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Freshworld: As Fresh & Convenient As It Gets

Vjmedia Works | October 07, 2014

Bangalore-based firm's Farm on Wheels' concept has revolutionised the delivery of fruits and vegetables to customers at their doorstep

Over the last two decades, consumer services in India have undergone dramatic changes in areas like banking, insurance, telecom, and retail, to name a few. Technology has been at the backbone of each such evolution. However, the delivery of fruits and vegetables to the doorstep of households remained insulated from the advancements on the business turf. The traditional pushcart vendor continued to serve a gamut of consumers, while often compromising on the quality and hygiene standards.

Bangalore-based start-up firm Retailworx India Pvt Ltd spotted a big opportunity in revolutionising the delivery of fruits and vegetables to consumers at their doorstep by using modern supply chain systems and practices, and an environment-friendly mobility solution in the form of battery-operated carts. The firm launched its branded service called Freshworld less than a year ago to give households in various pockets of Bangalore a whole new experience of buying fruits and vegetables at their doorstep. The service, likened as'Farm on Wheels', has found ready acceptance from all the customers that it connects with.

On the supply side, Freshworld's Founder & CEO Rajiv Rao maintains that the new service is an answer to the various imponderables that govern the fruits and vegetables business in the country. For long, this category was plagued by poor supply chain systems and practices, a high number of intermediaries and scarce farmer-facing infrastructure. The fragmented supply chain resulted in a high lead time for the movement of produce from the farm to the consumers - which affected the quality of the offerings delivered, besides causing high wastage of the perishable goods.

On the consumer side, Rao points out that retail distribution models were archaic and had seen little improvement over time. The age-old street vending format for fruits and vegetables, while still cornering a major share of the customers' purchase pie, had curiously enough not undergone any change in its delivery mechanism or upgraded to a more refined model of vending over the years. Organising an unorganised business and technology and enabling this process to provide a reliable and modern service is the very essence of what Freshworld does.

Freshworld mapped the residential areas across the city of Bangalore to identify the places where there would be a demand for a service like this. The firm planned the routes for its carts accordingly. To ensure seamless service to the customers, Freshworld now sends out SMS alerts to the registered users of the service as the carts approach their respective residential areas. The carts ply the defined routes on particular days of the week, so the households can plan their purchase as per the schedule.

"The freshness of the fruits and vegetables coupled with'touch and feel'as well as the'pick and choose' format of purchase enables customers to have this unique experience at their doorstep,” says Rao.

Rao explains that Freshworld has brought in modern retail practices into this business. All the displays on the cart have price tags, and all items sold are billed - to ensure maximum transparency in the transactions. "The transparency of pricing and an automated digital bill for every purchase embellishes the Freshworld story of providing a supermarket experience for the customers while the digital weighing scale, with customer-friendly dual display, provides ample testimony to the accuracy of the weight of fruits and vegetables purchased,” says Rao.
Freshworld plans the mix of fruits and vegetables on its carts as per the buying behaviour of its target consumers. While it might not be possible for the electric carts to display as many items as available at a store, Rao says that the offerings match nearly all general needs of the households.

The firm aims to deliver fresh quality produce at competitive prices. The team tracks the price points at all competitive outlets and endeavours to offer the best prices to the customers without compromising on quality. The tracking system suggests that the firm is able to deliver fruits and vegetables to the customers at prices comparable with those at the retail outlets. The added convenience of delivery at the doorstep gives Freshworld the competitive edge over other fruits and vegetables retailers in the locations where it runs its operations.

To ensure seamless service delivery, the firm has invested significant resources in the training of its field staff. "We have taken them through a 1,000 slide presentation,” says Rao.

Since rolling out its services, Freshworld has hardly ever skipped any of its routes. The carts, whose number will go up to 24 by October, are all GPS-enabled so the central office is able to track their movements at any given time.

"We are going to backward integrate our farm story and become a complete farm to home service provider,” says Rao. On a larger plane, the Freshworld initiative is a big step toward organising and an unorganised fruits and vegetables retail business segment. In due course the firm will expand its operations into many other markets around the country.

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