Log onto the Internet at any given moment and you can buy just about anything from anywhere, ranging from cars to clothes and everything in between. But one innovative entrepreneur has applied this e-commerce movement to sell a uniquely African product: CATTLE.
Allister Banks is the founder of Remote Livestock Marketing System (RLMS), a unique startup based in Zimbabwe. RLMS is Zimbabwe’s first online marketing system for livestock that allows buyers from all over the world to log on, identify the animals they wish to purchase, conduct the sale and have them delivered to them anywhere in Zimbabwe.
RLMS has already seen significant success with over 3,000 animals sold although it has been in operation since March this year.with buyers coming from as far afield as Sweden and Ireland.
Also and perhaps more important, a member of the Zimbabwean diaspora can source, vet and purchase livestock through RLMS and have it delivered to a family member anywhere in Zimbabwe as well. So are you running out of Christmas gift ideas? How about a cow that will be delivered to your parents.
“Over the years I’ve seen that the live auction can be a lottery as far as prices go. The losses of weight and costs of transport to and from the sale pens are significant, especially for smaller players in the livestock industry and so with the recent proliferation of new small scale farmers in Zimbabwe this issue is ever more pertinent,” explains Banks.
It has not been an easy project to set-up, and over the course of the last two years much tweaking has taken place to push out a system that can handle the many variables and challenges associated with remote and small-scale livestock producers.
While RLMS is now experiencing deserved success, the project has not been without its challenges. Banks admits that initially startup capital was an obstacle as well as the fact that he had no formal technological background. But through trial and error and judicious Internet research he was able to build the platform. Traditional thinking was also a concern, as he had to get both the farmers and the rest of the livestock industry to buy into the idea.
“There has not been any radical change to livestock marketing in this country in the last 100 years. So far though, the response from the industry has been encouraging and this, combined with the power of the internet has seen the company’s client base grow impressively,” said Banks.
The success achieved by RLMS in a difficult arena and in such a short period is one that must be used to encourage other Zimbabwean and African entrepreneurs, specifically in the agricultural sectors. Banks believes that the general apathy towards ICT in remote agricultural situations has the potential to change with the growing reach of mobile networks across the country.
“The focus is to create strong links between farmers and main livestock markets, with a strong bias for agribusiness and ICT. We want to grow nationally and to handle more commodities and offer more goods and services,” says Banks.
The success that RLMS has achieved is just the beginning and going forward the platform will use its capacity to handle other agricultural commodities, goods and services in many locations. Having just completed its pilot phase, the project is now ready to roll out across the country and beyond Zimbabwe.
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