ENTERPRISE54 – Foodstantly.com is another very interesting online business shooting out of Africa. Founded only nine months ago, the startup helps Nigerian consumers receive food orders instantly from partnered vendors on its growing online marketplace. Foodstantly definitely isn’t the pioneering entrant in this market; Rocket Internet’s Hellofood currently dominates the multi-player meal delivery space. But here’s
ENTERPRISE54 – Foodstantly.com is another very interesting online business shooting out of Africa. Founded only nine months ago, the startup helps Nigerian consumers receive food orders instantly from partnered vendors on its growing online marketplace. Foodstantly definitely isn’t the pioneering entrant in this market; Rocket Internet’s Hellofood currently dominates the multi-player meal delivery space. But here’s the interesting part. Aside the ready to eat service, Foodstantly also helps connect farmers to food stuff demands under its ready to cook product segment. An immensely rich potential business model that helps small-scale agriculture producers solve one of their major problems.
Growing up in the coal city of Nigeria Port Harcourt, Uche Ariolu witnessed farmers complain of massive produce wastage due to market inaccessibility and poor distribution. Being a farmer in remote areas of Nigeria can be disheartening; difficulty in reaching markets and lack of finance to build storage bans contribute as high as 50 percent of harvest loss of perishable goods like tomatoes. So the inquisitive young man dreamt of possible solutions.
Uche Ariolu would be pitching at Microsoft-sponsored DEMO Africa 2014, the first and largest gathering of African angel investors. Nigeria has over 160 million peoples with over 80 percent purchasing their food directly from local markets. The market volume and potential for Foodstantly is awesome and he just might go home with some investments after the much-anticipated angel gathering.
We spoke with Uche and this is what he had to say.
E54: Sir, elaborate on your background and occupation before Foodstantly.
UA: I worked in the food industry in Port Harcourt under some of the big names in the catering industry in the city. I had my Law degree from the University of Calabar and had my BL in the Lagos Business School, after which I attended the Aspiring Entrepreneur program of Fate Foundation. I have been practising law and engaged in the ICT Outsourcing industry before Foodstantly. In fact I have been in the ICT outsourcing industry right from my university days. I have also dabbled into several businesses in the ICT field one of which is www.ticketmypal.com an existing event discovery and management and ticket sales mobile–web platform.
E54: Please give us a background to Foodstantly. What prompted you to start the business?
UA: The pains people go through to access food; the common hustle and hassles shopping for food in the open air markets as well as the challenges faced by food producers, restaurants, farmers and food traders in selling. Farmers complain of wastage and at times do not receive good value for their produce due to sharp practices by middlemen. The middlemen also spike food costs despite large numbers of farmers and arable land. Most restaurants run below capacity despite a huge population of food loving people in our cities. So I figured a platform that will facilitate the distribution of food and the buying and selling of food will make a difference. We want to be a one stop shop for all food need. We want to be the platform where farmers, restaurants, food traders will meet and transact with consumers nationwide and Africa at large.
Through our two product segments – ready to eat and ready to cook – we are able to give farmers, traders and restaurants a mobile web platform to transact directly with consumers nationwide.
E54: When was Foodstantly founded and what’s its current staff strength?
UA: We started beta testing late January 2014 and have staff strength of 6.
E54: What has been your experience getting technology-shy farmers to embrace your platform?
UA: It’s very challenging convincing farmers and restaurants to imbibe technology in their business. However, knowing that our platform allows them sell to more customers, with additional benefits, this has encouraged some to sign up and refer their friends. Also we made it very easy for them to use the platform. For example, we integrated their shops on our platform to SMS on their mobile phones. So a farmer in Jos or a restaurant in Lagos can receive orders or make sales through SMS alert.
E54: So far, what has been the response from consumers to this innovative company of yours? Are suppliers readily listing on the site and how much transaction goes on the site daily?
UA: Yes suppliers are listing on the site. At the moment we have about 150 sellers comprising of farmers, food traders and restaurants. We are in discussions to sign up 70 more across the country within the month. Our goal is to sign up over 1500 sellers before the year end. People are buying and selling in several cities so we are not limited by physical presence. In fact we are getting enquiries nationwide including cities we don’t have sellers. Residents in those places request and plead we sign up sellers in their area.
E54: Which state contributes the highest number of orders on the site or does it only deliver to Port Harcourt?
UA: Our platform is available nationwide. People are buying and selling in several cities even where we have never visited or where we don’t have physical sales force. Our highest orders at the moment is from Port Harcourt basically because we are physically located there and have been doing direct marketing there. Lagos follows. We get 50-100 enquiries daily most of which are from Lagos, Abuja, Calabar, Ibadan, Owerri, Kano etc. Right now We are working on getting more sellers in these cities to feed these enquires and request. It may surprise you to know that we have more registered users in Lagos and most of our enquires come from that states and we know in a short time we shall have more sales from Lagos than any other state .
G54: How does Foodstantly generate revenue?
UA: Primarily we make money through commissions. We take a little commission for any item sold on the platform. We also make money if we offer delivery support to any seller. There are a few other revenue models too.
E54: Does Foodstantly get any support from the government considering the FGs aggressive drive on agriculture and agribusiness adoption and development?
UA: We don’t have any support or encouragement from the Government at the moment.
E54: Does competition from Hellofood et al, affect your business in anyway?
UA: The completion from Hellofood is healthy. It does not negatively affect our business. For clarity purpose, hello food only competes with us on our ready to eat solutions which is restaurant discovery and online meal ordering .They are not our competitors for our ready to cook solution and our other product segments. Hellofood is doing well and we have respect for them and believe we can collectively advance the food ordering ecosystem and expunge all industry challenges. Hellofood is not a one stop shop for all your food needs but Foodstantly is a one stop shop. You want to cook? We have foodstuffs and farm produce for you directly from farmers and traders. You don’t want to cook but want instant food? We have restaurants and fast-food delivering to you.
E54: Excellent. Who are your other competitors in this market by the way?
UA: Our other competitors for our ready to cook product segment would be the local open air market and the neighborhood shops. However one of our major differentiator from them is our adoption of technology and value added service.