Discontinued from the University, Brian Omoke, CEO of Think Organic Kenya took up a new challenge to feed the world with organic foods. He speaks to Top Farmer about his journey into organic foods – and what the future entails.
What was the idea behind think organic – and how did you start up?
The idea behind Think Organic is to live up to our mission of ensuring availability and affordability of certified organic products to all people at all times thus realizing our vision of feeding the world organically! We do not just want to feed the world for the sake of it, but feed world ensuring they understand the concepts and principals that drive the organic world; Fairness, Health, Care and Ecology
The idea of Think Organic started way back in mid-2015, this came a month after I had been discontinued from one of the premier universities in the country, and this I can comfortably say was my lowest point in my life to date, because at the time, the university education was the only thing I had!
What did you do?
After I got my letter of discontinuation, I couldn’t go anywhere so I stayed in school trying to convince the deans and COD’s to reverse the decision. I continued to go to class as normal, after all, no one could notice I had been discontinued. If you have attended a public university, you know we were many in the class and even the lecturers couldn’t know who is a student and who is NOT! During that trimester, a unit on organic farming was offered and they happened to organize for a trip to organic farms in Nairobi. Without hesitation, I joined the trip and this happened to be my life changing trip to date!
How was that a game-changer?
I happened to be very attentive during the trip. This is probably because I didn’t have anything to lose and at the end of the trip, organic farming was all but wrapped in me! I got informed about organics as well as the opportunities and challenges. A month later, I finally accepted my discontinued status and went home. After series of discussions with my parents and relatives, and in the next 3 months I started doing research on what organic farming entails. I visited several organic farms, vendors and markets to get a glimpse of the field.
The little information I had gathered prompted me to start sharing the information via blogs and starting conversations on organic agriculture on various social media platforms. The response was positive and overwhelming at the same time. The challenges of availability and affordability of this products rose.
As an entrepreneur, I saw this as an opportunity to offer a solution. That is when with the help of my partner Mr. Isaac Ongoma we came up thinkorganic.co.ke. This is a platform that would solve these problems of availability and affordability to everyone who would need organic products at any time!
Why does organic farming matter to us?
Every one of us is organic! The word organic itself translates to life! When we talk about organic farming, it more than the art of farming itself! Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use synthetic pesticides & fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones. It’s a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity as well as working with nature rather than against it!
So when you are buying organic, you are NOT just buying products, but a process! A process well monitored and guaranteed to be genuine. This is what truly sets the world of organic apart.
Organic farming should indeed matter to everyone! For if we uphold organic farming, we can reversing the global phenomenon of climate change. Do you know that if all of us went organic, we could reduce the number of CO2 emissions per ha by 48-66%? Organic farming will not only feed the world but feed it with enough nutrition that everyone needs through its diversity.
You have built an online market for produce, tell us more about it?
When we looked at the problem we were trying to solve, we had to come with a solution that would not only solve the problem for the moment, but also unto the future. And when you look at the future, you can’t afford not to see a world of smartphones and fast internet connectivity, something that we ensured we had to leverage on!
The positive thing with our market place is that it’s diverse, whenever you want to purchase any organic product at any time, you can do so from the comfort of your mobile phone with a guarantee that whatever you will have will be certified organic!
How do you source your produce – and must growers registers on your site?
One of the problems we also noticed was the lack of market for the organic farmers! Certainly, there are organic producers across the country, but when the produce was ready, most of them could struggle to find a market for their produce. Apart from us selling our own organic produce, we also provide a free and already established market for any certified organic producers where all they need is to register on our platform as vendors and produce their documents as being certified organic farmers then they can start to sell. Through that, the farmer gets free marketing for their produce and if they can’t deliver them to their customer, that’s when we come in and help them to deliver the products!
When you make your purchase online – how do you deliver?
For one to make purchase online, all you need to do is register (if it’s your first time to use the platform, afterwards you will just be required to log in) After which you can now make purchases of your choice by clicking on the item you want to buy and it will be added to the cart. Enter a ‘Shipping Address, choose a shipping method, and enter your payment information. Once payment has gone through, you will then receive an email of the order details.
Once we have your shipping address, you can sit down and relax waiting for your produce to arrive safe and fresh, we have partnered with very efficient delivery service providers to ensure your orders arrive as fast as possible to your door step!
Looking ahead, what is the future of such online markets and what is required to make them boom?
Since we are living in digital world, everything will be online. I personally don’t know of anyone who has not involved themselves in the online frenzy! Consider the rise of millennials, their entry into the workplace and mobile digital habits, as well as retailers increasingly looking for ways to blend the digital and physical. People are getting busier and as millennials, we want instant gratification. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to buy something at the comfort of your couch, few minutes later, having access to it? For it to be a boom, the technologies that are being invented will need to be super user friendly, Ensure user safety and security ( which is already there) but the most important being the ability for the customer to see the product before purchasing it! That will be a step towards mainstreaming online markets.
What problems are you facing as a young entrepreneur?
Getting the right people; as a young entrepreneur, I believe that getting people who have fully bought to your vision is critical! Because it’s through this, they can even be willing to work for free but seeing the bright side of what you are trying to do. So I have had that problem of getting the right people walking with me in this journey.
Monetary issues; this is one area that I feel even the multi-billion dollar companies always complain about! There has been times when I need to launch a given product or service but I can’t because of lack of the necessary capital to fund that activity!
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