The Successful Store Without Customers

Speeches Shim

Thursday, June 17, 2021
Namba Market Deliverymen

“With the beginning of the quarantine, our family, like many others in the Kyrgyz Republic, began to look for a way of buying food and household goods online to minimize contact with other people. We tried many services, but in the end, we settled on Nambamarket.kg, a delivery service of BeSmart’s online store that offers the best quality service on the market,” says Saikal Abdyrayev, a loyal online customer.

COVID-19 caused significant economic disruption across world markets. Many traditional businesses were forced to transition to online sales or to alter their business models altogether simply to survive the new reality of the pandemic.

BeSmart, known in the Kyrgyz Republic and across the region as a coupon company, was significantly affected by the pandemic-imposed quarantine. The company, founded in 2011, is one of the largest discount services in the region, covering Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Its business model is primarily based on direct-to-customer services provided offline.

“We were forced to suspend our services during the quarantine,” recalls BeSmart Director Dinara Sadykova. “However, realizing that we either needed to pivot or close, we decided to conduct market research to figure out alternative markets and business models.”

The company’s analysis of the Kyrgyz market was made possible with the technical support of USAID’s Future Growth Initiative. Market research identified prospects for the company’s continued development, including opportunities to support domestic manufacturers struggling to sell products through offline trade networks. Analysis also suggested that reducing the chain of intermediary companies–the “middlemen” between supplier and consumer–and using an online platform could allow shoppers to make purchases from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

These results led BeSmart to consider the ‘dark store’ principle–a physical store without physical customers. “A dark store is a type of a warehouse that stores goods that the employees of an online store can pick up upon receipt of an order,” explains Dinara. “The full cycle of ordering and delivery works like this: the client places his/her order on the online store, then the generated order goes to the ‘dark store’, where an employee collects the basket of goods as a regular customer would, then transfers the basket to a courier, who delivers directly to the customer’s home or another specified address. The client can choose a convenient payment method: non-cash or cash on delivery.”

Once launched, BeSmart’s online store, NambaMarket.kg, became the first online store to use the dark store concept in the country. “We collect and deliver products very quickly,” says Dinara. “A special feature of our service is the ‘delivery in 15 minutes’ principle, so we can even carry perishable items. It works as if the customer came to the nearest supermarket, put bread, eggs, chicken, vegetables, etc. into a basket, paid, and returned back home. In addition, we have special thermal bags that allow us to deliver fresh and refrigerated items.”

Today, NambaMarket.kg receives up to 20 orders per day, with an average bill of 1000 som (around $12 USD). The first warehouse opened in late December 2020 and a second warehouse opened in April 2021, allowing the company to cover the central and southern districts of Bishkek and maintain its promise of 15-minutes delivery.

Thanks to technical support from USAID, BeSmart was also able to modify its warehouses by installing programs for inventory control and optimizing operations to meet international standards. The company’s shift to NambaMarket has created 14 permanent jobs, nine of which are held by young people under 25. BeSmart has also signed 48 contracts with new suppliers. Today, more than 3,000 items are stored in the company’s warehouses and the selection is constantly expanding.

“We plan to cover other large cities in the country, and entering the regional market is our ultimate goal,” Dinara shares. “We are deeply convinced that consumer habits formed during the quarantine will continue, and more and more shoppers will shop online, creating unprecedented favorable conditions for the development of online stores.”

In the near future, the company plans to integrate the online store with a super-application, Namba One, as well as open additional warehouses in Bishkek.

“We realized that, thanks to the service we began to save a lot of time, which can be used more efficiently. In addition, we are satisfied with the available selection, quality, and prices of groceries, although we would like the variety of products to be like in a supermarket. We like the fast home delivery service. It is great that there is such a service in our city. We plan to continue to purchase the majority of our groceries through NambaMarket,” shares Saikal Abdyrayev.

Last updated: July 21, 2021

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