Farm Refreshing, an e-commerce platform in The Gambia, delivers contemporary fruits, greens, and other FMCG solutions. Established in 2013 by Modou NSZ N’jie, at a time when internet penetration in the nation was under 15%, the business has experienced sluggish and regular progress. Jeanette Clark speaks to N’jie about focusing on a one of a kind market in the diaspora, overcoming distribution worries, and adapting payment techniques.
Modou NSZ N’jie has two passions: IT and agriculture. After a job of around a ten years devoted to the first, which culminated in landing the position of head of know-how at Warranty Lender in his house region The Gambia, N’jie observed a gap in the supply chain of agricultural produce in 2013. He thought that farmers would benefit from a program that eradicated middlemen.
“They are generally taken edge of and experienced prices dictated to them. It was an unfair practice,” suggests N’jie. These producers also faced post-harvest losses if they could not come across customers swiftly, owing to a deficiency of correct storage services.
This was the fantastic opportunity to marry his curiosity in agriculture with his IT skills.
N’jie constructed an e-commerce platform termed Farm Clean, which sells immediately to the public, supplying a all set sector for farmers. These farmers reward from the stability of a assured consumer and obtain improved price ranges than they would get from marketplace middlemen. On the other hand, Farm Fresh new is in a position to safe contemporary develop at discounted costs straight from the resource.
One-gentleman clearly show
For the initial four several years, N’jie was the only staff of Farm New. “I would get the orders, do the accounting, deal with the internet marketing, and ensure delivery. It was incredibly hard, but I persevered and grew the organization to the stage exactly where I could seek the services of extra men and women,” he suggests.
Early on, issues concerned area consumer attitudes towards on the web buying and The Gambia’s constrained world-wide-web access. Persons in the nation were accustomed to fingers-on interactions with solutions at marketplaces, leading to scepticism about obtaining things on the web and awaiting delivery.
“Initially, we had extremely couple prospects, probably all over 10 regulars,” suggests N’jie. “Not a good deal of men and women had obtain to the online, and then people who did had been not familiar with on the web searching. As we were the first e-commerce platform in the place for agricultural develop, I had to do a whole lot of training on how to use it.”
According to studies from the Earth Lender, only 14% of Gambians ended up working with the web in 2013 when Farm Fresh new was recognized. That selection has given that climbed to around 30%, and so have the company’s shoppers.
A breakthrough came when N’jie opened a bodily Farm Fresh retail outlet in Bakau, a town just west of the money of Banjul, in which the company’s headquarters are positioned. “When we opened the shop, we grew to become a click on-and-mortar operation,” suggests N’jie. The physical existence quickly aided make rely on with customers, finally translating into additional on the internet purchases by the e-commerce system.
While world wide web access has improved in the nation, N’jie notes that the value of that entry is continue to a hurdle to development for Farm Clean. “To defeat this, we consider orders in several ways in addition to the e-commerce system: walk-ins at our shop, by using telephone or social media,” he says.
A increase from funding and merchandise diversification
In the early decades, Farm Fresh’s startup capital arrived from the pocket of its only worker, N’jie himself. Then, in 2015, the corporation was picked as portion of the initially cohort of startups supported by the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The US$5,000 Farm Refreshing acquired aided established up the physical retail store, increase the e-commerce platform, and diversify the merchandise lineup.
In the initial 12 months or so, the platform only available contemporary fruit and veggies. Having said that, it grew to become apparent that there was need for other community create this kind of as cereals, dried fruits, moringa and baobab solutions as nicely as honey. As these have been added to the record of objects, consumer quantities rose.
“Today, we have grown to all-around 150 typical customers, and potentially 250 non-regulars creating buys for each thirty day period on our web page,” says N’jie. In a successful thirty day period, the company generates roughly $5,000 in profits.
Focusing on the diaspora
N’jie and his group realised there was a specific consumer they needed to focus on: The Gambia’s diaspora, who are doing work abroad but want to choose care of loved ones members remaining in the nation.
“The society of Gambians includes the remittance of cash again household. We saw this as lower-hanging fruit we could encourage the use of our platform to these clients,” suggests N’jie.
