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Technology

Innovate digital, physical tools to stay competitive

A prosthetic hand. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A prosthetic hand. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Many times when we think about technology, we often stop at the digital touch point that we connect with hardly giving much thought to what it takes on the fulfilment leg of a product or service that we consume.

It almost seems magical when the vendor, producer or platform promise is fulfilled.

I had the opportunity to visit the Twiga Foods pack house, a short hop from the standard gauge railway terminus in Nairobi where the convergence of physical and digital infrastructure innovation is almost tangible.

Twiga Foods is a “business-to-business marketplace platform that sources produce directly from farmers and delivers it to urban retailers at below market prices”.

They are slowly replacing the physical wholesale marketplace, aggregating the retail demand and supplying just in time, driving immense value for both sides of their supply chain where product quality and available margin form part of Twiga’s promise.

They have raised a total of $13.4 million, the bulk of which was in their Series A round in mid 2017 for $10.3 million led by Wamda Capital, a MENA-focused venture capital firm. Being on site one develops a deep appreciation and much needed context on the bold capital raise.

On the physical, there is the obvious warehouse play with receiving, sorting, grading and dispatch stations, but what stands next is the real innovation point.

Rows of modified shipping containers where banana’s their flagship product, which they have sold over 200 million pieces, is safely and naturally ripened.

When they started out, produce yield would hit 60 - 70 per cent, but through lots or experimentation and iterations on a process they keep close to heart, they are now at 95 per cent on average.

They work backwards on their ripening process and when their 6,000-strong retailer base place orders, Twiga is able to deliver based on the ‘readiness’ level desired.

On the digital, Twiga Foods runs part of its stack off the Google Cloud Platform leveraging micro service architecture heavily. This allows them to scale their operations faster, cheaper and more efficiently without the addition overhead on the DevOps side.

The Google Cloud Platform gives access to highly secure and scalable infrastructure that covers the full gamut of tools that one would require to build the next generation of services covering; storage and databases, machine learning and artificial intelligence, analytics, iot, big data and more.

Twiga has taken time to innovate and create a moat that will protect its growing market share and have them firmly on their way to supplying the core basket of goods for millions of urban residents across Africa.

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