By Angelica O’Donoghue
COVID-19 has undoubtedly transformed the way we go about our daily routines. The way we shop, may perhaps be one of the biggest changes most persons have had to adapt to during the government issued a stay-at-home order.
So, the concept of an operationalized online platform offering local online shopping right here in Antigua and Barbuda during one of the most challenging periods in our history is definitely one for the books. In this week’s series, we explore how Andrew Doumith’s ‘AllMart- Local Marketplace’, has personified the true spirit of COVID-19 catalyst for entrepreneurship series.
AIIMart is not the “Amazon of the Caribbean”. A point our featured entrepreneur was sure to point out from the beginning. AIIMart is a revolutionary, all commodities e-commerce marketplace designed to enable and empower the local community as it works towards its overarching mission of bringing the community into the future. At the same time while giving a fair advantage to local merchants to compete with their global competitors. “AIIMart represents an infinite number of storefronts, which each offer their unique brand and flavour. Here, customers can appreciate the transparency of knowing exactly where their products are coming from, they always know that they can visit their seller locally should they have any issues after their purchases, and, most importantly, they know that their purchases supported the local business community,” Doumith highlighted.
Andrew explains that though the business officially came on the market in May 2020, it was in its early stages of testing’s a few months prior. According to the entrepreneur, “AIIMart was conceptualized back in May 2018 after sitting with my brothers and sisters one evening discussing the need for a complete shopping experience because of the difficulties faced when shopping in the Caribbean. These conversations sparked different ideas and after some months, with much deliberation and research, the end goal of enabling and empowering merchants in our developing country of Antigua was born.”
This unique shopping experience is said to have been specifically inspired “to transform the shopping experience for the consumer, but also to take merchants of all kinds into the digital world with ease, with no investment or risk, and without ever having to worry about the complexities of technology.”
Speaking with Andrew we learned that with this platform, merchants who partner with them get the opportunity to enhance their shopping experience, thereby generating more sales and building a happier, more loyal customer community.
Though personal shopping services and delivery apps have made their mark in Antigua since the introduction of COVID-19, Andrew explains that AIIMart is a bit different from that. “I wouldn’t quite say there were any other businesses like AllMart at the time we became operational. Sure, there are many delivery service companies out there. And, fortunately for Antigua, more and more have been popping up seemingly every day since the start of COVID-19. However, AllMart takes a significantly distinct approach. I would never merely consider AllMart a delivery service. Matter fact, delivery is only a small portion of what makes us who we are. AllMart caters to everyone by aiming to be the world’s most inclusive e-commerce platform. You can think of it as ‘The Shopping Mall in your Pocket’, he illustrated.
Despite being a young business, AllMart found an ingenious way of not only offering a service but also empowering the wider community through employment opportunities. According to Andrew, AllMart, because of its platform has the added benefit of providing jobs. Through “enabling and empowering our local community of drivers, merchants, and customers is at the heart of what we stand for. This was the main inspiration behind the creation of AllMart. One of the most rewarding aspects of AllMart is the large number of employment opportunities it creates both for drivers and merchants. As the demand for local online shopping continues to rise, merchants are going to need to employ more team members to assist in the online sales process,” he stated.
AllMart has set a goal for itself; that of adding over a hundred employment opportunities to delivery drivers by the end of the year. “Although we recognize that this is a big goal, we do think it is possible with Antiguans to buy locally online instead of internationally now that they have the opportunity to do so. Without a doubt, achieving this milestone of employing 100 delivery drivers will only be possible with the increased number of merchants and customers. This makes community support and local patronage more important than ever before,” Andrew summarized.
Just as most businesses, COVID-19 did present some challenges to this young start-up. Andrew described the impact of COVID on his business as a “double-edged” effect. “Firstly, starting with the obvious ‘bad’ which was more on an economical level, the majority of customers do not currently have a lot of buying power because of the economic challenges caused by COVID. We are realizing first-hand that shoppers are mainly seeking key necessities rather than non-essentials at the moment,” he declared. The ‘good’, although AllMart was not created as a response to COVID as it has been in the works for the past two years, it has interestingly benefited tremendously from the COVID crisis. Mainly, COVID has caused both businesses and shoppers in Antigua and the wider Caribbean to experience an unprecedented paradigm shift in digital transformation adoption. Businesses now have a stronger appetite than ever before to sell and market their products online, whereas their shoppers have a stronger desire than ever before to shop online rather than in-stores,” The young businessman detailed.
Before ending our interview, the dynamic entrepreneur made sure to give some timely advice to other budding and potential entrepreneur. “The one piece of critical advice that I will give to all current or potential entrepreneurs is to always design their solution to cater to the needs and problems of your audience. Always keep in mind that for any business to be successful it must clearly offer an easy to use solution that solves a problem that is problematic enough for the customer to justify paying their hard-earned monies to solve. To do this, it’s important to interview your potential target audiences thoroughly before designing the solution to the defined problem you plan to solve.
One of my biggest passions is inspiring, mentoring, and potentially collaborating with vibrant entrepreneurs that want to make an impact. To connect your start-up, feel free to reach out to info@actantigua. com,” he concluded.