The journey of building Farm New in The Gambia

Modou NSZ N’jie, founder of Farm Refreshing

Farm Contemporary, an e-commerce platform in The Gambia, gives contemporary fruits, veggies, and other FMCG goods. Proven in 2013 by Modou NSZ N’jie, at a time when world-wide-web penetration in the nation was underneath 15%, the company has experienced slow and continual progress. Jeanette Clark speaks to N’jie about concentrating on a special market place in the diaspora, beating distribution difficulties, and adapting payment approaches.

Modou NSZ N’jie has two passions: IT and agriculture. Just after a career of around a decade focused to the initial, which culminated in landing the task of head of technological know-how at Warranty Bank in his property country The Gambia, N’jie saw a gap in the provide chain of agricultural deliver in 2013. He considered that farmers would advantage from a technique that removed middlemen.

“They are often taken advantage of and experienced selling prices dictated to them. It was an unfair apply,” claims N’jie. These producers also faced put up-harvest losses if they could not come across purchasers promptly, thanks to a absence of suitable storage services.

This was the excellent chance to marry his curiosity in agriculture with his IT abilities.

N’jie developed an e-commerce system identified as Farm Fresh, which sells instantly to the public, furnishing a prepared sector for farmers. These farmers benefit from the protection of a assured purchaser and get much better charges than they would get from sector middlemen. On the other hand, Farm Contemporary is capable to safe fresh new generate at discounted costs straight from the source.

Just one-man demonstrate

For the initially 4 decades, N’jie was the only staff of Farm Contemporary. “I would acquire the orders, do the accounting, control the marketing and advertising, and make certain shipping. It was really difficult, but I persevered and grew the business enterprise to the place in which I could retain the services of far more persons,” he says.

Early on, difficulties concerned regional customer attitudes in the direction of on line purchasing and The Gambia’s minimal online entry. People in the state were accustomed to arms-on interactions with goods at markets, primary to scepticism about acquiring things on the web and awaiting shipping.

“Initially, we had extremely handful of shoppers, likely close to 10 regulars,” suggests N’jie. “Not a large amount of folks experienced obtain to the online, and then those who did were not familiar with on-line browsing. As we were being the initially e-commerce platform in the place for agricultural produce, I experienced to do a good deal of schooling on how to use it.”

In accordance to figures from the Globe Bank, only 14% of Gambians were being employing the net in 2013 when Farm Clean was established. That number has given that climbed to above 30%, and so have the company’s clients.

A breakthrough arrived when N’jie opened a actual physical Farm Refreshing shop in Bakau, a town just west of the money of Banjul, in which the company’s headquarters are found. “When we opened the keep, we grew to become a click on-and-mortar operation,” says N’jie. The physical presence immediately served create have faith in with customers, ultimately translating into more on line buys via the e-commerce platform.

Although world wide web accessibility has enhanced in the place, N’jie notes that the price of that obtain is even now a hurdle to expansion for Farm Contemporary. “To overcome this, we acquire orders in a number of methods in addition to the e-commerce platform: walk-ins at our retailer, through telephone or social media,” he claims.

A increase from funding and merchandise diversification

In the early decades, Farm Fresh’s startup cash arrived from the pocket of its only staff, N’jie himself. Then, in 2015, the organization was picked as portion of the very first cohort of startups supported by the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

The US$5,000 Farm New gained helped established up the actual physical retail outlet, boost the e-commerce system, and diversify the solution lineup.

In the first calendar year or so, the system only available contemporary fruit and vegetables. On the other hand, it turned distinct that there was demand from customers for other local develop this sort of as cereals, dried fruits, moringa and baobab products as well as honey. As these have been extra to the record of items, user figures rose.

“Today, we have developed to all around 150 normal clients, and maybe 250 non-regulars producing buys per thirty day period on our website,” suggests N’jie. In a successful month, the firm generates roughly $5,000 in revenue.

Focusing on the diaspora

N’jie and his crew realised there was a particular customer they desired to focus on: The Gambia’s diaspora, who are doing the job overseas but want to just take care of household associates remaining in the region.

“The tradition of Gambians features the remittance of dollars again residence. We observed this as lower-hanging fruit we could boost the use of our platform to these customers,” suggests N’jie.

