Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 6th 2017 Contents 2 | business in focus
August 6 . 2017
HubBox: Not your typical 'fast food'
Depending on where you live in Trinidad, it
can take between 10 minutes to over an hour
to get to the supermarket. Add an hour of
walking down aisles and making decisions
and additional time at the cash register, plus
the time it would take you to get back home.
That's about three hours of time on an or-
What if it took minutes and you didn't have
to leave the house?
Five months ago Andre Aleong launched an
e-commerce business intended to change the
way T&T nationals buy food called HubBox.
By just lifting a finger and with the click of a
mouse, Trinidad nationals can buy and have
grocery items delivered to their homes.
HubBox is an online supermarket.
Instead of aisles that you push trolleys down
or across, there are tabs where you navigate
between items and fill up a virtual cart before
The online grocery has all of the traditional
grocery items, over-the-counter pharmacy items
daily recipes and a newly added Charran's book
tab for back-to-school supplies, and you don't
need to leave the house to get any of it.
In an interview with the Sunday Business
on Friday, Aleong said his company was about
convenience and savings for his customers.
"We found a need for convenience. The dy-
namics of the family has changed over time,
households are now two-person working
"There are a lot of single mothers and sin-
gle fathers and people are just too busy so we
decided to give them an option.
Two years ago, Aleong was looking at e-com-
merce to start a business that facilitated pay-
ments but the red tape at the Central Bank made
the process difficult.
"We continued building payments but we
paused it for a while and went into something
we could do very fast, which is opening a web
"The rest of the world has gone e-commerce,
the US, Europe, China, you could get groceries
online there about five years ago. Trinidad is
about five years behind."
Aleong said at the time, he didn't know if
Trinidad was ready but stated he was confident
that everybody wanted convenience.
Payment was still an issue as local debit cards
could not be used to pay for items online, and
not everyone had or wanted to use their credit
To make payment simple, Hubbox decided
to use Wi Pay, a payment platform which uses
NLCB outlets to purchase credit, similar to pur-
chasing a phone card, then users enter the code
online in order to pay.
"We went into groceries because it is some-
thing which people needed. It's something you
have to get.
"On a lot of the items, our prices are lower
because whatever savings we get, we pass on
to the customer."
HubBox also adds new items daily and sourc-
es a lot of its produce from local farmers.
"We receive produce daily from the farmers
and carry both imported and local.
"In five months being out there we have seen
the trust increase for our vegetables. We just
started selling all the different local cuts of meat.
We may not sell everything in the supermarket
but we carry the necessary items and we add
new items daily. People leave comments on the
type of brands they want and we look at the
amount of requests and we try to listen to our
customers and carry the products they want."
Many of the prices on the site are competitive
with traditional supermarkets.
Despite low prices and convenience, Trinidad
residents (it's not yet available in Tobago) have
been slow to adopt the website.
Aleong said once the air and sea bridge
becomes reliable, HubBox would expand to
"We've gotten a lot of requests for Tobago.
"The support is there but we are only five
months old. We haven't started shipping local
products internationally yet but that is part of
"We only know one way to get our food and
that is to go to the supermarket. To learn to
trust a new way, a new alternative, it takes a
while to adjust."
Some people who use the website from the
United States, buy groceries online for their
relatives in T&T.
For Aleong, the ease in which people can
purchase items for their kitchen was the best
part of the business.
"While watching news you can log on and
add something you thought about, from your
mobile or your tablet or computer. We have a
grocery list option, where you can add things to
your list and purchase at the end of the week or
the month then pay to have it delivered, using
either the credit card or Wi Pay option.
The company facilitates three types of de-
livery, same day, next day and two day, each
costing $80, $50 and $40 respectively.
"You place your order, choose a time-line for
delivery and accept the order when it is deliv-
ered. We hooked up with Uber to do our same
day delivery for us and it has worked very well."
Aleong said more and more people are in-
terested in trying the service and considers
HubBox to be something that can contribute
to positive family life.
"Instead of spending hours at the grocery,
people can use the time to do things with their
children, or complete projects or do things they
consider worthwhile. It's about making life eas-
ier for people."
Hubbox Grocery's managing
director, Andre Aleong.
PHOTO: KERWIN PIERRE
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