AirAsia Rehires Laid-Off Staff For Its Agriculture E-Commerce Site Ourfarm
In June 2020, AirAsia laid off more than 300 employees to cut costs during the pandemic.
In the same month, it launched an agricultural e-commerce platform called Ourfarm, where restaurant and food service businesses can buy fresh produce in bulk directly from its network of farmers.
When we spoke to its CEO, Lalitha after its launch, we learned that the 8 employees of Ofurfarm were then existing internal employees, with the exception of the co-founders Nadhir of TheLorry and Radzi of Hi HOME.
Now, Ourfarm has grown to a team of 12, and what surprised us was that the new staff were former AirAsia talents who had just been laid off.
Armed with a lot of curious questions, we spoke to one of these new members as well as to Lalitha to get an idea of how it happened.
An unexpected return
Hazree (Erry) had been with AirAsia X as a senior cabin crew member for almost 12 years, so he was shocked and sad when he heard about his layoff in June.
“I think my track record was good, but there may be areas where I did not come across key performance indicators and a few years ago I did not work for a few months because I fell ill and I was admitted, “said Erry when asked if he knew why he was fired.
On a more positive note, however, he is again with AirAsia as director of business development for Ourfarm after being rehired about 3 weeks ago.
There, he makes sales, contacts buyers to understand their needs and then submits their requests to the pricing department for follow-up.
So far, some of its biggest challenges are convincing potential customers to connect to Ourfarm and use the new technologies involved in its work.
Although he knew he would have a lot to learn in his new role, Erry agreed to take it on because he still had a lot of love for AirAsia.
“I am very happy with what I am doing now,” he said. “Of course, I still miss flying, but at the moment I’m just going with the flow and I think I can do it.”
Skills to pay bills
Our farm hadn’t even started when they first called to recruit Erry. He also didn’t know why they had chosen him and never asked him, although he had his own hypothesis.
“Maybe people always say that as a cabin crew member, you have to work overtime and get on with the job. The other thing is how well you communicate with people, like on a plane during flights, we also try to sell our products, “he said.
In our interview with Lalitha later, she said so. “Energy levels [cabin crew] have is remarkable, and they are trained to be very polite, they can create a calm but fun environment on the plane. “
“So these are the kinds of characteristics they display that our farmers and businesses tend to resonate very well with.”
Lalitha also shared how the skills of the former cabin crew matched the roles of Ofurfarm.
“Obviously, the first key requirement of their past flight jobs was to ensure passenger safety, but on top of that, what I also didn’t know was that they had to go for them food handling certifications, they have all the required jabs too. “
“So with all the certifications they’ve gone through, they understand the food industry very well, so when they’re in the F&B industry, they know what to do,” said Lalitha.
Growing the family
For those wondering how AirAsia is hiring again when it previously laid off staff to cut costs, here’s what Lalitha had to say.
I think what we have to understand is that AirAsia as an airline is cutting staff because the planes are immobilized, the international borders are always closed, [cabin crew] on the payroll doing nothing is not economically viable for the company.
Lalitha, CEO of Ofurfarm
“But the other parts of the business that work, develop and really develop – this is where we can retrain and improve our talents, motivate them and give them a new opportunity to grow,” she added. .
Affordability was therefore not really the issue, but it was a question of how they could use their staff, whether old or current.
“We recruit on the basis of the scope we originally set and we continue to hire from the inside,” she said, with former cabin crew members still considered internal staff.
“The urgent need to recruit more people now is due to the fact that the demand is quite large and somewhat overwhelming for the first 8 of us to manage.”
Ourfarm plans to become a team of 20 people as they begin to expand their operations to the east of Malaysia, starting with Sabah in August.
In addition to their new hires, Ourfarm was also happy to share that they had served their first client, a restaurant called Tres Pollos Charcoal Chicken in Nilai.
And to our surprise, the 3 co-founders of the restaurant are currently cabin crew members. They are Irawan (14 years at AirAsia X), Carlo (9 years at AirAsia X) and Noel (7 years at AirAsia).
A first familiar customer
Tres Pollos was launched in February 2020, just before the start of the AGC. They had hired and trained staff to replace them when they had flights, when travel was still allowed.
During the AGC, Tres Pollos cut prices by 50% and focused on deliveries, which worked in their favor when customers returned to dinner during the RMCO.
Switching to getting their Ofarmarm chickens after Erry contacted them was an easy choice for several reasons.
“When we heard that Tony Fernandes was supporting local farmers through Ourfarm, because AirAsia had given us a long and good career as a cabin crew, we thought we would give back to the business,” said Carlo.
“Our current supplier also lacks chickens, and Ourfarm allows us to meet our needs on a weekly basis, and sometimes they are ahead of schedule,” said Noel.
While things are going well now, Ourfarm has certainly faced some challenges with the very first delivery, as Lalitha shared.
“It was a big learning curve for us because they needed specific chicken thighs, and the day before the order came, we suddenly realized that the refrigerator they were currently using had been given to them by the previous supplier and they didn’t actually have a refrigerator. “
“Fortunately, we had budgeted for such situations, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, so we had to run out the night before and buy a Harvey Norman refrigerator to get to Very Pollos before the chickens arrived, ”she recalls with amusement.
However, Lalitha assured us that this does not mean that Ourfarm will play the favorites and provide companies run by other Allstars with special treatment and services.
Ourfarm already has nearly 200 other customers on its waiting list to be served, which the team is gradually crossing, and others contact them every day.
Once they have gathered enough labor, they will be able to operate at full capacity.
- You can read more about what we wrote about AirAsia here.
Featured Image Credit: Ourfarm
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