Nigerian startup Foodstantly, one of the 40 startups that pitched at the DEMO Africa conference in Lagos in September, is helping to bring food shopping online by providing farmers, restaurants and traders with online shops and the technology to connect with customers.
Launched in February this year, Foodstantly believes it is tackling the challenges faced by urban residents in Nigeria and those in the food supply chain, both in terms of accessing food or making food accessible to consumers.
“The gap we discovered was that urban residents, especially the young professional and working class, find it hard to buy food, either from restaurants or from the open air market,” said founder Uchay Ariolu.
“Also we discovered that lots of food sellers and food providers such as farmers and traders do not have direct access to consumers, most sell below capacity, there are wastages and low customer retention. But the consumers are there, people are willing to buy these things, but the problem is the inconvenience, time wastage and stress consumers experience in getting these food items from the farmers or from the traders in the open air market where over 80 per cent of Africans purchase their food and groceries.”
The solution is Foodstantly, an online marketplace, which food suppliers with online shops, payment integration, delivery support and technology to connect and sell directly to consumers. Consumers have access to ready-to-cook produce which will be delivered to them, and can also order from a number of restaurants, caterers, fast-food joints and takeaways through Foodstantly.
“Our aim is to be a one-stop online destination for everything food, sort of like an Amazon for food in Africa,” said Ariolu. “The vision is to be the biggest network or platform facilitating sales and connecting farmers, traders and restaurant to consumers in Africa.”
Ariolu himself is a lawyer by profession, but has set up a number of ICT and food based businesses over the last eight years. His three other team members combine marketing, content development, business development and product development skills. Bootstrapped thus far, Foodstantly is currently seeking investment.
Though the site has made some revenues – it charges small commissions on each item sold on the platform and also makes money from delivery fees from sellers that make use of its delivery system – it is primarily focusing on building its user base for now, which currently stands at 1,000 registered sellers and 2,000 registered users.
“So far we have signed up and are still signing up sellers across Nigeria, ranging from farmers, traders, restaurants and food grocery shops,” Ariolu said. “We are focused on building the marketplace for now, while we are making revenue already from some transactions on the platform our main focus is to build the marketplace by having more sellers, which makes it more attractive for consumers. We are not yet profitable but we are getting there.”
Operating solely in Nigeria for now, the company does have Africa-wide expansion in mind as it grows. Ariolu says the major challenge is assuring farmers it is worthwhile for them.
“The challenges is convincing farmers and traders to adopt technology through us in expanding or reaching consumers, as well as payment challenges. Lack of funding also is a very big challenge for us.”