Meat companies in Karachi struggled with their first foray into offering online qurbani this Eidul Azha with customers complaining their orders were delayed and they received rotten meat.
Fresh One’s shop in Clifton was stormed by angry customers. Many people complained on social media. Khalid Razaullah, an engineer who lives in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, had a bad experience at a Meat One shop in his area. He said he had to wait for hours in line to receive his share.
Riffat Alam, an entrepreneur, said she will never again opt for online qurbani from Meat Master as the share she received was not only seven hours late but was just unhygienic packed bones.
The company, however, explained that the delay was caused by an unexpected mechanical fault in their automated deboning line on the first day of Eid. Meat Master, a subsidiary of Pakistan’s second largest meat exporter The Organic Meat Company, said that it will soon compensate customers.
Pakistan hoped to make its mark in the online qurbani business as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of going to the cattle market, purchasing sacrificial animals, and paying the butcher to make neat portions of meat, some people chose to stay safe and opted for remote sacrifice.
The meat companies even gave time slots to the customers and promised to deliver meat at their houses on time.
Meat One offered a share in a cow at Rs19,500 and goat at Rs29,500. Meat Master was Rs18,500 and Rs28,500 and Laal Meat’s prices were Rs17,500 and Rs27,000 respectively. Traditional collective qurbani at madrassas and mosques on average was Rs12,000 for a share in a cow with some as low as Rs10,000 in comparison.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in one his addresses encouraged people to follow all precautions during Eidul Azha and give preference to online qurbani. Following the premier’s endorsement, many business owners hoped that the demand for online qurbani bookings, remote sacrifices and deliveries would be quite high.
Qaiser Iqbal, a key member at Zabiha Halal Industries (not Zabeeha owned by Fauji Foods), said that he had expected online and collective qurbani demand in Pakistan would increase six-fold. He roughly estimated the total industry number of online orders would be 40,000 (around 15,000 goats and 25,000 cow or bull).
Laal Meat owner Tabish Haider said that apart from brands such as Meat One, Zabeeha of Fauji Foods, Meat Master and ARY’s Fresh One, around 80 previously unknown companies popped up in Karachi alone this Eid for online qurbani.
The companies, however, had not bargained for logistical challenges.
“I run four meat shops and I entered the qurbani business to improve the brand name but it ended up creating a great mess for me and my company,” 27-year-old Haider said.
At least 400 out of the total 1000 boxes of Laal’s sacrificial shares went to waste because of logistical issues, costing him up to Rs4 million in losses. Haider said he has no option but to take a loan to compensate aggrieved customers.
Iqbal of Zabiha Halal Industries shared that they have been working on collective qurbani for over a decade but found online qurbani to be a challenging task. He felt that many companies struggled to meet deadlines as their delivery partners had little experience of distributing meat.
“Qurbani is not even a routine meat business. You must have a robust and dedicated delivery team especially during these hot days,” he said. “The meat should be delivered within a couple of hours otherwise it starts to rot.”
Lessons for future|
Zabiha’s experience taught its employees that human resource also has its limits. Butchers have to work overtime on the three days of Eid. It isn’t as simple as assuming if a butcher can slaughter five animals in a four-hour shift in normal days, then he can cover 15 animals in three shifts, said Iqbal. “It’s not simple math,”
He added, “I guess many people new to the business may have assumed it as simple math.” He feels these factors must have put a dent in the performance of the online qurbani companies.