Amanda Susanti Cole, co-founder of e-commerce platform Sayurbox, talks with us about the growth of her start-up and how its benefits go beyond easier grocery shopping
The rise of technology in Indonesia has encouraged the growth of various start-ups aiming for different markets. Besides supporting the nation’s economy, they’ve also helped people to fulfil their needs with more ease through various innovative programs. One of the most popular start-ups these days, which has been significantly growing as well, is Sayurbox.
Sayurbox is a tech-supported distribution platform which allows its users to buy fresh vegetables and fruits directly from farmers. Founded in 2016, Sayurbox helps customers order organic, hydroponic and conventional fresh produce sourced directly from farmers and producers, as well as suppliers. One of the co-founders of the platform, and the arguably the face of Sayurbox, is Amanda Susanti Cole.
Amanda shares that she founded Sayurbox together with two business partners – namely Metha Trisnawati and Rama Notowidigdo – after she started her own farm. Before that, after she graduated from the University of Manchester, Amanda came back home to Jakarta and worked for a private company. After two years, she realised that she wanted to do something different – something that could help her grow. She then decided to quit her corporate job and start her own farm. “It was at that time where I saw the difficulties that farmers faced, especially getting direct access to the market, and I also saw the inefficiencies in the supply chain,” tells Amanda. This, of course, has been a classical problem for farmers all across the country.
Recalling her initial steps into the world of farming, Amanda elaborates on the challenges she noticed. First, the long supply chain that caused the price of the products to become expensive, but without the farmers feeling any kind of direct economic benefit. Second, the lack of access that limits the ability of farmers to better understand demand for their produce, especially from potential customers living in urban areas.
Having identified these two main issues, Amanda eventually discovered the perfect opportunity opportunity to set up a business based on a farm-to-table concept enabled through technology. Through this concept, farmers can get easier access to urban consumers and thereby elevate their economic gains. “So, it was all about solving this issue for us,” Amanda notes. “And also getting more affordable products into our customers’ hands, while also providing convenience.”
“There will always be uncertainty in many situations, especially at the rate in which things are changing due to technology”
Essentially, through her idea of creating Sayurbox, Amanda wanted to help farmers to distribute their produce and cut the supply chain. To that end, she tried to figure out how Sayurbox could create efficiency in distributing produce from local farmers directly to the consumers.
Besides that, Amanda also saw that people these days are becoming more appreciative about healthy lifestyles. Prioritizing organic produce and adopting a greener lifestyle that focuses more on fruits and veggies have become the healthy choice for many urban people. Naturally, these lifestyle changes have a direct impact in the pushing demand for organic produce. Thus, by providing complete and fresh vegetables and fruits, Amanda’s business idea is something that neatly alligns with the needs of many people. Under prevailing market conditions, and with her desire to help local farmers, Sayurbox was the perfect smart solution.
“Sayurbox is an e-commerce grocery and distributor connecting farmers and producers directly to end consumers. It’s actually super easy: you can download our mobile app, pick the items you want, order it, and choose whether you want it instantly or for next day delivery, and the products will be delivered to your doorstep,” Amanda elaborates. “It’s super convenient, prices are extremely affordable, there is a lot of variety, and we want to keep making the experience more seamless than ever for our customers.”
Surprisingly – or perhaps not – Sayurbox first appeared on Instagram. Even today, the platform remains popular for small businesses catering to a more elevated clientele. It would seem that Sayurbox’ debut on social media was quite a success, as demand kept rising. To keep up and also expand, Amanda expanded her business with a dedicated website, and eventually a standalone Sayurbox app was made available for smartphones.
So, in a relatively short period of time, Amanda’s idea became a profitable business. As testament to her entrepreneurship and leadership abilities, in 2017, a year after it was created, Sayurbox won the Seedstars Jakarta start-up competition. And now, Sayurbox works with hundreds of farms and local farmer partners to serve tens of thousands of customers around Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi, and Bandung.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, interest in Sayurbox went further up and the business actually became part of a bigger solution to reduce the spread of the disease. By providing a convenient, reliable and – most importantly – safe service that allows online transactions, Sayurbox has indirectly supported the government’s policy to encourage people to stay at home during the pandemic, specifically by enabling people to buy their daily fruit and veggies without leaving the house. The service’s slogan, “Klik, Panen, dan Kirim” which literally means “Click, Harvest, and Send,” feels quite appropriate at this point.
Of course, Sayurbox has also implemented measures to ensure the safety of its personnel and peace of mind for its customers. “Everyone working at Sayurbox’s HQ and hubs are taking all necessary measures to ensure your safety,” Amanda elaborates. “Strict norms have been implemented and all of our personnel must observe a clear protocol. All team members must wear additional protection gear, which has to be replaced several times a day. Also, following the WHO and Ministry of Health’s guidelines, each hub must take measures to accommodate proper social distancing. At all times, proper hygiene practices are deployed, while maintaining rooms up to the new standards.”
While Sayurbox has become an easier alternative for grocery shopping, Amanda and her team also understand that Sayurbox faces a continuing challenge to maintain their customers’ trusts across various aspects, both technical and non-technical. “It’s unfortunate what’s been happening. The impact to various industries and our customers’ behaviour has been massive. There will always be uncertainty in many situations, especially at the rate in which things are changing due to technology. The best we can do is to build a team that can adapt quickly and be able to take on new opportunities,” Amanda points out.
“It’s super convenient, prices are extremely affordable, there is a lot of variety, and we want to keep making the experience more seamless than ever”
And how do Amanda and her team work on expanding Sayurbox’s service? She answers: “It comes from our customers. We see what they want and we have a great team that is always innovating and finding ways to stay ahead several steps in order to improve customer experience.” As Amanda puts it, hearing good reviews from their customers and farmers is the one accomplishment that she feels most proud of, and she would want to keep striving for the best service to give to their customers.
So, what’s next for Sayurbox? Amanda hopes to expand to more cities in Indonesia. Besides that, she also has a big ambition for Sayurbox. “Our goal is to be the number one e-commerce grocery company and the number one grocery distributor in Indonesia that is trusted and loved by our customers and stakeholders.”