Twenty.vn – On mentioning e-commerce , people often think of common and long lasting items. Providing fresh vegetables online is still a piece of land no one has ever explored due to many difficulties from all aspects .
However, that does not prevent the determination of Mr Huy Phong – Founder of Vuonrau.com – from taking adventage of information technology in bringing fresh vegetables from the farmers to the customers.
When doing e-commerce business, people often think about providing items such as books , electronics , machinery … no one think of providing basic necessities, why did you choose vegetables?
I am from Da Lat and my family are farmers growing vegetables, I used to have experience in information technology and supplying vegetables to supermarkets , restaurants , hotels … Is that reasonable enough?
Actually what triggers a startup idea does not matter but how we implement, lead and solve raising problems.
Now, Vuonrau is committed to providing consumers with fresh vegetables, so what is your definition of fresh vegetables?
VN Consumers often ask, organic vegetables or safe vegetables? Organic Vegetable are grown on isolated soil, ensuring standards for metal residues , plant varieties must be placed from reputable companies, clean method (not using chemicals substances, growth chemicals … ), all of which must comply with regulations on cultivation such as harvest dates … Clean means cleaniness in all processes, not just merely using pesticide on time, in compliance with regulations.
Safe vegetables in Vietnam are vegetables grown in compliance with requirements for fertilizer and pesticides. In Vietnam, with the tropical monsoon climate , pests and diseases are inevitable even applying to growing areas of foreign companies, therefore the use of pesticides is required. The important thing here is that farmers can comply with the use of pesticides or not .
There is a very interesting example, when you take the honey for testing along with strawberries, honey is concluded as unhygiene while strawberries are not, the cause lays on bacterial infection of the honey jar. Through that example, we see vegetable production in accordance with its definition is not easy and all processes must be strictly followed, the price will be extremely high while consumers in Vietnam cannot afford such price yet .
Vuonrau.com chooses to approach customers with a completely new method . Vuonrau has been convincing the high-end restaurants quality of its products with the advantage of being qualified to provide vegetables for export to European countries , South Korea , Taiwan … and the vegetables that Vuonrau customers purchase are also used in other developed countries .
Lots of fresh vegetables suppliers faced supply issues , does Vuonrau meet this obstacle?
This is a common problem of the vegetables planting in Da Lat, not only with Vuonrau. The supply shortage is very easy to occur when farmers have a poor crop. For example, lettuce leaves are the only usable parts but prone to leaf insects and under the weather of continuous rainy, rainy then sunny, large raindrops can tear the leaves, then they must be disposed. The most horrible thing is hail, we have to dispose the whole plant of leafy vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, cabbage if they are damaged even by just a small drop.
Vegetables are a perishable commodities facing many difficulties in transporting process. Can you share with Action.vn readers those difficulties ?
Regarding logistics, I will split it into 3 stages: After harvest, we crate vegetables and ship to the truck, then to the assembly point in the 2 largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the last stage is from rallying point to the customer’s home .
For Hanoi, initially Vuonrau used aircraft to transport , but transport costs will cause unnecessary costs bouncing while in fact, the majority of Vuonrau products are the root vegetables, which can be kept for long usage so delivering by air only increases the cost without adding much value. After researching and looking for improvement methods, currently Vuonrau uses frozen trucks, running continuously from 32 to 36 hours, crossing 1000km journey to the meeting place in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh City alone is simplier for it’s closer to Dalat (300 km).
But the toughest trip is not the thousands of kilometers trips from Da Lat to the meeting places in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, it is the path from the warehouses to the customers’ houses . Customers make appointment at 10am but when we arrive, they are not there, so delivery staff has to temporarily send to the neighbors, the neighbors do not know how to preserve vegetables so they do not have appropriate treatment after getting vegetables. When customers arrive, the vegetables are wilted, no longer fresh as the initial commitment of Vuonrau.
Why doesn’t Vuonrau use vacuum method for preserving vegetables ?
Although this method does not use chemicals, it will make the vegetables lose water, which does not guarantee the freshness of the vegetables as promised initially, while the core values of Vuonrau is to provide fresh vegetables to consumers.
So does Vuonrau work out some solutions to minimize or overcome the difficulties ?
Vuonrau applies information technology in the management system to be able to understand customer behaviors such as tracking the path of an order: kinds of vegetables shipped, any kind of damage during transportation transfer or not, and at what step. This was impossible many years ago due to the shortage of management system. That will help Vuonrau understand the problem backlogged at possible stages to find appropriate solutions .
Besides, to understand the rate of goods consumption, Vuonrau also helps farmers plant more appropriately and accurately. Some varieties include the following parameters: planting time, harvest time, storage time after harvest, yield satisfactory productivity, shoddy productivity, investment rate on 1 pole (1000m2) , sales cycle, sales volume each time. From the ratio of goods consumption and the above parameters, Vuonrau can calculate detailed planting plans for the next years. You can see clearer examples on sweet potato below .
The parameters of sweet potato
Planting plans for sweet potato
As for the preservation to limit damage of vegetables, Vuonrau adopts different methods in each stitch: At the stage of harvesting vegetables to bring to the truck, employees in charged (like cutter, carrier,etc) will be guided through harvesting soil – stick greens to maintain the freshness to put on the truck. Greens are placed in special cartons, with a coating made from a moisture, porous paper without plastic yet does not contain harmful chemicals.
Price of Vuonrau products is higher than supermarket prices, how will you solve the problem as Vietnamese consumers pay more attention to price than quality?
In this regard, Vuonrau cannot blame the consumers but the most important thing is to let consumers understand that out great effort to bring fresh vegetables to their home as well as the price Vuonrau consumer is paying for the quality they deserve to get. Vuonrau charges higher price than supermarkets , but Vuonrau will not lower the price, as this will reduce the quality, resulting in the loss of core values that we want to deliver to customers.
Why do you think customers will choose Vuonrau instead of supermarkets, markets?
“Fresh”, which is the value that Vuonrau provide to customers even though the cost is that the vegetables doesnot look shiny, beautiful as when being planted with chemicals, but in return nutrients are kept to the highest level. The second reason is the information about the nutritional value as well as menu suggestions that Vuonrau give customers to help their diets richer. And the most important thing is that consumers get the attention, respect and care of the farmers to their health . Currently Vuonrau is committed to one principle that no other competitors can do, any vegetables with damage (worms eating from inside, damage due to shipping …) will be compensated.
In the future , does Vuonrau have plans to expand distribution network to restaurants , cafes?
To answer this question, I will share a story of Vuonrau with a restaurant in Hanoi. Two restaurant owners are a manager and an Australian chef . During the test provided by Vuonrau, the chef did not process and cook vegetables but ate when soil was still in the roots. Then, they decided to replace the supply of vegetables, and just get vegetables from Vuonrau despite higher prices compared to previous supplier . But the beauty and advantages of this story is the co-owner of the restaurant is a chef so that they can easily understand and sympathize with the values that Vuonrau want to provide to consumers . In the future, to expand the network to hotels, restaurants, we will need more resources. Now, Vuonrau still focuses on retail development.
What will Vuonrau focus on for the upcoming time ?
Gathering materials and figuring out methods to increase the freshness of vegetables when delivered to customers.
Thank you for participating in the interview, we wish Vuonrau achieve much more success in the future.