Farm Fresh, an e-commerce platform in The Gambia, gives clean fruits, greens, and other FMCG merchandise. Founded in 2013 by Modou NSZ N’jie, at a time when web penetration in the state was down below 15%, the firm has experienced slow and continual expansion. Jeanette Clark speaks to N’jie about targeting a one of a kind industry in the diaspora, conquering distribution troubles, and adapting payment solutions.
Modou NSZ N’jie has two passions: IT and agriculture. Soon after a profession of around a decade devoted to the initially, which culminated in landing the work of head of engineering at Guaranty Lender in his household region The Gambia, N’jie saw a hole in the supply chain of agricultural deliver in 2013. He believed that farmers would advantage from a system that removed middlemen.
“They are typically taken advantage of and had price ranges dictated to them. It was an unfair observe,” says N’jie. These producers also confronted article-harvest losses if they could not obtain consumers immediately, owing to a deficiency of suitable storage facilities.
This was the excellent chance to marry his interest in agriculture with his IT abilities.
N’jie developed an e-commerce system named Farm New, which sells instantly to the public, supplying a all set market for farmers. These farmers gain from the security of a confirmed purchaser and acquire far better prices than they would get from market middlemen. On the other hand, Farm Clean is able to protected clean develop at discounted price ranges straight from the resource.
One particular-male clearly show
For the initially 4 several years, N’jie was the only worker of Farm Clean. “I would take the orders, do the accounting, handle the marketing and advertising, and make certain supply. It was very demanding, but I persevered and grew the company to the place the place I could employ a lot more individuals,” he suggests.
Early on, issues included community shopper attitudes towards on the internet purchasing and The Gambia’s constrained world-wide-web accessibility. Men and women in the country have been accustomed to hands-on interactions with solutions at marketplaces, foremost to scepticism about buying goods on-line and awaiting shipping and delivery.
“Initially, we had really few buyers, possibly about 10 regulars,” suggests N’jie. “Not a good deal of folks experienced access to the web, and then individuals who did were not common with on-line buying. As we were the 1st e-commerce platform in the place for agricultural create, I had to do a large amount of education and learning on how to use it.”
According to studies from the Earth Bank, only 14% of Gambians ended up utilizing the web in 2013 when Farm Fresh was established. That amount has considering that climbed to more than 30%, and so have the company’s consumers.
A breakthrough arrived when N’jie opened a physical Farm Fresh shop in Bakau, a metropolis just west of the money of Banjul, wherever the company’s headquarters are located. “When we opened the shop, we became a click on-and-mortar procedure,” suggests N’jie. The physical existence promptly helped create have confidence in with consumers, inevitably translating into a lot more on-line buys by the e-commerce system.
Even though web accessibility has enhanced in the state, N’jie notes that the price tag of that access is still a hurdle to expansion for Farm Fresh. “To triumph over this, we acquire orders in a number of approaches in addition to the e-commerce system: wander-ins at our store, through phone or social media,” he states.
A enhance from funding and item diversification
In the early several years, Farm Fresh’s startup cash came from the pocket of its only personnel, N’jie himself. Then, in 2015, the business was selected as part of the initially cohort of startups supported by the Tony Elumelu Basis.
The US$5,000 Farm Contemporary received served set up the physical keep, increase the e-commerce platform, and diversify the product lineup.
In the initial yr or so, the platform only provided fresh fruit and vegetables. On the other hand, it became crystal clear that there was need for other neighborhood create this sort of as cereals, dried fruits, moringa and baobab solutions as very well as honey. As these were being extra to the checklist of objects, consumer numbers rose.
“Today, we have grown to all around 150 standard clients, and probably 250 non-regulars generating buys per month on our website,” claims N’jie. In a effective thirty day period, the organization generates around $5,000 in revenue.
Concentrating on the diaspora
N’jie and his crew realised there was a certain consumer they wanted to concentrate on: The Gambia’s diaspora, who are doing the job overseas but want to consider care of spouse and children customers remaining in the region.
“The society of Gambians includes the remittance of funds back residence. We noticed this as reduced-hanging fruit we could encourage the use of our platform to these customers,” states N’jie.