The enterprise utilised electronic internet marketing platforms these kinds of as Facebook to get the word out and a number of Gambians outdoors the country’s borders have embraced the notion. “The huge vast majority of the profits we create is coming from the diaspora – at least 70%, I would say,” says N’jie.
Social media, together with Fb, Twitter, and Instagram, remains the company’s most important advertising system, with a combined subsequent of more than 70,000 throughout these channels.
Initially, the enterprise available money-on-shipping as its only payment choice. When its diaspora revenue started out selecting up, it included PayPal but re-evaluated that decision when it realised that the charges from the payment gateway had been taking in away at its revenue.
It now provides a cell funds payment alternative in partnership with Ecobank and a local payment gateway via Gambian company TaybullPay. EFT payments and funds-on-supply are nonetheless accepted.
“There is a threshold for income-on-supply payments. For greater orders we wait around right until the payment displays in our financial institution account immediately after an EFT,” says N’jie.
Navigating shipping and delivery difficulties and enlargement
When N’jie was the only personnel, he built the deliveries of all orders himself. As the enterprise and the orders grew, he had to contemplate a extra sustainable solution.
One possibility was to use regional taxis to make the deliveries for him, but that was too costly, so N’jie, and his tiny group later on, ongoing dealing with this in-household.
Then, all around 2018, 3rd-get together shipping providers started out popping up in The Gambia, furnishing Farm Fresh new with a new approach.
“In the previous a few many years, having said that, we have realised that these firms are getting to be confused with demand from customers. We were being enduring a lot more and extra delays and have now acquired a delivery motorbike and are back again to doing our very own deliveries all over again,” he states. “When there is a huge get, we continue to outsource to delivery corporations.”
The company applies a shipping cost ranging from $1.50 (for Fajara, a suburb neighboring Bakau) to $11 (for Brikama, positioned south of both of those Bakau and Banjul).
Farm Fresh’s delivery region has grown from a radius of 20km to up to 60km these days. N’jie is hoping to develop this radius to 100km in the yr. In parallel, the business is seeking at cold-chain methods that would become more appropriate if it experienced to do deliveries of fresh make to a larger geographical region.
Covid a blended bag
In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic strike, Farm Fresh new was justifiably apprehensive as it had to also shut its physical store.
Nonetheless, throughout the preliminary 6 months, on the net orders surged substantially due to restricted motion and the escalating will need for dwelling deliveries. Larger product sales from involved Gambians overseas, who despatched deliveries to their family and close friends, more contributed to amplified income.
However, soon after about 6 months, the firm started off seeing people additional orders dwindle. “People were shedding their jobs, domestically and internationally, and had to slice back on expenditure. We noticed that impression on our base line,” he states. Article the pandemic, revenue have normalised.
Farm Fresh new stands as one of the handful of e-commerce platforms in the place generally targeted on agricultural goods, in accordance to N’jie. Nonetheless, new competition have emerged.
Now, it delivers more than 100 merchandise – clean fruits and veggies, bread, nuts, tinned meat, processed juices, oil, snacks like potato crisps, and even airtime and prepaid electrical power prime-ups.
“One of the most well-liked items remains the fresh new strawberries when they are in period,” says N’jie. “We are unable to preserve up with desire.”
Potential expansion designs
Farm New has registered a subsidiary on the other side of the continent, in Rwanda. It is still to commence functions in the state but has preliminary agreements with suppliers in place and hopes to start enterprise within the following six months to a year.
“One of the factors why we have resolved to expand is mainly because there is a quite conducive business enterprise local climate in Rwanda. Opening a business enterprise does not value you anything at all, you can do it on the internet,” states N’jie.
It also has its eyes set on neighbouring nations around the world like Senegal, even however it is a additional superior current market that now has quite a few e-commerce players.
In The Gambia, the organization is considering vertical integration to undertaking into genuine agricultural production as it thinks some area of interest solutions, like strawberries, could offer advancement chances.
Farm Clean founder Modou NSZ N’jie’s contact info
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