Recently, we’ve met up virtually with one of our newer members James from Kifli.hu to ask him about his company and how he has been faring in the past months.
Hi James, to start off please tell us a few words about your company Kifli.hu to make sure everyone is up to speed.
Kifli.hu is an online groceries business which only launched back in December, and none of us could have foreseen what lay around the corner. In the space of a few months, we have had all the normal teething problems with a new operation, and just when we were ready to face a “business as usual” environment, suddenly the world turned upside down with the arrival of Covid.
So, what was your reaction when the whole thing kicked off?
My first concern was for the well-being of our colleagues and customers, so we quickly followed all the guidelines regarding face masks, gloves, sanitisers etc., and everyone had their temperatures checked on the way into the warehouse. We removed the ability for customers to pay with cash, allowing us to have a “zero-contact” delivery.
We didn’t want to disappoint customers, so our primary goals became to grow capacity as quickly as we could, and to secure supply lines. We commenced a rapid period of expansion, hiring extra warehouse workers and delivery drivers. When we would normally measure our daily orders in hundreds, we had to measure them in thousands. And although we initially had trouble keeping up with demand (delivery slots would sell out in minutes and this was very frustrating for customers), I can see now that we have ample capacity so that everyone who wants to buy from us, can.
How do you feel about the general response from people?
It’s clear that Hungarians are typically following the advice of the authorities and are avoiding busy places, so why take a chance going to a crowded supermarket when you can have the items delivered to the safety of your front door. I’m not going to attempt to compare our drivers to nurses and doctors etc., but they are definitely providing an emergency service to people in need.
But you aren’t Hungarian yourself? What about the expats and you personally?
I think for most of us expats living in Budapest, this has been an incredibly challenging time. Not only do we have all the normal doubts and reservations about what Covid might bring, but we have the added uncertainty of being in a foreign country. On a personal level, I have also had to juggle a workload which has really amplified over the last couple of months.
So it’s safe to say that you haven’t been enjoying much free time lately, right?
Yes, absolutely. Never once in my career have I had to navigate a business through such stormy waters. We increased our orders tenfold, and this was achieved without sacrificing our service levels. On the rare occasion when we were late, customers were very understanding. Our business requires a great deal of uniformity to operate efficiently, and if customers suddenly change their buying habits (which they did), then that makes it hard for our software to predict delivery times, plan routes etc.. But nonetheless, through good old fashioned collar, we were able to keep the customers satisfied.
Let’s have some more positive thoughts. What do you think was the best thing to come out of this terrible situation?
One thing which I’ve really been impressed with was the togetherness of the business community in Budapest. Through our network of contacts (of which BCCH plays a key part), we had plenty of offers of support from all sorts of unlikely places. Vehicles, drivers and warehouse components could be sourced rapidly via simple Linkedin “Call to arms”. We’ve even took on temporary workers in our office from other ecommerce businesses keen to retain their people, but unable to afford to keep them during the crisis.
Despite this uncertain environment, we will do our best to keep our business running as normal. I am always going to be interested to hear from other BCCH members who have good products they want to sell, so if you have something you think others would want to buy (and you can get it to us), then please get in touch. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Some cheeky self-promotion in there, but we do enocourage that! To close it off, what’s to come next, any idea about the future?
Clearly there is a long way to go before life begins to return to normal, and who knows how long that is going to take. But until that point, if you want to keep you and your family away from busy places, then Kifli.hu will be here for you.