Ona bei means "check the price" in Kiswahili. Onabei.com is the first e-commerce service provided by Markit Opportunity. It's very simple. Text the number on the site to find out the price of a specific vegetable mboga in an urban market of your choice. For example, send us "What's the price of tomatoes in Nairobi?" and we will text you back "Tomatoes in Nairobi cost 50 Ksh per kilo."
We chose Onabei because the URL is short (only 6 letters) and it was available with both a .com and .co.ke address. It is also a very commonly used phrase in Kiswahili. You can use it to brag about a good deal you got, or as a way to inquire about a product or service.
By design, we structured our page to be very simple, and very specific. Just text us to know the price of vegetables. That's it.
To promote the service, we marketed with two activities:
Explored urban markets that were close to well-known farming communities, and left paper advertisements of the Onabei service with suppliers of seeds and fertilizers to farmers, a.k.a Agrovets. We aimed to capture the attention of smallholder farmers outside of Nairobi.
Launched a Facebook page and promoted it to all of Kenya. Here we aimed to capture "white collar farmers" or those who work in urban areas but have a farm as a second source of income. Specifically, we targeted Nairobi communities with a Page promotion. Generally, we imagined, that those who used Facebook would be savvier farmers.
Farmers texted in asking about pricing information in urban markets around Kenya (e.g. Naiorbi, Embu, Nakuru, etc). This proves that farmers are willing to pay (1 Ksh per text) to find out pricing information.
Most users texted in long sentences.
We received texts in a mixture of Kiswahili and English.
Some customers called our number instead of texting.
Brokers found our service and asked about prices both to buy and sell.
One customer asked if they could send an email of their requests. This proves we targeted sophisticated individuals.
Farmers, Brokers and Traders went on to ask us where they could buy or sell at the price we were quoting them.
This last result was incredible. It proved that connection to information was not only critical to decision-making, but that the prices we found in urban markets are sometimes better than the options they have closer to the farm.
Stats to Date
Onabei has almost 1500 likes on Facebook.
Onabei has over a dozen users.