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MCO Zoom Series: e-Petani

Written by Jensen Lo

· Case Studies,Digital Marketing,Chatbots,Interviews,Ecommerce

Gosh! We just love catching up with our clients and see how they all are doing despite the difficulties in connecting with people as an effect of the MCO. As the MCO has been extended for another two weeks, we can’t wait to produce another episode of the MCO Zoom Series. Hope you can’t wait to check out this episode.

In this week’s instalment, our Client Success Manager, Alta and myself reached out to Erik, the co-founder of the game-changing e-Petani. e-Petani, founded at the time when MCO started, has altered our perception on groceries shopping in a short amount of time. The idea of starting e-Petani came to Erik as some of our local farmers struggled to sell their products and approached him for help. Aiming to bridge the local produce from the farms right to our doorsteps, Erik got together with two of his friends and set up e-Petani in five days after discussing their ideas through meetings at home.

As impressive as that sounds, e-Petani followed it up by providing a delivery service of incredible efficiency, in which no supermarkets have been able to achieve thus far, to the hands of the consumers in Klang Valley. With our conventional understanding of fruits and vegetables shopping out of the window, Erik and his team envision that e-Petani would be able to deliver to more areas and grow into a bigger e-Commerce platform.

In this interview, we learned the following:

  • How did the idea of e-Petani grow into shape
  • Erik’s mindset in turning a crisis into a business opportunity
  • The advices Erik would like to share with all business owners out there
  • How does the team manage an extremely demanding delivery service
  • How he hopes to build a sustainable ecosystem around the agriculture industry
  • His predictions and future plans for the rest of 2020
  • Finally, his advices on going digital with your business

Let’s find out more about e-Petani and how quick you could get the freshest product delivered to your doorstep.

Hi Erik, Good afternoon! How is your day?

Hi, Good Afternoon! My morning has been busy. We had a tough time today. Most of the p​asar borong​ (wholesale market) are closed. Some of the supply chains have been disrupted but most of our supplies come directly from the farm. So, we’re good and hanging in there.

 

You’ve been busy everyday right? Including the weekends.

Yup, I had not experienced a 9-to-5 life till now. This definitely feels like a 9-to-5 job. You have to start at 9 am sharp, making sure everything is ready and our customers stay happy.

 

Tell me more about your team and what is your story behind E-Petani.

I come from a retail and agriculture background. We sell durians with my other company called Durian King TTDI. That’s pretty well known. So, I believe in our expertise [in the retail and agriculture field]. e-Petani started when a few farmers gave me a call. They asked, “Hey, could you please help us to sell my products?” I received calls from farmers in Kelantan and Selangor to sell their produce. After a few calls, I figured I should start something so I proposed this idea to one of my friends. We were excited so that’s how it started.

 

We started from a humble beginning as we would conduct meetings and run everything at home. Finally, we managed to get a platform and set everything up in 5 days.

 

That’s impressive. We’re amazed by the pace you guys managed to set everything up.

I am amazed myself as well looking back at it.

“ I would take the opportunity that exists and turn a negative perspective into a positive perspective. That’s one of the reasons e-Petani started.”

So, tell me about your team.

We started with three people, which was myself, my business partner and a creative designer. Just three of us, meeting at home, sharing ideas till 11pm. Now, we have a team of 15.

Wow, that’s a huge expansion in a short amount of time, isn’t it?

Yes, we didn’t know how much manpower we would need until we started. We needed someone to be in charge of purchasing, delivery and arranging our products. We

realized one person couldn’t take on responsibilities of three. So, we need a bigger team to make this work.

How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected your business?

Honestly, I’m an optimist. No matter what happens to me, I would take the opportunity that exists and turn a negative perspective into a positive perspective. That’s one of the reasons e-Petani started.

[In my other businesses] I run an event organization business where we organize concerts and comedy shows and I have the durian retail business. I didn’t think that the pandemic would affect my business too much. In my mind, I was saying let’s kick it off and get everything done. So, that was my mindset.

I initially thought [the MCO period] would be a good time to have a short break and to spend some time with my family. But, when e-Petani came up, it kept me busy. It kept me thinking. Coming up with new ideas everyday, dealing with new products and coming up with new strategies. Thanks to [our collaboration with] Chatbot Malaysia, we have a team to support us behind the scenes and we are able to run the frontline.

And we’re happy to hear that you have successfully turned a crisis into a business opportunity.
Yes, and I think everyone should have the same mindset because there’s nothing much we could do. You could take this opportunity to take a break and spend time with your family. That’s great too.

Or, you could also take this opportunity and come up with a business idea. As long as it’s within the rules of the MCO. In our case, we supply and deliver essential goods to people. This is the service we provide.

