ENDS irks other service providers

The new E-commerce National Delivery Solution (ENDS) platform has received mixed reviews from early registrants who participated in a pilot roll-out in Portmore, St Catherine, over the weekend.

On one hand, the platform proved to be a lifeline for some vendors and restaurant owners who spoke with the Jamaica Observer yesterday and Saturday.

Donette Prendergast, owner of popular seafood spot Prendyz On the Beach said that she had been receiving orders via the platform up to 10 o’clock on Saturday night.

Aside from a few technical glitches, Prendergast said the platform provided a “window of opportunity” for her business during curfew hours.

“For me, this is a window of opportunity that has been opened up because we were not be able to deliver to our customers during curfew before the ENDS platform.

“We were open until 10 o’clock last night and the only reason why we didn’t go up to the 12:oo pm time that we were allotted was because I wanted to give my staff time to go home.

“Even though there were a few glitches, which you can expect because this is just the pilot, this has opened up an opportunity to allow us to continue serving our customers,” Prendergast told the Observer via telephone Sunday evening.

As of yesterday, there were two delivery providers, 14 pan chicken vendors, and 10 restaurants registered on the ENDS platform.

The initiative is a partnership between the Government of Jamaica and the private sector.

Verol Scarlett, a pan chicken vendor who operates Tony Jerk Spot at the Naggo Head taxi terminal, told the Observer on Saturday that he was glad to be on board.

“It is really not at a full 100 yet. But if everyone come on stream, I think it will work, especially with what is happening with the curfews and the lockdown, I think this will help.

“Last night I got five orders using the app,” said Scarlett.

Clinton Johnson, an employee of the 7Krave food delivery service told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that he had received his ENDS platform barcode that morning, allowing him to operate.

He explained that his company had gone ahead and registered their business on the ENDS platform.

“My shift started at 12 [noon] at KFC, Portmore, due to COVID and di lockdown. Mi work this morning in Kingston from eight to 11, and then break Kingston and come to Portmore for 12 to eight o’clock tonight,” said Johnson who was spotted at a rest stop along the Port Henderson main road yesterday.

Meanwhile, the ENDS platform has also drawn the ire of independent delivery service providers in Portmore who argue that the government-backed system will undermine their business.

At last Sunday’s COVID virtual media briefing, Prime Minister Andrew Holness introduced the ENDS platform, explaining that it would allow the “quick-service industry longer hours within the curfew”.

However, courier service providers at the KFC, Braeton, location, where approximately 20 delivery bikers, from at least 10 courier businesses formed long lines, were ardent that they would not be utilising the ENDS platform.

Tevin Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Courier Service expressed concerns that the new government application would direct customers away from his business.

“Mi cyah send my customers to a different app. Mi have mi own app. Every courier service have them own app.

“Yuh nah ask mi if mi can partner with a next courier service. Yah demand mi fi partner wid a next courier service. Mi nuh like dah idea deh,” said Wilson, adding that he has been operating his delivery business since 2013.

Nakia Odecka with the Kut Di Lines Courier Service listed his objections to the ENDS platform, citing online banking as a major limitation of the platform, since independent couriers who have face-to-face rapport with customers are accustomed to cash payments.

“Banking transfers can take days to reach your account. Who is going to give account for that?” the 33-year-old part business owner told the Observer.

“The ENDS platform won’t be as effective as how every courier would operate under their platform,” he added.

According to Larren Peart, technical team lead on the ENDS platform from the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), vendors will have the option of choosing their own eCommerce solution to receive payment.

“ENDS only facilitates the vendors’ ability to operate and have their goods delivered during curfew hours. The vendor may have an existing relationship or are welcome to enter into one with any bank or e-commerce solution provider to process the payments digitally. So the payments between vendor and customer is dependent on which of the many providers they choose,” said Peart.

PSOJ President Keith Duncan responded to these concerns yesterday, emphasising that the platform was still in the early stages of roll-out.

“It’s early days. We are in a limited pilot and we are working through the kinks – the user experience, the process flows. We expected these challenges.

“So we continue to make adjustments as we continue in this pilot phase in Portmore,” said Duncan.

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