A provider of fresh fruit and vegetables to supermarkets in the Philippines, AgriNurture knew when social distancing and lockdown measures were introduced by the government—referred to as Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) locally—it needed to adapt.
“We had started developing an ecommerce website and mobile app (ANI Express app). So, when ECQ was brought in, we rushed the launch,” said Ciara Ong, AgriNurture assistant vice president of finance and operations. “We now offer standardised, pre-packed 5KG fruit and vegetable boxes, and for a minimum fee, you get it delivered to your doorstep within 48 hours,” she said. “We also offer plant-based meat alternatives, as well as dairy free and gluten free ice cream to promote a healthier lifestyle, even under quarantine.”
The ecommerce service received an overwhelming response right away, with customers eager to find new quality alternatives to fresh food markets. “We had to do an early cut off to catch up! The model is designed so people can stay home, which is what they want,” she said. “The produce goes from farm to our packing factories, then directly to customers, meaning less handling. It’s safer for them and safer for our employees.”
In the Driver’s Seat
Being an established organisation helped AgriNurture overcome numerous logistical challenges. “As soon as ECQ started, a lot of roads began to close. There was a lot of confusion about which trucks could go where and when,” Ong said.
The business responded fast. “Fortunately, we have the right permits and permissions to move through checkpoints, but for a while it was chaotic,” she said. “There is an underground economy for fresh produce in the Philippines, and now they can't go through. So, people need us more than ever.”
As part of the ECQ, there are delivery ‘windows’ set by the government for certain areas, meaning the business has had to think carefully about routes and ensure food didn’t go bad.
AgriNurture is now starting to look forward, so it’s prepared for the world of business after ECQ. “The whole organisation will have to review KPIs, because the landscape has changed. Some businesses will remain closed, like malls, so we need to adapt,” Ong said. “The public is used to deliveries. Before they were hesitant because they couldn’t see the quality. Customers are now confident, and we’re already seeing a lot of repeat orders.”
Ong believes the crisis will also spark a revolution in the banking system, which up to now has remained largely paper-based, involving trips to busy banks. “This system won’t work in the new world. I think the government will push through and encourage electronic banking, so you don’t have to go to the bank physically,” she said. “Hopefully one positive is this process will be sped up. Because in the future we need to prepare to stay home if we need to.”
AgriNurture is focused on shifting its model permanently. “We need to go beyond the retail business. These days, you go to the customer, instead of them coming to you,” Ong said. “We should take the crisis as an opportunity to reshape the business and grow.”