First smartphone food B2B App transforms grocery distribution and fuels Olam’s digital expansion plans in West Africa
Olam Markets, Ghana’s first and only B2B mobile app in the food sector, has made such a positive impact with grocery distributors that its owner, global food and agri-business Olam International, is now planning to take the app into West Africa.
Developed for the distributors of various foods businesses of Olam Ghana, including staples such as Royal Aroma Rice and First Choice Flour, culinary products such as Tasty Tom Tomato Mix, and branded snack foods such as Nutrisnax Biscuits, the app launched on June 24, 2019 after multiple rounds of testing in Accra and other towns, as well as the involvement of a team of young Ghanaians fresh from their year of post-tertiary education national service. The app added an average of 50 distributors each month, and, in little over a year, is today used by 90% of distributors supplying retailers with packaged foods processed and manufactured in the country by Olam subsidiaries.
The impact has been transformational for business management. When asked for one word to describe “Olam Markets” most distributors said “convenience”, in reference to the app’s delivery of account statements in seconds instead of days, and the visibility they get into their orders with updates during every step of the process.
Olam Markets is a component of the company’s global purpose to re-imagine agriculture and food systems by innovating sustainable growth that benefits consumers, customers, employees, partners, and the communities and environments in which it operates.
The app was the product of intensive research into distributors’ needs so, in addition to providing them with the ability to select, order, purchase, and designate delivery details, it provides such useful functions as:
• Instantaneous visibility into account balance and statement, which could take as many as five days when done in an analogue fashion
• Visibility into complete product ranges and order status, which helps businesses manage warehouse space
• A recommendation engine, so distributors get suggestions on what to order
• Robust backup support
“Olam has been committed to Ghana for over 20 years,” said Amit Agrawal, Country Head, Ghana. “We built that experience into the Olam Markets solution and then rolled it out with only 16 distributors initially across four businesses to identify the real, practical needs of our customers. Half of them were run by women.
“I think this hands-on approach helped deliver our success, and it’s informing our ability to expand the app’s functionality and availability going forwards.”
In fact, Olam plans to roll out the Olam Markets app in Nigeria and then Cameroon before the year is out. Following input from its Ghana customers, the company is developing additional capabilities for all users, such as integration with WhatsApp and availability of a chatbot, personalised user listings, and a move towards becoming cashless by payment gateway integration.
Olam intends to work closely and collaboratively with its packaged foods distributors in Nigeria and Cameroon to further refine Olam Markets, so it best suits their needs while constantly improving the app.
“The goal of Olam Markets is to empower our distributors to do business faster, as well as more easily and profitably. It also strengthens the role of our branded products as core components of their successes, whether in Africa or other markets around the world,” said Sidhartha Samal, Digital Head, Africa & Middle East.
“Born and nurtured in Ghana, Olam Markets has the potential to become a platform which will encourage other ecosystem players like banks and logistics aggregators to participate. In turn, this will increase the value proposition for our distributors.”