We live in a world of choice. We choose what coffee we drink, what we eat for lunch and what kind of media content we consume. We are inundated with information, and it is not always easy to make the right choices.
Jamilya Imankulova is one of the founders of EcoFarm, a leading producer of organic food in the Kyrgyz Republic. Her business is all about choice. EcoFarm produces and processes a variety of organic food products, including nut butters, berries, dried fruits, granola and dairy products.
“The main goal of EcoFarm is to develop organic agricultural products,” Jamilya says. “We have been highly ambitious in trying to show people the benefits of organic and healthy food. The main concept of our company is mindful consumption and holistic nutrition. We started our business with the door-to-door delivery of organic boxes of fresh, organic food produced by local farmers. Later, we decided to create a value chain to the final product to ensure that we were offering purely organic food. We, therefore, created EcoFarm, where we plant vegetables and berries and grow almost all types of fruit tree.”
E-commerce tools for organic groceries
Jamilya’s team first benefited from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) consultancy services before the pandemic, back in 2019. The company managed to improve its market performance by developing a customer relationship management (CRM) programme, installed with the assistance of the Advice for Small Businesses programme, supported by the European Union.
Later, during the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, the system helped EcoFarm to reach clients and promote the online delivery of eco-friendly groceries. It boosted company turnover and increased labour productivity by almost 50 per cent.
Advice for Small Businesses subsequently helped EcoFarm to develop a franchising strategy in 2020-21. The EBRD paired the company with a consultant who advised it to share its experience and develop long-term relationships with local and foreign franchisees. Within a year, EcoFarm had sold a franchise, which operates in the southern part of the capital, Bishkek.
Recently, however, EcoFarm decided to change its structure, closing two offline stores in order to focus on developing an online shop, as well as shop-in-shop concept stores in popular hypermarket chains such as Frunze and Globus.
“Unfortunately, we were denied the concept of having our own franchises, even though we had three offline and one online shops,” Jamilya says. “It was not economically viable to support our own franchise chain, but we are proud of the experience.”
EcoFarm now offers a full range of organic products in the main hypermarkets and focuses more on processing and producing organic food. It seems like a win-win concept; EcoFarm gets a large flow of customers and the hypermarkets get to offer an organic line of produce. The company also offers catering services, holds seminars on nutrition and organises outdoor activities, such as picnics or yoga classes, on its eco-farm in Baitik village, near Bishkek.
“Our mission is to provide the whole beautiful taste of our life-giving food to consumers and to support small-scale farmers,” Jamilya says. “I am really happy that my work has allowed me to both follow this passion and build an inspiring business.”