Childhood experiences inspire entrepreneur to invest in groceries delivery service

Naomi Ng’endo

Farmers Basket Limited Founder Naomi Ng’endo.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Naomi Ng’endo and her business partner invested Sh200,000 capital into the venture.
  • Farmers’ Basket also helps farmers access much needed market information.

Having been brought up by parents who were farmers, Naomi Ng’endo grew up seeing the challenges that many farmers in rural Kenya undergo when taking their produce to the market.

Her parents, for instance, would toil to plant and nurture various vegetables only to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous brokers who knew how desperate they were to get their produce to market on time before it went bad.

“Since not many of these farmers fully understand how the market works, it is easy to be taken advantage of by middlemen who better understand the different market dynamics,” said Ngend’o in an interview with Powering SMEs.

“These farmers hold onto their produce hoping to one day come across a worthy buyer, until it reaches a point that, fearing that their produce may no longer be market worthy, are left with no option but to sell at a throw away price just to meet the cost of production,” she adds.

Then again, when they venture to seek large markets such as hotels and eateries on their own, most of their prospective customers are mistrustful of the source of their produce, and are hesitant to purchase from them.

Ngend’o would accompany her parents as they looked for a market for their produce, and saw the disconnect between farmers and consumers.

Delivering groceries

In 2017, she partnered with her co-founder and set up a groceries delivery service, Farmers’ Basket, whose aim was to connect farmers to ready markets and the consumers to credible farmers.

To start off, the pair consolidated about Sh200, 000 of their savings to register the business and acquire a vehicle they would use to move around.

Rather than acquire a bank loan, their strategy was to start small using their own savings and re-invest the gains they made as the business gained traction.

They began by delivering groceries to hotels and households within the Nairobi metropolitan area, before venturing out into Kiambu County.

They sourced most of their produce directly from the farmers, and would only source from markets such as Marigiti Market in Nairobi when an order was very urgent. Social media played a big role in establishing and growing their market reach.

Upon receiving a grocery shopping list from a client and their delivery address, through their website, email, Facebook or WhatsApp platform, they consolidate the orders and work out the delivery routes, package the groceries, and dispatch them to their destinations.

Depending on the weight of the cargo and the distance to be covered, a trip can cost a customer between Sh200-Sh500.

Innovative farming ideas

Their service also helps farmers access much needed market information to help them plan their farming activities in a way that maximises their yields and minimises produce losses from the farm, all through the supply chain to the consumers.

“The farmer is restricted in market knowledge such as how the market works, when there are gluts in the market and for which commodity, a factor that determines their production and pricing, which commodity is a staple in homes and is guaranteed to sell all year round, and also what the eating trends are,” explains Ng’endo.

“With the knowledge gained while dealing with the demand side, we were in a better position to pivot and equip the supply side (farmers) with data, expertise and knowledge on their consumers’ eating habits to guide their production. At the same time, we would benefit financially from giving out this kind of information by selling it to the farmers,” she added.

In a month, the team of five serves about 500 commercial and individual customers. To meet a growing demand brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, Ng’endo hopes to grow their workforce with time, but like most other start-ups, their main challenge remains getting project funding.

“We have innovative farming ideas which the current farming landscape in Kenya is ready for due to technological advances in mobile telephony and the country’s growing middle-class. The ideas range from sustainable food production practices, farming data collection and dissemination, as well as urban areas’ farming concepts. However, trialing and implementing these ideas is quite capital-intensive, and getting funding for these has been an uphill task,” she notes.

She, however, sees a lot of untapped potential in urban areas such as food producing centers. These are avenues she is keen on exploring in the future to support food security efforts alongside other stakeholders in the country.

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