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Did you know that up to 30% of the world’s rice is wasted before it even reaches your plate? 

At a time when food poverty and sustainability is high on the global agenda, improving the world’s rice supply chain is becoming an issue of growing importance. Huboo is pleased to announce it is working as the fulfilment partner with two ambitious entrepreneurs, Lincoln Lee and Kisum Chan, who have created an award-winning social enterprise that is dedicated to solving this problem. 

Launched in summer 2018, Rice Inc. is on a mission to make the post-harvest processes of rice a much quicker, fairer and more sustainable process through improved technology and better farming infrastructures in South East Asia.

In just a few short years, they’ve already bagged a £1 million seed fund and have helped countless smallholder farmers across the world – and they show no signs of slowing. We recently spoke to Lincoln and Kisum to hear more about the inspiration behind Rice Inc. and how they came to work with Huboo as their fulfilment partner. 

Rice Inc. is doing some amazing work in helping to combat rice wastage and you’ve already achieved a huge amount in a very short space of time. Tell us more about your business journey and how you came up with the idea for the brand:

Kisum: Lincoln and I met whilst studying Biomedical Sciences at University College London, and while we both really enjoyed the course and the work we were doing, we bonded over a mutual desire to help drive change in the world. 

As we are both from Asian countries where rice is a staple ingredient in many households, we were particularly interested in the amount of wastage that occurs in its production – it’s estimated that 30% of rice is wasted before it even reaches the plate. When we looked into it, it became clear that the reason behind these high levels of wastage is because around 70% of the world’s rice is grown by smallholder farmers, who face significant challenges in the farming and processing of their crops. These farmers typically get very low sales prices due to a convoluted supply chain, which in turn means they are forced to use very rudimentary farming practices that create a lot of wastage simply because they are not receiving a fair price for their product and cannot afford to invest in better equipment. 

What Rice Inc. does is source high quality rice around South East Asia and bring it to high value markets like the UK. We then reinvest our profits back into those smallholder rice farmers, helping them gain access to more sustainable agricultural technologies – for every bowl of rice we sell, we invest that bowl back into the rice farmers in South East Asia. The overall aim of this is to lead to fairer prices, more environmentally friendly production methods and a zero waste supply chain for the rice industry.

 The Rice Inc. model has gained a lot of support and praise since launching – tell us about your Hult Prize award win?

Lincoln: We first heard about the Hult Prize when at university – it’s got an impressive reputation and is the biggest competition for social enterprises within universities. Roughly 200,000 participants worldwide enter every year, and it is hosted by Bill Clinton in the USA. The winning startup receives a seed fund of $1 million to help fund and grow their business. Naturally, we wanted to get involved and during our second year at university, we were lucky enough to become the first UK team to win, as well as the youngest ever winners in the competition’s history.

It was a huge moment for us and that kind of recognition really reaffirmed to us that Rice Inc. has the potential to make a big difference in the world.  

It’s clearly been an exciting journey so far. If you had to pick one, what would you say has been your proudest moment to date? 

Lincoln: For me, it would have to be about a week after we won the Hult Prize. I flew directly from NYC to one of the farms we were working with and a family greeted me at the airport. They immediately started thanking me and I didn’t really understand why they had all turned out and waited for me for so long, to then thank me so profusely. It turned out that they were the second customer Rice Inc. had worked with – the farmer, who was a single mother, had experienced an exceptionally wet paddy that season and her crop was in danger of being unusable. But because we had recently installed a biomass-powered rice dryer in her village, she was able to use this and save her crop. Given there are only two rice seasons a year, she was relying on that crop to feed her family and thankfully, Rice Inc. was able to help. It was a very humbling story and reminder why we started the business in the first place. 

As most of your sales are online, finding the right fulfilment partner will be crucial for you. Tell us how you came across Huboo and why you decided to work with us?

 Kisum: As a startup, we’re always taking inspiration from other interesting and innovative businesses. We first heard about Huboo as a fulfilment partner in an article we read which was all about how you are disrupting your industry and are not only serving major global brands, but also also startups like us. Being a relatively small social enterprise, it’s important to us that we work with a fulfilment partner that really understands our business, how our supply chain works and also how we have to be agile and flexible in the way we operate – Huboo showed us that right from the off. 

