E-commerce startup registers exponential growth as pandemic prompts Zimbabwean shoppers to get online


by Tafara Mugwara

Although most Zimbabweans still prefer the physical touch of doing their shopping in traditional brick and mortar stores, virtual market places are slowly gaining a foothold in the country.

Internet connectivity in Zimbabwe has rapidly expanded in recent years, with more people now accessing the web through their smartphones.

According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulation Authority, Zimbabwe’s internet penetration reached 8.6 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, about 60 percent of the country’s population.

The steady increase in internet connectivity and the wide use of mobile payment platforms across the country has provided impetus and opportunities for e-commerce and home delivery ventures.

Riding the wave of an e-commerce boom and taking advantage of the ever-growing home delivery opportunities as people stay away from crowded markets during the pandemic, Fresh in a Box, a vegetable sales and delivery startup, has brought convenience to many Zimbabweans by bringing fresh out-of-the-garden vegetables and other groceries directly to their doorsteps.

Fresh in a Box “Vendor in Chief” Kudakwashe Musasiwa said COVID-19-induced restrictions accelerated digital adoption and prompted new shoppers to get online at an unprecedented scale as shoppers sought new safe ways of getting their fresh supplies.

“We happen to just be at the right place at the right time,” Musasiwa told Xinhua. “All the technologies, social media have converged, mobile money payments in Zimbabwe have become ubiquitous, and so all these things came together at a really perfect time for us to be able to really modernize vending.”

Fresh in a box, according to Musasiwa, merges “agriculture with great technology and great logistics” to bring fresh produce to its customers in an efficient manner.

The company’s success is heavily premised on its simple approach to vending, its efficient processing of orders, and timely deliveries.

The company’s well-built mobile applications and website has a user interface that makes it easy for customers to place orders and make payments in a hassle-free manner.

Their products are also massively marketed through social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which has easily allowed to company to connect with Zimbabweans at home and abroad.

Apart from growing their own vegetables, Fresh in a Box works with more than 2,000 smallholder farmers to deliver the best fresh produce to its customers.

By cutting off the middleman, the company is able to secure fresh produce at low prices and in turn sell at competitive prices than most conventional vegetable markets.

Musasiwa said the success of the company is disproportionately owed to its use of simple modern technologies such as social media that people use every day to stay connected.

“What we have done is to make sure that any customer can communicate and order in any way that they feel comfortable. If you are an Instagrammer, and you want to order via Instagram we will take your order and deliver it.

“This nimbleness and this ability to adapt to where people are makes our customers very grateful,” he said.

Musasiwa said electronic commerce has the potential to transform small-scale enterprises since it allows businesses to reach markets despite geographical distances and to connect producers and merchants directly to customers.

Although no single element of its operations is entirely new, Fresh in a Box has managed to disrupt the home delivery business model in an unprecedented way and its success has signaled a new way of doing business in Zimbabwe.

Dozens of vegetable producers have since started replicating Fresh in a Box’s way of conducting business.

“In that space you’ve noticed that there is a lot of people who are now cloning our business model, trying to copy our model, and we encourage that because we want farmers and young business entrepreneurs to start really champion the e-commerce and delivery space because it is the future.

“We have seen it all over the world becoming more ubiquitous, people relying on deliveries to come to their homes, we just want to push professionalism, we want to push for quality, we want to push for great customer service, logistics at the forefront of our business,” he said.

Musasiwa said in this digitalized world, it has become imperative for business owners to consider e-commerce more than ever before since it has become the most potent way of doing business.

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