This is how shopping traditionally went: you write up your shopping list, head to the market — supermarket or mama mboga, push your trolley along the supermarket aisles or haul your basket from one stall to the next, round up your bill once you are satisfied and checked off your list, exchange your purchase for cash and leave with bags home.
Such scenarios are becoming a thing of the past. Technology is changing how we do our shopping. Several apps that now allow shoppers to select and order for items from mobile phone in the comfort of homes have been locally developed. Buyers pay via M-Pesa, Visa card or other cashless option. Everything will safely be delivered to your doorstep within 24 hours, the apps promise. These easy-to-use apps are free for download from Google or Apple app stores.
FreshPro is one such app that has partnered with out growers to deliver farm produce to consumers.
“FreshPro has partnered with 400 such farmers in Githunguri, Kiambu County. We harvest the produce from the farm and deliver it fresh to your doorstep the next day,” says says Ahmed Ibrahim, one of the cofounders of the company. “All orders come through our app, FreshPro.”
Mr Ibrahim and co-founder, Patrick Thirimu, met in late 2011. Both entrepreneurs are engineers by training.
FreshPro is a spinoff of another project the pair was working on.
“We were in Githunguri to come up with a solution for renewable waste management. We collected data from 8,000 farmers,” says Ahmed.
They, however, realised that the immediate headache for the farmers was how to efficiently market their produce.
“The farmer’s produce was ready for harvest but it was rotting in their farms because they didn’t know where to take it.”
They used the data they had collected to create a network of outgrowers to provide fresh farm produce to Nairobi. FreshPro — the app — was the meeting point for customers and farmers.
“We developed the app in-house and launched in January 2015,” says Ahmed.
“Data and demand drives the process. The farmers grow the crop on beds no bigger than 20 square metres. They have apps where they key in live data. This helps us know what they are planting and when it’s due for harvest. It’s a radically elaborate and organised system.”
Beyond FreshPro, says Ahmed, the business has used technology to strengthen the other systems to ensure that the orders of their 2,000 customers are processed on time and delivered everyday without a glitch.
“The app has been downloaded more than 2,000 times,” he says. “We get between 100 and 200 orders daily on average.”
Digital Business spoke to one of the customers. Winnie Mathangani, 40, is a career and family woman, married with a two-year-old. She swears by the app. “I’ve been using FreshPro for six weeks now,” she says on phone. “It’s my sister who introduced me to them. I was sceptical about them at first because it was online shopping, which is very impersonal — you don’t interact face-to-face.
“FreshPro offers a fantastic and hassle-free service. I order from them at least weekly. I order for fruits, vegetables and other condiments. It costs me between Sh1,500 to Sh2,500. Their prices are competitive and they deliver to my doorstep. I used to shop in the supermarket and it wasn’t a pleasant experience — choosing the stuff takes a lot of time, my hands got dirty and I had to drag the heavy bags to my car. FreshPro saves me from all that,” she says.
Nunua is another app that allows consumers to shop for anything and everything via phones developed by Churchblaze Group Limited in February last year.
“We launched the app in September 2016. Nunua provides a digital platform for the retail supply chain. It provides services that the manufacturers, suppliers and retailers need,” says managing director Gideon Gitonga.
“The manufacturer produces the products but needs marketing and distribution services. The retailer needs visibility and logistics on how to market his products. The consumer needs a place where he can shop for these products.”
The app links distributors and retailers to consumers as well as lending to small businesses and to shoppers.
“We have partnered with 2,722 outlets like Clean Shelf chain of supermarkets and Pepino’s pizza house,” says Mr Gitonga. “Our services are available across the major towns, including Thika, Meru and Embu. We charge our customers eight per cent commission for the value of their shopping.”
Not all techpreneurs are using mobile apps to run their order-from-your-phone business. Susan Mutua-Helfer runs a business called MBOGA Concierge. “I’ve been running the business since late last year,” says Mutua-Helfer. “I deliver fresh fruits and vegetables twice every week, and homemade lunch five days a week. The menu changes every week. I have 15 customers for lunch and eight for the grocery deliveries. They make their orders through Facebook or WhatsApp, and pay cash on delivery.”