Lincoln: As a business, we have to be really careful with how we spend our time and money and one of the things that really struck me about Huboo is how open and transparent you are about all aspects of delivery. This openness really helped us build trust in you and we always feel our business is in a safe pair of hands. Similarly, we have always felt valued as a customer and know that whenever we pick up the phone to speak to you, there’s always someone on the team there ready to help. We’re still learning after all, so being able to ask lots of questions and get a detailed and thorough response is key. 

What is next on the horizon for Rice Inc.?

Kisum: Like most businesses, 2020 was a bit of a rocky ride with Covid, but we still have lots of exciting plans in the pipeline. As well as selling to businesses, we’re also going to start selling directly to consumers and plan to expand our range of products. You can find out more about our products and our upcoming plans at https://www.riceinc.com/

We also want to expand the range of services we provide to our farmers across South East Asia – so we’ll be looking at things like smartphone integration, as well as new partnerships we can forget to continue improving the supply chain. 

And finally, what business advice would you give to other startups and social enterprises out there? 

Lincoln: This might sound controversial, but I believe that success isn’t just about hard work, it’s about luck too. But the thing to remember is that in order to be in a position to get lucky, you have to put in the hard work first. 

Kisum: Trust your gut instincts, always. From the big things, like following a cause you believe in, all the way through to practical aspects like choosing partners to help your business grow – like we did with Huboo. It’s rare that your instincts fail you. 

You can get in touch with the team and find out more about their excellent mission at Rice Inc here.

If you’re looking to outsource fulfilment like Rice Inc, you can find out how to get started here.

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Our friends at SimplyVAT have been helping businesses navigate the added complexity to cross border trade caused by the Brexit fallout. Here’s their five-minute-read piece on Brexit and what you should keep in mind to help your business thrive.

Brexit: One Month In

If you have been following the news lately, you would be hard-pressed to avoid the chaotic stories that have made the headlines; from ham sandwich confiscations to reports of businesses pulling out of the UK altogether. The Minister for Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice, referred to the issues as “teething problems”, whereas many have described the changes as “crippling” with some saying they are facing bankruptcy.

Coupled with Covid, these are challenging times, though ecommerce is one of the few winners. What, therefore, has changed for online sellers? Let’s go through some of the recent changes to trading with the EU and see what it may mean for your business.

 Importing/Exporting: Costs, Fees & Charges

By far the biggest changes faced by online sellers are those made to importing and exporting. Everyone from big brands to small independent retailers have been suffering from delays and confusion. The added complexity to cross-border trade was always going to be difficult for many retailers given the relative simplicity of our previous trading arrangements. Some businesses are arguing that bureaucracy and ‘Brexit costs,’ as they’re being called, are making trade untenable, and many more are having to raise prices to cover costs.

There are some new charges that sellers are reporting when exporting to the EU, such as: additional admin fees from couriers, deferment account fees and disbursement charges. As some of these fees are charged on a per parcel basis some sellers are opting to bulk move their inventory into the EU to reduce their costs.

The announcement of “tariff-free” trade may have caught some businesses off-guard as, like most legislative changes, it comes with caveats. Several businesses have raised concerns about the rules of origin codes as they have had to pay tariffs on goods that were partly manufactured outside of the EU. These changes were introduced in the Trade Cooperation Agreement and gave businesses little time to prepare. The rules are different for every product category, but generally, to avoid tariffs, your product and its constituent parts must be entirely or at least mostly comprised of UK/EU manufactured goods. This has caused quite a stir in the media as many large firms have been caught out by this, such as M&S and their Percy Pigs.

Top tip: Research the origins of all your goods & ensure your products have the right commodity codes.

Don’t get stuck without an EORI

In addition to the above, you will also be required to get an EORI (Economic Operator Registration Identification) number when importing into either the UK or the EU.

You will need a separate EORI number for the UK, and a separate one for the EU.  Your UK EORI number is no longer valid in the EU.  When importing into the EU you should apply for an EU EORI number in the country you wish to import into initially. With some countries, such as Germany, you may face considerable waiting times (currently up to 2 months) to receive an EORI number so this is an important consideration when planning your supply chain.

Top tip: Consider carefully where you chose your first port of entry to be by taking into account things such as the countries EORI application times.