“We’re trying to build a sustainable ecosystem where everyone involved gets a part of the benefits from selling the produce.”​

We are aware of your interest in helping out our local farmers with e-Petani. That’s great. Could you please tell us more about that?
I spoke to many government agencies and that's what we usually do. We meet up and talk about the problems we encounter. The main problem of the MCO is that the supply chain has been disrupted. People can’t move freely and sell freely. Supermarkets are limited [in supplies], p​asar borong a​nd distributors as well. How we do things is we cut down the involvement of middle people. We get the farmers to deliver directly to us so we have about five farmers delivering their produce to us. For the other items that our customers are requesting for, we would look for it from other sources.

In that sense, we’re helping the farmers as they could deliver their produce to us if they can’t reach out to the supermarkets. For our customers, they could visit our storefront or order it online as we encourage them to do so.

We know that it could be tough amid the MCO period to ensure quick delivery to the customers. And, with fruits and vegetables, quick delivery is essential to make sure the customers are getting the freshest products. How are you managing that so effectively?

Yes exactly, it is essential that we are delivering fresh products to our customers. We are making sure that we’re managing it efficiently. After the customers place their orders, we would pack them and hand them to our delivery riders immediately. So you would be able to receive your orders within three hours.

From our reviews, we found out that there aren’t any supermarkets that are providing this sort of delivery service as fast as us. Some of our customers are surprised by how quick we are able to send the orders to their doorsteps. Sometimes, it takes only 20 to 30 minutes.

The efficient delivery service comes with an amount of fees. In relation to that, we hope that our customers could understand that they’re not just helping our team and the farmers but they’re also helping the delivery riders. We’re trying to build a sustainable ecosystem where everyone involved gets a part of the benefits from selling the produce.

Have you worked with other digital marketing firms before? How was the experience?
For Durian King and my other business, I am the one who usually runs social media. Taking the role of Chief Marketing Officer and also in charge of client servicing. But, as you grow your business, you need to be efficient and you can’t be doing everything yourself.

I’ve known Carliff (our amazing founder and Strategy Director) for a long time. Probably since I was 12 or 13 years old. Almost for half of my life (Wow!). I know he has been doing this (running digital marketing agencies).

The funny thing is that I actually first engaged with Chatbot Malaysia to run the social media marketing for Durian King. But, when e-Petani started, I told him to put everything [about Durian King] on hold and work on e-Petani instead. He thought it’s a great idea. I know it probably caught you guys off guard a little as everything needed to be set up very quickly.

But, I know you guys are a strong team. You guys were working to our pace, day and night. Planning campaigns and things like that. That has helped a lot as going to the digital direction takes up probably 30 percent of our business. So, thanks a lot, Carliff and Niney.

We’ll gladly feed this back to Carliff. He would be happy to hear that!

Please do!

“It is also important for me to provide the people an access to fresh produce at a reasonable price, and of good quality with quick delivery. I think it’s important for them to have this access.”​

Have you been able to successfully achieve some of your business goals after collaborating with us?
Yes, we’ve achieved our short term goals. But, I would never be happy about just settling with what we’ve done so far. That’s why we always push our team to come up with new goals and ideas.

We do appreciate what Chatbot Malaysia has done to help us achieve our short term goals. It’s amazing what you guys have been doing so far.

In terms of long term goals, I think we have to look into something bigger and better. Maybe one day, we could be an e-Commerce platform like Lazada, but only focusing on local produce. It’s still a long way to go but who knows? We might be able to get there. I appreciate that we started this journey together.

On that note, why is the success of e-Petani important to you?

I feel like initially it started out like a small seed in my mind but it has grown into something bigger and important for everyone in my team. From my staff who’s arranging our products to those who are delivering our products, they need the job to support their families. Especially with the tough situation we are facing now. The delivery people started off as part-time staff and they’ve now turned into full-time. So, it’s important for me to provide this platform for them.

And, it is also important for me to provide the people an access to fresh produce at a reasonable price, and of good quality with quick delivery. I think it’s important for them to have this access. For me, it’s a business that I get satisfaction from running it. But, I would rather thank all of my customers.

What’s your prediction for 2020 after the challenging period we’re going through? Both about e-Petani and other local businesses.
I think 2020 will be a tough year for most. Nobody saw it (the pandemic) coming. It came all of a sudden as we were just celebrating Chinese New Year and having so much fun. And three weeks after that, everything went downhill and many businesses suffered.

But, I do want to thank the government for taking the initiative to come up with different ways to support SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprise), the bigger organizations and their employees. They are doing a great job. I know that what they’ve been doing is not perfect but nothing is. We could see the government creating a lot of incentives that would help quite a lot of people.

