Marketer eyes tech savvy farmers with e-commerce deals

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There are products that one can easily associate with e-commerce, such as fast moving goods like cosmetics, junk food, clothes, mobile phones and flashy commodities, but not fertiliser.

However, one city dweller chose to go that direction and it is proving to be a worthwhile business decision. John Weru, a trained marketer, had never considered venturing into agribusiness. After all, having grown up in Nairobi meant that he had little exposure to farming.

“My trade has been in products on wellness and health, and through networking I started to get some exposure in the field of agriculture and agribusiness,” says Weru who works as a marketer of organic fertiliser.

“I understood that just as human beings need supplements for good health, so do plants and animals. I saw an opportunity and jumped at it, and so far I must say the results are promising,” says Weru.

He invested only Sh2,600 to register with the suppliers, and was issued with a product catalogue along with a litre of organic fertiliser, which retails for about Sh1,900.

By selling to one person who then refers another client to him, Weru was able to form a customer base among friends, family members and other acquaintances.

But he took it to another level by advertising and making sales through Google Trader and social media, opening a door for many more enquiries and sales.

“I mainly target farmers who keep animals, and also plant crops. Getting this clientele on social media has had its own challenges, but there is a client base of young farmers who I have been able to reach in various parts of the country,” says the marketer.

Another challenge that Weru has to contend with is sharing information on what organic fertiliser is, and particularly as a supplement for both plants and animals.

“Many farmers are not familiar with an organic fertiliser that can be used by animals and applied on plants. This means I have to arm myself with enough knowledge on the product so as to give right information,” he says.

The job also calls for a lot of patience, since farmers take time before making some decisions.

Weru says he has even had to foot the bill when he gives out free samples of the fertiliser to gain the confidence of potential buyers. He says that through online marketing, one is able to reach a global audience much faster, as is the case with his products.

“I have had enquiries from countries like Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana to name a few. When I am online, I respond to enquiries in real-time. This is why I need in-depth knowledge about my products.” Weru is also the administrator of Wakulima i-market, a page on Facebook that links farmers with traders.

“I started the Facebook page with the aim of connecting farmers directly to buyers, because I saw a need since farmers lack an avenue to sell to the market without going through brokers,” he says.

“I also hear a lot from Kenyans who are looking for a good deal for their produce, and consumers who want fresh supplies from the farm.”

Though he does not profit from the Facebook page, hundreds of users have benefited from the service.

Dr Michael Muhoro, a lecturer in animal health at Mt Kenya University supports the idea of giving supplements such as vitamins and other health boosters to animals to boost productivity.

“Farmers can improve their animals’ health and output through vitamin and mineral supplements, but they should also beware of those supplements that can have effects such as hormonal types that may lead to undesired effects,” says Dr Muhoro.

“The trend is that people are moving towards organic foods, therefore they are biased more towards farming options that steer clear of chemicals.”

By MERCY GAKII

Monday, January 28  2013.