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ZOL Jumpstart Challenge finalist startup profile: RLMS

RLMS (Remote Livestock Marketing System)

This short series of 6 articles will cover the profiles of each of the six finalists that made it into the finals of this year’s ZOL Jumpstart Challenge to be held this Friday, 14 September.

RLMS (Remote Livestock Marketing System)Startup: RLMS (Remote Livestock Marketing System)

Year founded: March 2012

Team: Allister Banks

RLMS – Remote Livestock Marketing System is Zimbabwe’s first online marketing system for livestock: in particular cattle.  Its founder, Allister Banks, has over 20 years experience in the Livestock Marketing industry.

According to Banks, “as far as cattle auctions in Zimbabwe go, sellers normally deliver cattle to an auction yard sometimes many kilometers from their farm. Buyers attend the auction and bid and transport their cattle all the way back to their farm or abattoir.” As you can imagine, the distances and time it takes to have all the cattle and all the people in the same place at the same time presents a real challenge. Banks says this problem has been on his mind for at least the past decade – especially as more small scale farmers enter the industry.

Banks says the technology advances, particularly in mobile communication and mobile money services in the last 3 years, have made it possible to sell pre-assessed cattle online. So armed with no real programming skills, a limited amount of capital and  a huge amount of experience in all the segments that make up an online market for livestock, Banks started building the RLMS website using the best free web based resources he could find. “It took about year,” he says, “and many trials and errors later, I finally pushed the start button in March 2012”.

In five months with the help of two agents across Mashonaland, the system has pushed through over 3,000 head of cattle, sheep and pigs through the system.

“I’m up against some stiff competition and over 100 years of tradition. However the benefits of buying and selling online are too good to ignore: especially when it comes to transport costs, weight loss and the price lottery that exists at some sale centres especially when no buyers pitch up. RLMS also helps buyers not have to travel vast distances and not to rely on middlemen and unreliable information. With RLMS You don’t need to leave your home or office to go to the market. You don’t have to open the farm gate either!”  explains Banks.

For Banks what has been a revelation is using the power of the internet to transform the company’s reach to buyers not just in Zimbabwe but across the globe. He says sales had been conducted with the Diaspora in Sweden, Ireland and closer to home in Botswana and South Africa. The wider benefit for the country Banks explains, is that “that’s direct foreign currency inflows for a product that is not exported – you can’t say that about other commodities like tobacco and gold.”

Banks’ next challenge is building more automation into the various segments that make up the system namely Assessment, Payments, Logistics – “that is why I’ve taken on the Jumpstart challenge:  It takes me from an out in the field situation to a forum where I can network with other talented and far more technical people than myself. I’ve been humbled and certainly I’ve gained so much from this experience. It is going to involve a massive amount of work, but I do have something of an Iron will.”

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3 thoughts on “ZOL Jumpstart Challenge finalist startup profile: RLMS

  1. Interesting concept, being a son of a Cattle seller myself this doesn’t come hard to accept as a brilliant idea.

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