The banks are impacted as well for 2020 as they are offering loans at a very low interest rate. A lot of incentives are coming up. So, I think we could utilize it meanwhile. And, how do we go after this? I believe it would probably take two to three years to recover. Nevertheless, many of the businesses will gain back the momentum. I think we’ll be able to survive this.

Things are starting to look better now. Hopefully after Hari Raya, we'll be able to kickstart our business with full force. To all of my friends who are running their own business. Shoutout to A​li, Muthu and Ah Hock, Tealive, ​and I​nside Scoop. ​They (Inside Scoop) are currently giving out free ice creams to the people. I could empathize with them because nobody saw it (the MCO) coming. But, again, we’ll be able to survive this.

“It was a business point of view versus a technical point of view. But, after all, everything has to gel together. Therefore, we managed to reach a perfect balance where I would focus on the operations, our goals and strategies and let you guys run everything.”​

Any plans from your side? For e-Petani and your other businesses.

Yea! Definitely! It’s still a learning process as we’re only three weeks into the fresh produce delivery business. But, I’ve been delivering durian for over a year. For the one year, we felt like we didn’t do as much as what we’ve done for this one or two weeks. We’re progressing quickly as well. The plans for the past two years, we executed them in these few weeks. Therefore, it’s amazing what we've done for e-Petani and we want to grow it as much as possible.

We’re looking for partners. A lot of people are contacting us such as Maybank and Touch n Go. When you're doing something well, there will be people who are interested to collaborate and do it together.

We’re supporting a weekly soup kitchen as well. We’re using the excess produce we have for this. So, please come and support us for that and get our Donation Care Pack for RM20. If you’re looking to support five families, you could get five Care Packs and we’ll deliver it to those in need(​And, here’s how you can get them)​.My goal is to achieve sustainability, instead of just us giving, we would like our customers to come and support our team. And, we can do this together!

We love that you’re taking the social responsibility and encouraging your customers to join you. Where is the soup kitchen being served?
The soup kitchen ran via the Red Cross in Old Klang Road. We deliver our food there. [There was one occasion when] some people bought RM500 worth of goods from us and approached me to deliver it to the soup kitchen. So, I agreed and topped up a few hundreds ringgit worth of food. We gathered a few people and delivered the food to them then they’ll distribute the food to the soup kitchen.

What do you think is the main challenge with going digital in your business?

The first challenge is taking the next step. Most people are afraid of taking the next step until they don’t have other options.

The second would be the lack of knowledge [in digital marketing]. But we could develop the knowledge required. With the knowledge and experience, we would be able to go forward with our business. I do encourage you guys (business owners) to learn more about e-Commerce, online marketing, and [selling through] Lazada. If you don’t know how to start with an online business, just start off by selling on Lazada. You don’t have to start your own platform. It’s worth it to learn, give it a try, talk to people and leverage on people who need your help.

And for digital marketing, I would recommend Chatbot Malaysia to the business owners. Schedule a call with Carliff and see how he could help you out [with digital marketing]. He has a strong team which is very experienced in digital marketing. In my case, I have the basics but he understands how the algorithm of Facebook Ads works in depth. So yea, Have a Chat with Chatbot!

Oh, amazing tagline! We’ll start using it (with crazy giggles). Could you sum up your experience with Chatbot Malaysia and how does the experience make you feel?
I was very happy when we saw the numbers. It wasn’t easy at the start. It was a business point of view versus a technical point of view. But, after all, everything has to gel together. Therefore, we managed to reach a perfect balance where I would focus on the operations, our goals and strategies and let you guys run everything (Facebook advertising and marketing). It's been a very good experience so far.

I would strongly advise people to check out Chatbot Malaysia and learn how to be more efficient in social media marketing. So, thank you, Chatbot Malaysia! As we started this journey together, we hope to get to the finishing line together. And celebrate together.

Yes, we would love to join you for a big celebration! We thank you for your time for the interview and sharing your experience in starting e-Petani and your other businesses as well.
I just want to say three things to the people. Stay optimistic, stay safe and go for your goals! Thanks guys!

And, here's a short video that sums up e-Petani's amazing delivery service.

Have an empty fridge and it’s way too inconvenient to shop in a supermarket? Follow e-Petani o​n Facebook to check out the amazing deals and drop your order via their o​nline store.

Would like to “Have a Chat with Chatbot” and our team of marketing experts? Schedule a 15 minutes call​ with us.

Interested to read more of our interviews? Check us out in ​our blog​ and find out how Dino of Dino Kelulut Honey plans to put Malaysian honey on the map.

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