The coronavirus pandemic came as a shock to the world in the late 2019/early 2020. Not many people anticipated the level of damage the pandemic would do to societies, economies, and social life. For many businesses, the pandemic crippled their day-to-day operations. Businesses who did not have an online/virtual presence and operations were an easy target for the devastating effect of the pandemic. Even today, no one can confidently predict exactly how organizations, business, societies, and social life will look like in the coming weeks, months, and years. One thing is certain – things cannot remain the same. The CEO of Microsoft coined this experience as “…. two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months …”
At Afrimash, we are glad that we have been able to stand as succour to farmers and their suppliers during this period – enabling vendors and buyers to transact agricultural inputs online. While some suppliers of agricultural items had to resort to social media (WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook) to reach their customers, the Afrimash system enabled buyers of agricultural items to continue to have seamless transactions despite the blockades and curfews across the country. We were able to “deliver happiness” to customers despite the inconsistency in the transportation system across Nigeria as our logistics team also responded fast to this development in the country.
Customers could browse through hundreds of products to find what’s best for them (without needing to visit a physical store). They could speak with knowledgeable support personnel, place orders conveniently, and receive their items delivered to their various locations across Nigeria.
Afrimash, being an eCommerce platform was already positioned to thrive during and after this pandemic. However, because of the uniqueness of our market, the need for quick innovation and managing the disruptions caused by the season was of great importance. To serve the agricultural market maximally before/during and after this pandemic, we had to set up certain processes to create a smooth workflow and enable us to satisfy customers.
This wasn’t a straightforward task for the Afrimash team. We had to make quick adjustments with a focus on six important things gleaned from a McKinsey Report for food retailers:
- Protect employees and customers
- Secure business continuity
- Get a granular view of the local reality
- Simultaneously manage demand and supply
- Become future-proof
- Boldly reshape the ecosystem
The Business Continuity Team
One of the first steps taken by the Afrimash team was to create the Business Continuity Team (BCT), selected from amongst the leads of different departments, to oversee operations, monitor and control as well react quickly to the market changes. BCT is also in charge of testing any fresh idea first to ensure it doesn’t disrupt any workflow before introducing it to the team.
Another important action taken by the company was to ensure the safety of all employees. The company commenced a fully remote workplace for the first time, even before the Government ordered a lockdown. All employees were provided with face masks, hand sanitizers as well as funds to help them survive and thrive during this period.
Because of the restrictions in movement across Nigeria, a lot of business processes were altered. The Afrimash team used “Scenario Planning” to envisage this and quickly created better communications structures to ensure we could continue to serve the market effectively – ensuring our vendors could sell and our customers could buy conveniently and confidently throughout the pandemic.
Keeping Customers in Business Despite Covid19
During this period, Afrimash also made an early launch of two platforms to enable our customers to stay immune to the devastating effect of the covid19 crisis. These include (1) consult.afrimash.com: an online veterinary and agricultural consultancy platform to help farmers stay in touch with consultants in case they have issues on their farms and they cannot reach any consultant nearby, and (2) market.afrimash.com: a “farmers’ market” created to enable farmers to connect easily with off-takers with no need for physical interaction.
Even after COVID-19, these 2 new platforms would continue to run as sister platforms for supporting our farmers.
Keeping Employees Safe & Productive: Post-COVID Workplace
Having successfully operated a 100% remote workplace since ending of March 2020, Afrimash is now transiting into a hybrid workplace as a company (working with distributed teams across the country), so that employees who need not be on-site at the office would work from home or a remote location they prefer while we maintain proper social distancing for the office teams. We expect this transition to improve work effectiveness, employee satisfaction, and the general welfare of employees.
As the entire world transit into post-covid reality, the Afrimash team is focused on our mission “to make agriculture convenient for everyone”. We are committed to ensuring farmers can conveniently find and access the items they need to run a smooth and productive farm during covid19 and thereafter.