Finding Product Market Fit To Improve Operations During Covid: Transformation of agro dealer stores to DigiShops

Shamba Pride employs a market systems approach to connect village-level farmers to quality inputs, services, and information through women and youth-owned DigiShops powered by technology. Through  , last-mile agro dealers and cooperative entrepreneurs are able to digitize their operations and provide smallholder farmers with right and affordable technology, quality products and services thus, creating a community of micro-entrepreneurs serving the smallholder farmer community.

Agro dealer stores are the backbone of the agro distribution network. These stores act as central points for farmers to access agricultural inputs and gain knowledge and training through demonstrations and group gatherings. I n face of the pandemic, the agro dealer stores faced disruption in serving smallholder farmers and Farmers Pride had to look for solutions to enhance the service delivery model and improve the last mile delivery of agricultural services.

On an average, 5000 farmers access training services monthly through demo farm training and digital delivery. The ratio of digital versus physical delivery was 1:9 before the pandemic. Between March and April 2020, the monthly education delivery to farmers dropped by 90%. There was also a huge plummet in the monthly sales of agro dealer stores by 40%. Designing an integrated digital delivery solution not only reinforced the value offered to agro dealer stores joining the network but also gave them a competitive advantage to better serve smallholder farmers by digitizing their operations.

Remote user research

By developing an integrated digital delivery solution, the team was able to transform the agro dealer stores into DigiShops. This enabled farmers to undertake digital consultations with agro-experts and access digital inputs thereby, overcoming the challenges of in-person consultations in light of the pandemic.

Shamba Pride also leveraged technology to improve inventory management, financial management, quality control, performance measurement, and supply management .

Currently, the team has successfully onboarded 35 agro dealer stores and transformed them into DigiShops. Around 18,200 farmers (spread across 6 counties in Kenya) have self-registered and use the platform to access inputs and knowledge.

Lessons learned

  • DigiShop technology is delivered via a USSD platform and a mobile app. With USSD platforms requiring no internet connectivity, the team observed that their USSD platform had higher rates of engagement (95%). USSD platform has a huge potential to connect the last mile and reach underserved communities. On the other hand, lack of reliable internet connectivity limited the use of the mobile app. Thus limited internet accessibility is often a key challenge limiting the adoption of a mobile app.
  • Key to effective product design was collection of farmer feedback on agricultural products and inputs, services and environmental infrastructure challenges .
  • Farmers are easily embracing the non-smart phone technology as most of them are excited about this new medium to access credible inputs and gain technical knowledge without the need to travel thereby, saving time.
  • Targeted outreach is a great tool to engage more smallholder farmers and encourage them to adopt technology. The team tested this through direct outreach to organized farmer groups.
  • Community buy-in is important to instill confidence, establish trust and facilitate adoption of technology at scale. With DigiShop owners serving as ambassadors for the new technology, they leveraged it in their networks and helped mobilize the community for successful adoption.






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