THE BASKET INNOVATES FARMING SECTOR
How long does your trip to the market to buy vegetables and groceries normally take and how often do you need to make those market trips each week? If you are one of those people that cannot spare the time to go to the market then there is some good news for you: The Basket.
Eric Mulima and Gideon Kagundu are both young entrepreneurs, aged 24 and 23 respectively, who have embarked on a journey that is giving them real life lessons about the world of entrepreneurship. Eric studied Business Information Technology at National College of Information Technology (NACIT) and Gideon is currently studying for a Bachelor’s of Science in Food Technology and Nutrition at Luanar NRC Campus.
Eric and Gideon are proud owners of The Basket, a products and goods delivery business currently focused on making vegetable delivery convenient in Lilongwe. Their target customer is looking for convenience, knowing that not everyone has the luxury of having time to go to the market to buy groceries, fruit and vegetables presented the opportunity for The Basket to step in, take orders and deliver to homes at a service fee.
They source their supplies from smallholder farmers within Lilongwe, then package and distribute them on Mondays and Fridays using a hired vehicle. The Basket was inspired by a conversation with one of their shareholders about the need to empower Malawian smallholder farmers to reach an outstanding production level of agricultural products which would enable farmers to move away from completely depending on tobacco as the main export crop.
The world as we know it is becoming more health conscious with more countries implementing smoke-free zones and policies, making tobacco selling a market that might not continue to be profitable in the future and thus Malawian farmers need to be able to make a sustainable living by producing and selling other crops. Their vision is to assist farmers in making these solutions real by contributing to solving the current challenges of transforming smallholder agricultural livelihoods in Malawi in making them sustainable; socially, economically and environmentally.
The Basket usually has two types of vegetable baskets; one with indigenous vegetables and one with non-indigenous vegetables. According to J.D.H. Keatinge indigeneous vegetables are those that are locally important for the sustainability of economies, human nutrition and health, and social systems but which have yet to attain global recognition to the same extent as major vegetable commodities such as tomato or cabbage. Most buyers prefer indigenous crops because of how rich they are in protein, vitamins, iron and other nutrients compared to non-indigenous crops. The Basket encourages its farmers to disclose the benefits of new vegetable items so that customers can make an informed decision of adding it to their customised baskets.
With four shareholders, two of which are Eric and Gideon who are active on the ground and the other two as silent partners, the journey of setting up The Basket has been quite challenging, the young entrepreneurs say. An important lesson they’ve learnt thus far is that when it comes to plans, things don’t always ago accordingly because of changes in the environment.
Despite the financial and transportation challenges The Basket faces, Eric and Gideon are working towards sustainable solutions that will help them grow and expand to delivering other goods. On their list of things to do is to set up a bank account that will specifically cover their daily operations, marketing and advertising. They also want to introduce grocery hampers and fruit baskets once their business is stable.
Family and friends have been supportive of their business venture. They help with finding customers and smallholder farmers and have been instrumental in sharing advice on how to maneuver around various issues such as making deliveries and providing fuel to make deliveries.
Eric and Gideon’s long-term vision is to expand their services and products through working with more smallholder farmers across Malawi and delivering to other cities so more people can access their services. Their current focus is to grow their network of farmers, find markets for them and deliver to the final customer, for consumption or for processing.
The Basket’s top priorities are to contribute to the health of customers through providing fresh nutritious vegetables and consistent customer satisfaction through quality service from start to finish. Through building long term relationships with their farmers and customers, The Basket is on a path of growth and innovation that will add momentum to innovating the commercial farming sector with empowered farmers who know that there is a guaranteed market for their agricultural products.
The entrepreneurial journey tests your focus and ability to adapt to changes in order to succeed says the entrepreneurial duo. Eric and Gideon’s experiences have uncovered their strong-willed nature and willingness to work for what they believe in regardless of how stressful and difficult it might be. They encourage fellow entrepreneurs to adapt their plans to the environment rather than give up in the face of hardships.