Last month we sat down with Organic Trade and Investments' CEO; Esther Ama Asante and discussed how her company and her team managed to mitigate the many challenges during COVID-19.
She unveils some of the measures Organic Trade and Investments (OTI) put in place to ensure that the Company takes advantage of the situation to boost sales, to reposition the brand on the local market, as well as to reaffirm and expand their presence in the international market.
- If you had 20 seconds to describe your business, how would you do that?
Organic Trade & Investments is a woman-owned agribusiness, ecommerce and export trading company registered in Ghana with the aim of promoting the use of organic and natural products while supporting small scale farmers and producers who practice sustainable organic farming across Africa with a focus on Ghana in order to protect biodiversity and improve people’s livelihoods.
- Your e-commerce business has grown during COVID-19. How have you managed to do so?
Pre-COVID-19, OTI had already put some measures in place; such as restructuring its internal control system, designing a sustainable operations system, connecting with all key partners (farmers, and small scale manufacturers), building bridges (partnerships with even our competitors), onboarding new skills / talents to help us analyze the day to day data that we have been collecting from our website or social media pages, and also define some of the loopholes in our operations and quickly adopt corrective action plans to mitigate those challenges. We were able to implement our internal emergency response plan way ahead of time (back in December 2019).
The change in our approach and behavior in doing business due to our understanding of the market and its needs and we were able to respond ahead of time in the e-Commerce business sector. While everyone was busy with the traditional way of doing business, we were already online. So, that gave us an edge over our competitors when the crisis broke. Having no other option than to shop online, people would turn to us. It was just a matter of time for people to understand that doing business online is the new ‘normal way of living’. That’s the advantage.
- Give 3 tips to other entrepreneurs to increase sales / manage work during difficult times
1. Capacity building – never stop learning and developing your capacity and that of your team members. There are always new things coming up and being invented every now and then – the world is fast changing and if you are unable to catch up on those new trends then you will be out of business. I have enrolled my team on the ITC e-learning academy platform, we attend almost all the coaching and training programs organized by ITC / SheTrades (at no cost at all). Knowledge is power.
2. Corporate Management – Team management - organize your team well (learn to trust and delegate projects and tasks / KPIs to your team members); – Clients management – Engage your customers on what really matter to them, understand their requirements, be responsive, and customize your products or services if possible. You build a sustainable relationship with your customers. Customer retention is one of the problems most SMEs faces. You should use a project management tool to organize your meetings, plan your projects, track progress, and communicate better with all your stakeholders. Find a way to simplify your workflow on one work platform or synchronizing your emails, calendar, files, etc.
3. Data integration and data analysis – this should be part of your company’s culture, your everyday team performance / business assessment plan. How well you are doing online, identify what you are doing wrong or others are doing better than you and adjust yourself. Study and understand the behavior of your customers. SEO techniques, Google MyBusiness, Google Trends, Google Analytics are all tools you should use to analyze the performance of your business (notably for online business).
- What is the strangest marketing experiment you ever did?
Facebook campaign. That was in 2018. We then wanted to test the market with our new product – the OTI extra virgin coconut oil. We spent about 25 USD and the campaign ran for 2-3 weeks. We have over 200,000 viewers for that products and 75% engagement worldwide. That put a lot of pressure on the production team. And I received an email from the production manager to slow down with the campaign because the factory operators couldn’t cope with the orders that were coming in. That was funny. A mistake not to repeat though. That could break your brand. You always have to consult your production team or your supplier to know their production capacity before you commit yourself in any king of activities.