The very first thing that probably comes to mind when you hear about fresh harvest is having to either visit a farm or an organic food grocery store. The next alternative is to order through the food aggregators. But keeping in mind the COVID-19 health regulations and restrictions, are any of those options safe?
Is it safe enough to visit farms and physical stores now? Are food aggregators ensuring high quality while delivering the items or is it being compromised? With the lockdowns due to COVID-19 extending, will the perishables reach as fresh from the harvest as they’re meant to?
COVID-19 lockdown restrictions have obviously complicated a lot of things on a day-to-day business. But for businesses in the food industry, it additionally means longer supply chains and on-time deliverability issues.
Claro Agro stepped in to address consumer concerns by opening their subsidiary SUNNY India selling directly to consumers. The journey into D2C began by opening an online store, during Lockdown 1.0.
Claro Energy is a New Delhi-based organization providing solar irrigation services and pumps to a network of over 25,000 farmers in 16 states to help them grow crops in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. Their subsidiary Claro Agro, with its brand SUNNY India, was started in -2017and its primary business model revolved around providing retailers and food aggregators with fresh fruits and vegetables that are harvested on-demand and sourced directly from their ‘in-network’ farmers.
In light of the new restrictions imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the entire supply chain was initially disrupted and there were massive delays in deliveries of basic food items. That’s when Claro decided to make sunnyindia.in and start a D2C channel for supplying their products directly to different societies across Delhi/ NCR, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and soon to other states as well.
“With Sunny India, we wanted the consumer to get their basic requirement of fruits & vegetables fulfilled from the comfort and safety of their homes. We also wanted our farmers to get a fair price in times of trouble and reaching out directly to the consumers meant a better opportunity for our network farmers. The business strategy is evolving based on consumer needs and we are taking necessary measures to ensure customer satisfaction.”
Sonal Adlakha, Head Business Strategy & Sustainability
Innovating business models during a crisis: How the D2C business came about
With the increase in demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, consumers wanted to find more reliable and transparent ways to make their day-to-day purchases. Despite the no-contact deliveries offered by most food aggregators, consumers requested direct access to food essentials, reducing the number of middlemen involved in getting their orders delivered.
Picking up on the shift in consumer behaviour, SUNNY India then spoke to the residents of RWAs across Delhi/NCR to validate the need and demand for such a service. After securing their customer base in colonies that agreed to purchase from them, the brand launched its D2C online store on Shopify. “We’ve always been an innovative organisation focussed on revolutionizing the social and economic fabric of rural India. We wanted to figure out a way to help the community and respond as quickly as we can to the repercussions of the lockdown and the pandemic in general. We wanted the crop yields from the farmers so that we have access to reach end consumers swiftly and efficiently.”
Madhav, Product ManagerSunny India
Today, the brand is receiving and fulfilling orders from Delhi/NCR, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They will be opening their store for orders in other cities as well to address the consumer need for fresh harvest.
SUNNY India plans to expand its B2B model as lockdowns across cities get eased out. But at the same time, they will be continuing to run their online stores in different locations, to enable their network of farmers to sell more to customers directly.
Ready to set up an online essentials store and pick-up in India? Read our complete guide here.
How Claro Agro Started Their D2C Business Online
Retailers across the world had been adapting to digitization slowly. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the process. This is especially the case for the online general necessities and food essentials industry where consumers are now sceptical about stepping into physical stores due to safety concerns.
Claro Agro decided to turn SUNNY India into an online store to cater to customers in Delhi NCR. With Shopify, they were able to take their products online in less than a week. This enabled them to start taking orders almost instantly across multiple channels— their native online store, Facebook Shop and WhatsApp— and fulfil them in a streamlined manner.
“We were following a B2B approach in the beginning. So our reach to customers was limited to what the food aggregators and retailers were able to bring in. With an online store, we’ve been able to touch base with our recurring customers directly and also reach new customers who were looking for similar services around their area.”
Sonal Adlakha, Head Business Strategy & Sustainability
Simultaneously, SUNNY India created a Facebook page to make it easier for consumers to discover them. The brand shares posts promoting the fruits and vegetables that are available on their store fresh from the farms with discounts on them. They also nudge consumers to start a conversation with them on Facebook with an automated chat, making it easier for them to place orders.
To reach new customers, SUNNY India is also running ads on Facebook and Instagram. Their ads are location-specific to ensure that there is no ambiguity about them delivering orders in an area.
Addressing consumer concerns and queries to build trust and loyalty
When it comes to purchasing fruits and vegetables, a typical consumer is always sceptical about the quality delivered. While adding a phone number makes it easier for consumers to reach out with their queries, it’s also wise to include a simple FAQs section on your grocery store.
SUNNY India uses this space to address commonly asked questions, share information about their hygiene policies, highlight their return and refund policies, and more.
This ensures that they’re addressing all possible queries here that may result in return and refund requests.
Adapting to the new normal
Consumer behaviour has changed forever. From stepping into stores every other day to purchase day-to-day necessities, most will choose to make purchases online. By setting up their online grocery store now, SUNNY India prepared your business for the new normal, giving them the ability to grow faster.
SUNNY India plans to expand its operations to more cities with time, conquering one location at a time and delivering healthy foods to the doorsteps of their new health-conscious consumers.
“We will soon be expanding our operations in other cities as well. Our idea is to be able to reach as many consumers and deliver their daily needs of fruits and vegetables, as fresh as they come to us from the farm.”