Interview with Gilbert Mwale, founder and CEO of Emsika, a platform that helps farmers FIND, BUY and RECEIVE agricultural inputs,then it also helps them access markets for their produce. Zambia, Lusaka
For those who do not know you, tell us in few words: Who is Gilbert Mwale and what is Emsika?
Gilbert Mwale is a young man that has studied computer science at a master’s level from India. He is a preacher, university lecturer and an entrepreneur. Emsika is a service that helps farmers FIND, BUY and RECEIVE agricultural inputs in a fast, trustworthy and convenient way. Then it also helps them access markets for their produce.
What problem are you solving in Africa, in your country or your community?
Firstly, there are 60 agriculture suppliers that supply to 1.3million farmers and 2500 Agro dealers across Zambia, making the ratio of suppliers to farmers be 1:7000. Most of these suppliers are based in Lusaka! This has led to farmers and agro-dealers to travel long distances hence losing valuable time and money while being exposed to accidents and theft. Lastly, farmers after harvesting complain as to lacking markets from which to sell their produce. Those that exist either underprice them or take a very long time to pay the farmers for their goods hence making losses. We Help farmers have a more efficient and affordable process, that encourages their efforts.
Do you think this is the right time for your start-up to solve the problem?
Oh yes, this is the best time for our people to be exposed to such advantages, as it has been seen with other African and western countries that e-commerce and m-commerce business models are disrupting business as usual and are ushering in a global feel to how people can now receive products and services from the traditional way. We are a bit behind but that doesn’t mean we can’t start our journey, it simply means we need to educate our customers and that we are doing so well.
Does your solution fit in the market? (Do people want it)?
Most definitely it does, we have introduced m-commerce features that supplement the use of our website for all our customers that are in areas of no internet. Now they too have the same opportunity as others in urban areas to get any farm inputs from suppliers of their choice as though it was just next door.
Tell us more about your team, why are you the best to solve this problem?
We are a team of young vibrant and passionate people that love solving problems. Me and Elton Chirwa my co-founder who is an engineer have known each other for more than 20 years and this is their second venture together after having one succeed before in micro financing, we thought let’s help those in the agriculture sector. The team comprises of a project leader, customer acquisition and management personnel, creative and design personnel and an e-commerce management officer.
What makes you different in the market?
The other companies that do similar things to us own an online business address listing site and we are unique because we list eShops and display each product item sold by our customers. This allows buyers to perform price comparison and then complete the purchase without need to call the actual supply as this is what they were avoiding in the first place by coming to our website. Apart from a website we mainly reach our customers using telephone texts/calls and social media. Freelance agents: These try to provide information to farmers, we are unique because we provide farmers with a trustworthy transaction by proving our compliance with governmental and sectorial regulations. Lastly, we are among the first to provide such a technological solution to the farmers.
What is your value Proposition?
We provide a large variety of agriculture input options to select from, are a trustworthy place to purchase from, and a very fast and efficient delivery process.
How do you measure your success?
Our success is measured by the number of supplier eStores we have open on the e-commerce website, the amount of reveOur success is measured by the number of supplier eStores we have open on the e-commerce website, the amount of revenue made out of the calls we get every month. We have subscribed 5 paid up suppliers and are averaging 5-10 purchases every month: made out of the calls we get every month. We have subscribed 5 paid up suppliers and have 500 users of our website every month. We have had even farmers from as far as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, DRC and Nambia use our services.
How innovative is your start-up? (In terms of Technological/Social innovation)
Our core is driving agriculture on the basis of technology and hence we are uses a state of the art e-commerce website and other text based platforms that allow farmers even in rural areas that are only connected to GSM services without internet to access our services by sending messages to a particular phone number. We are also employing the use of social media to engage our customers that are found there.
How are you scaling up the start-up?
We are working with various stake holders and partners in our sector that have the common goal of lifting up the standards of the small scale farmers in southern Africa. Therefore, we are more inclined to m-commerce for our next blow of conquering the lack of access to good quality farm inputs and markets by farmers in rural areas.
What advice do you leave for budding entrepreneurs and new start-ups?
As always, when the Big Idea comes, don’t forget to do a market research as what maybe cool to you may not make any money (may not be sellable). Then go with someone as they say if you want go fast, go alone but if you want go far, go with people, and lastly start fast so that you can fail fast.
How and where can your service be accessed?
Our website is www.emsika.com or give us a call on +260976626406 or drop us a message on Facebook at E-msika services ltd