Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates


Fresh In A Box CEO Details Struggles Of Overnight Exponential Growth Brought About By COVID-19

We already know that COIVD-19 has led to exponential growth for some startups. Zoom Meetings grew from 10 million meeting participants a day in December to 200 million in March.

Whilst those are incredible numbers and overall a great success for any startup, anyone who runs a business will know that exponential growth of that kind will bring with it massive headaches.

The problem with overnight growth of that kind is, most businesses are simply not prepared to grow that fast. Their infrastructure might not be able to support a 100% growth in customers in a seamless manner.

Fresh In A Box a local eCommerce company has had to deal with the problems brought about by growing exponentially overnight. Their Vendor In Chief Kuda Musasiwa posted an update on the Fresh In A Box Facebook Page and in that update he detailed some of the struggles they’ve had to contend with;

Hey everyone 😞. So we have been trying to scale to meet the new surge in demand for our service. We have had some teething problems I thought I would share:

* Our system used to be tuned to max out at 350 orders a day then move automatically to offer the next day. This almost never happened except Monthends and weeks before holidays like Easter.

* We surged about 2 weeks ago and our system then started maxing out and offering the next day every our as people tried to buy food. Subsequently we saw people ordering on Weds 1st April getting Thrusday 8th delivery days. So we tried to adapt.

* To avoid changing the backend functionality on the fly as our site saw a 1000% usage growth, we changed naming convention on the “delivery charge” to Platinum, Gold & Silver to try and make priority queues. (Some people plan better and hence can pay less for a later date delivery). We also tried to keep “Free” delivery as an option without queuing for vulnerable pensioners. (We failed!! ).

* Some people saw the loophole in the system and selected Free Pensioner Delivery and filled up the priority delivery and pushed orders above the 350 which made the system compensate and push delivery days further and further out. Many just put the word “GOGO” before their own names and we found ourselves delivering free to many young able bodied customers! 🤯 People ordering on Friday last week where now seeing delivery dates for 17th April! 😱

* So we compensated and increased our fleet by about 500%! We started delivering a lot of orders many days earlier and changed the system again to Priority 24-48hrs, 48-72hrs ans 72-96hrs. However in our busy rush, we forgot one thing: Someone ordering on Friday who picks 24-48hrs literally expects their delivery by Sunday (and rightfully so). BUT we don’t work Saturday and Sundays… so our system starts counting the 24hrs on Monday morning. In comes the angry emails from customers on Monday who expected their deliveries (which they paid for faster delivery). In comes the angry calls. And the WhatsApp literally freezes from messages from concerned customers wanting to get food to their families and needed assurance about the delivery day.

* It’s unprecedented times and we need to work together to get to as many people as possible. We prepared for Covid shutdown weeks before the shutdown and that included quarantining our employees to all live together at the farm, travel together for both day and night shifts to the warehouse in Belvedere. We have not been able to expand the team which would make things much easier- right now Taku, our Customer Service, is also a packer and a driver, that’s why your WhatsApps are answered by a Bot and replied to sporadically.

* WhatsApp is not scalable. It only works on one phone and can be scanned on to only one computer at a time. So only one person can deal with the over 1000 messages (including conspiracy theories and memes) that come through every afternoon. In those many messages are customers who just want to know where their order is. Nothin worse that getting “grey ticked” right?!

* Diaspora customers rightly compare us to Amazon (and other first world services). We love that as a challenge. They literally don’t hesitate to shout and curse to demand a better service. We absolutely try our best, but we ask that they please bear with us as we deal with your family deliveries in areas without Road names and not on Google Maps. Old harare is very easy to navigate. The New Stands and new Builds with stand numbers in areas like Darmafalls, Kuwadzana Ext, Philadelphia etc often can keep a driver busy on one address for hours, hence we ask for locations and precise directions.

If you have read this far, then you really care! Thank you! Your 24hr-48hr delivery 🚚 is important as will be done in those hours, but please accept our Terms and Conditions to exclude the weekend hours. This way we won’t disappoint you. If your order at 8pm on Friday, start counting at 8am on Monday! If you order on Saturday, start counting at 8am on Monday and so forth.

If you need to speak to me you can email me and the rest of the team on:

Kuda Musasiwa – Fresh In A Box Vendor In Chief

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