing CEO will be replaced by long-time partner and admirable Wee Media COO, Nayantara “NJ” Jha, who has been very instrumental in transforming the new-age media company.
Lawania is set to unveil a new venture, Badili, which he describes as Africa’s first “re-commerce” platform. Badili, which means “exchange” in Swahili, is a platform that specialises in the buying and selling of refurbished goods, starting with consumer electronics.
Its unique model – which encompasses buying and selling used smartphones directly from/to consumers, – is supported by strategic partnerships in China, South Korea and India. Badili aims to eliminate the dearth of trust, risk, counterfeiting, fraudulent practices, inefficiencies, and inadequacies plaguing the ever-growing second-hand smartphone market in Africa, which is second only to India.
Lawania, who previously led a SE Asian fund, sold his last venture to Chinese conglomerate, co-founded Wee Media in 2018, along with partners, NJ who has been in charge of operations, and Keshu Dubey, the technology chief.
Kenya-based Wee Media is the parent company of the exciting Pan-African tech and business journalism publication WeeTracker, East Africa’s leading consumer electronics media, Gadgets-Africa; as well as intelligence and financial data platform, WT Premium Elite (which has evolved from its previous iterations as TheBASE and AfriCo).
With over USD 400 K raised in external capital, Wee Media’s digital media publications have grown rapidly within a short time to become a favourite unique insight source for both local/global industry players and curious enthusiasts.
With the support of founding partners and a brilliant team distributed across the African continent, Lawania oversaw groundbreaking feats, transforming Gadgets-Africa into the leading consumer tech media in East Africa and reimagining tech journalism in Africa with WeeTracker. Within a relatively short period of time, both platforms have earned a readership that encompasses millions of people not only in Africa but crucially from other parts of the globe.
Early last year, Gadgets-Africa successfully held Vifaa Tech Festival, East Africa’s first-ever consumer electronics expo and tech awards, in partnership with the largest media conglomerate in the region, Nation Media Group. The two-day event hybrid-event which took place between June 11th and 12th drew great participation as it showcased brands, conversations, fireside chats, and discussions with product leaders and innovators in consumer tech. Currently, Gadgets Africa is under a final DD for a major acquisition.
Under Lawania’s leadership, WeeTracker has also established itself as the leading African digital media publication, driven by its thousands of subscribers.
With over 4,000 articles, a database of 2500+ African private and public companies, and more than 15 research reports, WeeTracker is the platform of choice for keeping up with Africa’s exciting tech scene. The unveiling of the subscription-based community/membership channels, WeeTracker Premium and WeeTracker Premium Elite – both of which have enjoyed great reception on the backs of unmatched original storytelling and unrivalled data insights – is unprecedented for a local tech media platform.
After what has been hugely successful two-and-half years which have placed him among key stakeholders in Africa’s tech ecosystem, Lawania is vacating the leadership role at Wee Media while taking his learnings into a new adventure.
To mark the occasion, WeeTracker had a quick chat with the man who went after a big vision and executed with aplomb.
Q: How would you describe the experience building tech media in Africa over the last few years?
Lawania: It has been a very interesting and exciting experience in a space where the consensus is that there’s too much difficulty, and indeed it’s been a bumpy ride at times. When we started out with WeeTracker, the goal was to build a resource that would be a one-stop-shop for nuanced narratives that the existing local tech blogs did not have the capacity to do and foreign media lacked adequate on-ground context to pursue.
I’m happy that we have been able to do this over the last few years and built a loyal readership that spans both Africa and beyond. The reception we have received since introducing our subscription-based offering, as well as the pull and perception that Gadgets-Africa has built-in a niche in East Africa, is further validation that ours is a winning proposition and I’m convinced that these publications will do a lot more exploits.
Q: What have been the defining moments with both WeeTracker and Gadgets-Africa?
Lawania: The challenges have been immense, but so are the rewards and the support from the ecosystem. The launch of UberPitch, Bridge, the Annual reports took a lot of heavy-lifting but also satisfying at the end of the day. Right from the beginning of the pandemic, we were approached by big international media houses for collaboration and inorganic growth opportunities, which itself is an endorsement that we are moving in the right direction.
With Gadgets, our approach had been very mass-oriented from the inception. Big tech platforms like Cnet, Gizmodo, and Wirecutter have defined and proven internationally that content is very powerful in aiding consumer decisions. The thesis was right, within 8 months of the launch, the brand got to the stage of breaking even. We partnered with the biggest media house in Africa, NMG, and launched the first consumer tech festival in 2021 for the East African market.
Q: As you move on, are washing your hands off of Wee Media completely?
Lawania: While I’m stepping back from running the company on a day-to-day basis, I intend to continue to be involved in an advisory capacity as Wee Media is very determined to further shape the tech media landscape in Africa. I’m glad that the company has evolved to become sustainable over the past year and it remains in very good hands.
Q: Tell us something about your new venture?
Lawania: Badili is all about improving trust and increasing affordability, while eliminating risk and boosting transparency in the second-hand consumer electronics/gadgets marketplace, and also removing the inadequacies and inefficiencies in how second-hand devices are sold.
We are determined to formalise the biggest parallel economy (previously owned goods) of the East African markets and sanitise this market segment which is typically murky, opaque, and even dangerous at times.