Coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns brought about great opportunities in eCommerce the world over with Zimbabwe no exception to this. It brought a huge leap to the popularity of businesses that offered services in online selling of goods and services. One such business that managed to take head of the opportunities presented was Canaries which is an online grocery retailer. I caught up with Tinashe Silas Kundoro, the company CEO to gain a few insights into the business, challenges opportunities and the keys to their success.
What does your business do?
Canaries Groceries is an online grocery retail shop that delivers right to your doorstep, our shop has everything from diapers, juices, fresh farm produce, meat, beverages, mealie meal, alcohol, etc. Online shopping is the future and one of the benefits is that it saves time and its convenient. Ordering groceries with Canaries is simple and our website is user friendly. The steps involve logging on to our website, www.canaries.co.zw, order your list of your groceries and our team is instantly notified. Our team is available on Whatsapp and email. We want you to take care of everything else in your life and we will take care of your groceries requirements.
How big is Canaries groceries?
We deliver across the whole of Zimbabwe, we have about 20 employees and agents across the country and in the UK. We have over 200 products on our shopping list, we are continuously adding more every day to meet the demands of our customer. Internationally, we have partnered with Vaka Online Hardware which is based in the UK and locally we are working with Efoods (Mr Sauce), Fresh Foods from Kariba, Briannah Butcheries, Beit Bridge Juicing that manufactures Fruitrade drinks and Tomato Puree and more partners are coming on board because alone you can only do so little but together we can do so much is our motto.
How long have you been operating and how is the environment?
Canaries opened its doors in 2019 and like any new business it hasn’t been smooth sailing but we have a resilient and self-driven team that is ready for any challenge that is thrown their way. The retail industry has some big players but in every industry, there is always a niche market that you can try to invest in.
Why did you start this business?
Canaries is an idea that was developed early in 2019 during a birthday party for one of my brothers, and we had run out of some supplies (Mayonnaise, meat, cucumbers and beverages). Since the location of the event was out of town, so did an online search for a company that had door to door grocery delivery services. To our revelation, there was only one supermarket that offered the service and after contacting them they couldn’t deliver that day.
How receptive have Zimbabweans been to your business?
For customers to embrace any new business, there is a need for efficiency in service delivery and have quality products at affordable prices in your store. We have managed to succeed in both, that’s why we have managed to expand into Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Chegutu, Bindura, Chinhoyi, Marondera and many more. So Zimbabweans both local and abroad have confidence in our business and the services we offer.
Challenges you’ve faced and face in running and growing your business thus far?
Economic stability is always a factor in any business, and when we started price stability and fuel shortages were huge factors. In 2019 and part 2020 you had to hours in long fuel queues that stretched for a long distance and still end up with 20 litres or leave without any. So to have an uninterrupted delivery service you need a consistent supply of fuel and prices have to be stable.
COVID 19 has affected many businesses, what challenges have you faced and how have you dealt with the challenges?
The Corona Virus is a global pandemic and has not only affected the economy but all of society. It has led to job losses across the globe including Zimbabweans both local and in the diaspora, this has lowered disposable income resulting in suppressed demand. So basically it has how businesses act and consumer behaviour. So every business is trying to adjust to the new normal but what I know as Zimbabweans we pull through just as we did in 2008. We are stronger together and there is strength in numbers.
Any words you would like me to add for others who aspire to be like you.
To anyone who wishes to be an entrepreneur, it’s definitely not easy but don’t quit, like Jack Ma says “Today is hard, tomorrow us harder, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful”. If you want to be an entrepreneur the best currency you can have is networking, it will really change how you do business because it’s not about what you know but who you know.
What is the vision for Canaries in 5 years?
To infinity and beyond of course (says it whilst laughing). Like any business, growth is essential and we want to continue to grow and expand to other cities. We hope that in the few next years, our online store will stock everything from over the counter medicines to clothes it will be the Amazon of Zimbabwe. Our long term goal is to venture with physical shops like Tesco in the UK or Walmart in the US that sell everything, a one-stop-shop for everything. So the possibilities are limitless, hence the phrase “to infinity and beyond”.