Careers & Education

Your online delivery guys

NetTrolley brings supermarket delivery service to Jamaicans

BY PETRE WILLIAMS-RAYNOR Career & Education editor williamsp@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 06, 2011    

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NETTROLLEY.COM — what may well be Jamaica’s first online provider of grocery delivery services — was a business born of a set of unfortunate events, but one which promises to make the lives of its clients easier.

“The only thing that shouldn’t be negotiated in business is exceptional service. Never allow this to be compromised,” managing director for the fledgling company Stephen Edwards told Career & Education.

“NetTrolley’s mission is simple: to deliver grocery and household products to our customers at competitive prices in Jamaica. We take great pride in our company, our commitment to customer service and in the products we sell. Our online store is designed to provide you with a safe and secure environment to browse our product catalog,” he added.

The 31-year-old civil engineer got the idea to open the business from as far back as 2007, following the death of his father.

“My father passed away suddenly and within two months of his passing, our home was burglarised and set on fire. The fire destroyed almost everything my family owned, including pictures, important documents such as property titles and my father’s will,” Edwards recalled.

“To add to the long list of misfortunes, there came a time when the only working motor vehicle that we had was in my father’s name.

Without a will, the process to transfer the car’s title to our names would be long and tedious. And, the car could not be insured since none of our names were on the title,” he added.

“Living in an area where public transportation is practically non-existent, we were virtually marooned. I am not sure how we could have continued if it were not for the good nature of our close friends and family. However, one never wants to become a burden on their loved ones, so we frequently ordered food to be delivered or took taxis to the supermarket. Both of these proved to be very expensive and inconvenient. That is when the idea was born... Wouldn’t it be great if we could have our groceries delivered?” Edwards said further.

However, it would be another three years before his idea would become reality — and then, only after having scaled one challenge after another. Still, Edwards pressed on.

“The systems that are needed to support a fully online store were not yet available to new and small businesses in Jamaica, especially as it pertained to accepting payments online. At the time (2007), I was told by a few banks that our operations were too novel and not large enough to warrant the work associated with setting up online payments,” he told Career & Education.

“One of the beauties of an online business is that it’s relatively inexpensive to put the framework in place. The basic initial costs were simply to reserve a domain name and pay for website and database hosting. So, I decided to start building the website anyway, with the hopes that in the future, a solution to our payment-acceptance challenges would present itself,” added Edwards, who holds his civil engineering degree from Florida International University and a bachelor of science degree in physics from Boston College.

The solution would come from the National Commercial Bank.

“It was brought to my attention that one local commercial bank started issuing mobile point-of-sale (POS) devices. This service would solve the problem of accepting payments for our delivery service. After careful vetting of all the aspects of the business, the bank decided to support our business concept. I firmly believe that the faith shown by the local bank in our atypical business idea would not be as substantial coming from another institution,” said Edwards, who has the support of four staff members.

“Things continued to improve as another Jamaica-based company — GDK Computer Systems and Services — discovered our website (www.nettrolley.com). They offered to host the entire website and database at a cost that was even more affordable than what was being offered by foreign competitors. Additionally, they went to great lengths to help to streamline the website and provide unique solutions,” he added.

Edwards utilised his upper St Andrew home as a base from which to manage his operations but was quick to note that his business is not one that supports a traditional brick and mortar store.

“NetTrolley.com is helping to set a new trend in Jamaica, in that it is a fully online business. The website, www.nettrolley.com lists each item and its associated picture. Customers select the items and respective quantities that they would like to have delivered, after which the dynamic website automatically calculates the subtotal, taxes, and delivery charges,” he said.

Edwards and his team then source the groceries and deliver them within the time specified by the clients, who currently include busy professionals, middle-aged citizens, seniors, university students and single parents.

“NetTrolley’s delivery cost is only 10 per cent of the order total. For example, if a person orders $5,000 worth of groceries, the delivery cost will only be $500. Depending on the size of the order, this could be far cheaper than a round-trip taxi ride to the supermarket,” Edwards told Career & Education.

Meanwhile, NetTrolley continues to face challenges, notably the “inconsistency in electricity supply from the local provider”.

“Though we do not use as much electricity as a traditional brick and mortar store, NetTrolley is extremely dependent on the small amount of electricity we use. It is imperative that an Internet based business have a constant and consistent supply of electricity,” Edwards said, adding that they were, nonetheless, working to overcome that difficulty.

“We are vigorously working with the company that hosts our website to make our entire behind-the-scenes operations more mobile friendly. That way, our employees won’t be tethered to computers, and will be able to carry out all their duties from their mobile phones. It’s much quicker and easier to charge a mobile phone than it is to find an alternate power source for a computer. Mobile phones also use far less energy than a full computer,” the managing director said.

Given the age of the company, NetTrolley has not yet turned a profit. But with plans to expand the service from Kingston and St Andrew to other parishes, the boss said that he expects that will change in the coming months or years.

“We have only been open for business for a little over two weeks. However, since opening we have seen experienced an incredible level of interest in our service. I have no doubt that NetTrolley Limited will turn a profit in the near future,” said Edwards, who used the savings he had “made from years of living a moderate lifestyle” to set up the business.

Looking back, he has no regrets.

“Having an idea, investing my time and energy into it, and seeing it become a reality, has proved to be one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life,” Edwards said.

He added that he had not given up civil engineering.

“However, I have a business idea that I thoroughly believe in.How could I allow it to go to waste?” Edwards said.

That aside, he said: “I quickly learned that owning a small business is synonymous with a 24-hour work day. Hence, most of my time is now dedicated to managing NetTrolley.com.”

EDWARDS’ TIPS for prospective entrepreneurs

• Do something you believe in.

• Do your research.

• Create a detailed plan.

• Start small.

• Be different.

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