The organization applied electronic internet marketing platforms such as Facebook to get the word out and many Gambians outdoors the country’s borders have embraced the strategy. “The extensive vast majority of the income we produce is coming from the diaspora – at least 70%, I would say,” states N’jie.
Social media, together with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, remains the company’s most important promoting platform, with a merged following of in excess of 70,000 throughout these channels.
Initially, the firm supplied income-on-delivery as its only payment option. When its diaspora income started out selecting up, it added PayPal but re-evaluated that choice when it realised that the charges from the payment gateway have been consuming absent at its financial gain.
It now presents a mobile dollars payment remedy in partnership with Ecobank and a regional payment gateway through Gambian corporation TaybullPay. EFT payments and income-on-shipping are still approved.
“There is a threshold for hard cash-on-shipping and delivery payments. For more substantial orders we wait around right up until the payment reflects in our bank account soon after an EFT,” suggests N’jie.
Navigating shipping and delivery problems and growth
When N’jie was the only personnel, he built the deliveries of all orders himself. As the business enterprise and the orders grew, he had to think about a much more sustainable alternative.
One particular solution was to use nearby taxis to make the deliveries for him, but that was far too highly-priced, so N’jie, and his modest workforce later on on, ongoing handling this in-residence.
Then, all around 2018, 3rd-get together shipping providers started out popping up in The Gambia, furnishing Farm Fresh with a new solution.
“In the past a few years, nevertheless, we have realised that these organizations are turning into overcome with desire. We were being experiencing far more and much more delays and have now obtained a supply bike and are back to accomplishing our have deliveries again,” he says. “When there is a substantial get, we even now outsource to shipping and delivery companies.”
The organization applies a supply price ranging from $1.50 (for Fajara, a suburb neighboring Bakau) to $11 (for Brikama, located south of the two Bakau and Banjul).
Farm Fresh’s shipping and delivery location has developed from a radius of 20km to up to 60km these days. N’jie is hoping to grow this radius to 100km within just the 12 months. In parallel, the firm is searching at cold-chain remedies that would become far more appropriate if it had to do deliveries of refreshing deliver to a much larger geographical region.
Covid a combined bag
In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Farm Clean was justifiably concerned as it had to also shut its actual physical shop.
However, in the course of the initial 6 months, online orders surged substantially owing to limited movement and the developing need to have for household deliveries. Greater revenue from anxious Gambians overseas, who despatched deliveries to their family members and good friends, even more contributed to improved revenue.
On the other hand, after about 6 months, the enterprise started off viewing people more orders dwindle. “People have been dropping their jobs, locally and internationally, and experienced to reduce back again on expenditure. We observed that affect on our base line,” he claims. Publish the pandemic, income have normalised.
Farm Clean stands as a single of the couple e-commerce platforms in the state principally focused on agricultural items, in accordance to N’jie. Having said that, new opponents have emerged.
At this time, it provides in excess of 100 products and solutions – contemporary fruits and veggies, bread, nuts, tinned meat, processed juices, oil, treats like potato crisps, and even airtime and prepaid electric power leading-ups.
“One of the most well-known items remains the fresh new strawberries when they are in time,” says N’jie. “We simply cannot keep up with need.”
Long run advancement ideas
Farm Fresh has registered a subsidiary on the other aspect of the continent, in Rwanda. It is yet to start off functions in the region but has preliminary agreements with suppliers in place and hopes to commence business enterprise in just the following 6 months to a yr.
“One of the explanations why we have resolved to grow is due to the fact there is a incredibly conducive organization climate in Rwanda. Opening a company does not price tag you anything at all, you can do it on line,” suggests N’jie.
It also has its eyes established on neighbouring countries like Senegal, even nevertheless it is a extra superior marketplace that previously has a number of e-commerce gamers.
In The Gambia, the corporation is contemplating vertical integration to venture into genuine agricultural production as it believes some specialized niche solutions, like strawberries, could offer you development options.
Farm New founder Modou NSZ N’jie’s make contact with information
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