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WayCool keeps sourcing vegetables and fruits from 40,000 farmers during Covid 19: Karthik Jayaraman 

Notwithstanding the Covid 19 challenges, WayCool continues to source fresh vegetables and fruits from farmers and supplies to consumers in different cities across the country with all safety measures in place, says Karthik Jayaraman, CEO, WayCool.

 Q.What is the supply chain scenario during COVID-19 and how did WayCool handle the situation?

Ans. With the third lockdown starting, we continue to source Vegetables & Fruits directly from our farmer partners through a wide and sophisticated network of collection centres and FPO partnerships. Other than some difficulty in getting trucks in containment areas and red zones, we have largely been able to move essential goods between states. We had proactively implemented several safety measures for all stakeholders throughout the value chain, even before they were made mandatory, to ensure safety of man and material.

Q.What were the logistics issues for start-ups like WayCool and what kind of technology did you use?

Ans. Moving trucks in and out of red zones / containment areas were the key challenge, but manpower shortage was also a concern with many moving to their hometown. Our operations are already fairly automated, with efficient conveyor belts handling most of the produce and limited requirement for physical labour. We also have a no contact goods receipt at our warehouses, that allow us to cross check quality and weight without exposing our teams to the external agents. As a silver lining, lower manpower has led to more effective social distancing, and a full utilization of our warehouse automation.

Q. During lockdown period, daily procurement of fresh vegetables and fruit is a big problem. How was your experience in this regard? Did it have impact on your business?

Ans. We have not had much of an issue sourcing the popular fresh vegetables and fruits since our primary procurement is through direct sourcing from farmers. We have consciously avoided large city markets to protect teams from potential exposure to COVID-19. We continue to put people first and ensure safety of teams, and this has led to shortages at times.

Q.What kind of initiatives WayCool has taken to ensure safe delivery of food items?

Ans. We ensure safety of produce at three levels – at source, while handling at DC and during last mile delivery. At source, vehicle disinfection is done, and produce is loaded only in sanitized vehicles.  At our Collection and Distribution Centers, adequate measures are in place to avoid any infection. Hygiene SOPs are strictly followed and audited regularly. Finally, during delivery, our outbound vehicles are sanitized thoroughly before and after every delivery, our delivery executives wear PPEs and maintain social distancing during delivery. We have also partnered with Zomato and Swiggy for safe last mile delivery and for our own delivery to apartment complexes, along with individual safety measures, we do contactless delivery and payments.

Q.What kind of support WayCool has extended to farmers during this crisis?

Ans: We have been continuously working to re-establish our supply chain links between farmers and end-users. With a strong base of more than 40,000 farmers, we have been taking adequate safety precautions against the pandemic for several weeks prior to the lockdown and were reasonably well prepared when the lockdown was announced. We continue to honour our purchase commitments to farmers with uninterrupted sourcing from our outgrow farmers and are also sourcing from farmers who have directly reached us.

We helped farmers with essentials kit containing a pair of gloves, face masks, soap, vegetables and staples. We also educated all our farmer partners on vehicle sanitization and safety measures to be followed, and are working with multiple organizations to direct further relief funds or material to those in need.

Q.Have you been able to educate stakeholders (customers, consumers, community) through mailers, webcasts etc about the kind of initiatives taken right from the procurement to the distribution centre?

Ans: We had doctors on webcast explaining about Covid-19 and how to protect one. English and regional language mailers were sent on WhatsApp to our General Trade customers (retailers), a detailed note on our preparedness was shared with all employees, our vendor & farmer partners, and to the general public at large via social media platforms. Every essential warehouse maintains thorough records of temperature, manpower movement, hand sanitization, etc, to ensure that we are taking all steps possible to prevent unnecessary exposure.

Q.What were the learnings for the startups while dealing with such extraordinary critical situations?

Couple of learnings for us during these challenging times are mentioned below.

A.During such highly fluid situations, agility in tweaking the business model is important. With a large chunk of our HoReCa business getting disrupted, we moved swiftly to identify and service other opportunities. Servicing general outlets with a wider assortment of essentials is one capability that we scaled up. Direct to home, servicing apartment complexes is another stream of business that we built from scratch during this crisis.

B. People are the core drivers of the business and if one takes care of people, they take care of business. We have been paranoid about the safety of our people and have proactively taken safety measures even before the Covid-19 lockdowns started.

Q.Coronavirus has heightened demand for delivery of groceries and daily essentials. How is WayCool coping with the challenges?

Ans: In order to ensure continued supply of essentials like staples, vegetables, and fruits, we collaborated with multiple partners to reach customers directly, reaching both apartment complexes and individual homes. We partnered with Zomato, Swiggy & Dunzo in Chennai, Coimbatore & Bengaluru, FreshCura & HESA in Hyderabad, and with Meesho in Chennai for last mile deliveries. Maintaining social distancing while servicing apartment complexes, we also ensured timely supplies to several elderly citizens who had directly reached out to us on our call center number and social handles.

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