The firm made use of electronic advertising and marketing platforms such as Facebook to get the word out and many Gambians outside the country’s borders have embraced the strategy. “The wide vast majority of the earnings we produce is coming from the diaspora – at the very least 70%, I would say,” says N’jie.

Social media, which include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, remains the company’s main marketing and advertising system, with a mixed following of around 70,000 across these channels.

Payment possibilities

Initially, the firm available dollars-on-supply as its only payment alternative. When its diaspora revenue started off buying up, it added PayPal but re-evaluated that decision when it realised that the costs from the payment gateway had been ingesting away at its gain.

It now provides a cell cash payment resolution in partnership with Ecobank and a local payment gateway by using Gambian enterprise TaybullPay. EFT payments and hard cash-on-supply are still recognized.

“There is a threshold for hard cash-on-delivery payments. For more substantial orders we wait around right up until the payment reflects in our financial institution account right after an EFT,” claims N’jie.

Navigating supply issues and enlargement

When N’jie was the only worker, he built the deliveries of all orders himself. As the organization and the orders grew, he had to look at a a lot more sustainable alternative.

1 possibility was to use local taxis to make the deliveries for him, but that was as well high-priced, so N’jie, and his smaller group afterwards on, ongoing managing this in-house.

Then, close to 2018, 3rd-occasion shipping providers commenced popping up in The Gambia, supplying Farm New with a new method.

“In the final three yrs, however, we have realised that these companies are turning into confused with demand. We ended up suffering from extra and additional delays and have now obtained a shipping and delivery bike and are again to performing our own deliveries once again,” he suggests. “When there is a substantial get, we nevertheless outsource to shipping and delivery organizations.”

The organization applies a shipping rate ranging from $1.50 (for Fajara, a suburb neighboring Bakau) to $11 (for Brikama, situated south of the two Bakau and Banjul).

Farm Fresh’s supply spot has developed from a radius of 20km to up to 60km right now. N’jie is hoping to extend this radius to 100km inside the yr. In parallel, the company is seeking at chilly-chain alternatives that would turn into much more suitable if it had to do deliveries of refreshing deliver to a more substantial geographical location.

Covid a combined bag

In 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic strike, Farm Clean was justifiably apprehensive as it had to also shut its bodily retailer.

Nonetheless, all through the original six months, on line orders surged significantly due to limited movement and the rising want for property deliveries. Bigger gross sales from involved Gambians overseas, who sent deliveries to their spouse and children and pals, additional contributed to increased revenue.

Having said that, immediately after about 6 months, the business started off seeing these further orders dwindle. “People were being shedding their work, domestically and internationally, and had to slice back again on expenditure. We noticed that effect on our base line,” he states. Post the pandemic, revenue have normalised.

Popular products and solutions

Farm Fresh new stands as a person of the handful of e-commerce platforms in the state largely centered on agricultural products and solutions, in accordance to N’jie. Nevertheless, new rivals have emerged.

Presently, it gives in excess of 100 solutions – fresh new fruits and veggies, bread, nuts, tinned meat, processed juices, oil, treats like potato crisps, and even airtime and pay as you go electrical power prime-ups.

“One of the most well-liked goods continues to be the contemporary strawberries when they are in time,” claims N’jie. “We are not able to keep up with demand from customers.”

Upcoming expansion designs

Farm Refreshing has registered a subsidiary on the other facet of the continent, in Rwanda. It is yet to begin operations in the country but has preliminary agreements with suppliers in put and hopes to begin enterprise within just the next six months to a yr.

“One of the causes why we have resolved to expand is since there is a pretty conducive business local climate in Rwanda. Opening a company does not price you just about anything, you can do it on the web,” claims N’jie.

It also has its eyes set on neighbouring nations around the world like Senegal, even while it is a far more highly developed marketplace that currently has numerous e-commerce gamers.

In The Gambia, the firm is taking into consideration vertical integration to undertaking into precise agricultural generation as it believes some area of interest items, like strawberries, could offer development chances.

Farm Contemporary founder Modou NSZ N’jie’s call facts

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Simonne Stigall

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