In Summary
  • The Distribution Management System (DMS) app provides ready market for farmers’ produce which now becomes available for farmers to buy, Faustine Ngila writes.

Nairobi women traders are riding on an e-commerce platform to cut costs and boost revenues.
When Digital magazine visited Juliet Muendi at her fruit business on Mombasa Road, she was busy attending tens of customers who usually flock her kiosk to buy mangoes, melons, bananas, oranges, grapes, apples, pawpaws, pineapples and avocados.

On the scorching sun, she narrates how she has watched her business grow gradually to a self-sustaining venutre over the years.
“When I ventured into the fruits business in 2016, I only used a wheelbarrow to move around my goods from point to point,” the 34 year old says.

During that time, she used to fetch her melons, bananas, pawpaws, and avocados from Nairobi’s Wakulima market, her apples and grapes from Highridge and Parklands, and then commute again to Kitengela in Kajiado for the best quality mangoes and oranges.

“It would cost me around Ksh500 (Shs 18,589) to move around stocking up my kiosk. But things have changed now,” says Juliet, a mother of three who now purchases her produce from Twiga Food’s e-commerce mobile innovation.
The Distribution Management System (DMS) app provides ready market for farmers’ produce which now becomes available for farmers to buy.

“The prices are better compared to buying from the physical market. Their quality of bananas is better and I rely on it 70 per cent,” says the Mlolongo dweller, adding that the services are available anytime.
She has witnessed an increase in sales since she joined the platform two years ago, and no longer depends on her husband’s salary to support her needs as she rakes a profit of at least Ksh5,000 (Shs185,897) a day.

Mary Wanjiru, a 28-year-old mother of two is elated when we visit her grocery shop at Donholm estate. She welcomes us into her ‘empire’ which had a humble beginning but now includes two other outlets within the estate.
“When I began selling fruits in 2009, it would cost me between Ksh1,000 and Sh2,000 (Shs37,179 and Shs74,359) in transport to stock my shop. Every fruit luggage had to be paid for,” she recalls.

But when she joined the digital buying platform after it launched in 2014, those costs disappeared and she now uses the money to stock more fruits.
She compares the price on the mobile app to that of Wakulima market and notes, “The online prices are more affordable and profitable. For a kilo of watermelons, it is Ksh30 (Shs1,115) on the app compared to Ksh40 (Shs1,487).”
Josephine Wanjiku, 24, a single mother of one at Uthiru owns a shop where she sells all household items.

She ventured into business in 2017, determined to raise her kid without anyone’s help, and has now gained financial stability.
Initially she used to order for goods from a nearby wholesale store, and it would cost her more and use Ksh250 (Shs9,295) for transport.
Thanks to the innovation, she now requests cooking oil, sugar, wheat and maize flour through the app because the prices are fairer and no transport is needed. All goods are brought to her shop.

“I used to buy 10 kilos of sugar at Ksh2,200, now I get them for Ksh2,000. A dozen of maize flour goes for Ksh1150 at the stores, on the app it’s only Ksh980. I get a dozen 1 litre cans of cooking oil for Ksh1,200 on the app which go for Ksh1,400 on wholesale shops,” she reveals.

Mobile marketplace
Currently, the platform has 18,000 users, 11,000 of them being farmers across 20 counties delivering to 7,000 vendors within Nairobi and its environs.
“The system is a win for both sides; farmers have guaranteed access to a fairly priced, transparent, mobile marketplace while vendors can consistently source high-quality produce, which is conveniently delivered for free to their doorstep,” says Kikonde Mwatela, Twiga Food’s chief operations officer.
It runs on a mobile-based, cashless, business-to-business (B2B) supply. A vendor orders stock through a sales representative, who records the order onto the platform through the app interface.

“The order information is received in real time and prepares the order and thereafter reliably shows up the next day at their shop with a low-cost, quality product than informal markets can provide.”
Creation of the platform was triggered by the need to connect farmers to vendors as a means to fix the broken-down food supply chain.

Through this technology, supply and demand are matched, aggregating market participants and finding buyers for farmers’ produce in Kenya’s large, but highly fragmented fruit and vegetable market.
Women fruit vendors can only smile to the extent at which this platform has helped them cut costs.

They no longer have to commute to restock their fruit businesses, and data on the app shows that 73 per cent of vendors served are women.

This article was first published in Business Daily.