Changes for online sellers

“Brexit has definitely changed how marketplace sellers will record VAT in the UK. It is important to understand when you need to be VAT registered and when a marketplace is going to collect VAT on your behalf – otherwise you could end up becoming non-compliant” – Alex Wyatt, Global Projects Manager at SimplyVAT.com.

Online Marketplaces (OMPs) in the UK will now be liable to collect VAT on behalf of sellers. Whereas before individual sellers had to account for the VAT on their sales, this responsibility will now fall to the OMP. Unless your shipments are worth over £135, in which case the handling of VAT lies with you, the seller.

If you’re selling through your own website, you will be responsible for collecting the VAT on your orders. You are required to be VAT registered from your first sale when sending parcels worth less than £135 due to the removal of the Low-Value Consignment Relief.

When selling into the EU, the payment of import VAT on your sales will need to be paid by whoever is the Importer of Record (IoR). This can either be you or your customer. If you choose the customer as IoR, be aware that this can lead to a suboptimal buying experience. If you decide to go down this route, it’s important you make the customer aware that they will be responsible for payment of the import VAT. It’s worth noting that consignments below €22 can be sent to the EU import VAT & duty-free.

Top tip: There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this, look at which method of selling works best and makes the most sense for your business.

 A New Northern Ireland

What to do with Northern Ireland was a mainstay of the Brexit negotiations. Given the unique political and historical situation of Northern Ireland and its land border with the EU, there was no easy solution.

Ireland now rests in between the EU and the rest of the UK. It is part of the Single Market and must comply with certain EU regulations. For instance, it must adhere to the EU’s VAT legislation for goods and the UK’s VAT legislation for services. The Government has set up the Trader Support Service to assist in the transporting of goods into NI.

For the movement of goods between NI and the rest of the EU, the goods will be considered as intra-community acquisitions and dispatches (as opposed to imports and exports when dealing with GB-EU trade).

Top tip: If moving goods into NI, register with the Trader Support Service and check out their Northern Ireland Customs & Trade Academy.

It was inevitable that to begin with there would be a difficult phase for businesses as they adjust to the new realities of their trading relationship with the EU. Only time will tell whether the new regulations are just mere “teething problems” or whether they will need to be modified. Much of the UK’s future economic success relies on how we use our refreshed sovereignty. There has already been promising talks with several countries regarding exciting new trade deals. Whilst no one can be certain of what the future holds, we’re optimistic that sellers will adjust to the new legislation soon and any creases will be ironed out in due course.

If you’re unsure of what the Brexit changes could mean for your business and whether this may impact your international VAT compliance, please get in touch with a member of the SimplyVAT team who will be happy to help.

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Meet Tim

As part of the SMT, Tim Spickernell has started with Huboo as our new HR Director.  Tim will be working hard to set the direction of and implement the people strategy for the company.

‘As I type this it’s day 3 so I’m still working out who everyone is and where to get the best coffee (black, one sugar if anyone’s getting them in).  The people function at Huboo is evolving as we take on new challenges and support the organisation’s fantastic growth and I want the team to be central to supporting this expansion. 

During my career I’ve worked in a number of different industries and business sectors from professional services to the dairy industry and most recently in the online retail and B2B sales sector.  I want to bring that breadth of experience to the organisation and help both the people of Huboo and the company grow and succeed.’

As well as being involved in a number of other projects, Tim will develop projects that Alicia Docherty initiated, and we should now be directing any queries that would have gone to Alicia to Tim.

Quick-fire questions! 

What makes you irrationally angry?  People who can’t park within the lines in a parking space!
Favourite film?  Blade Runner, I think it teaches us to be mindful of the power that big corporations have and has stood the test of time
Best holiday?  A week in Stockholm exploring the city and the islands
Dream dinner guest?  Ed Gamble and James Acaster (love their Off Menu podcast)
Biggest fear?  That one’s easy, spiders – no contest
Something you really love?  Mountain biking
Fun fact?  I once had to throw Tricky (Massive Attack) out of my house during a party
Who would play you in a film of your life?  Brad Pitt obviously (or possibly Brian Blessed!)
What would your superpower be?  To be able to fly

You can reach Tim on his email (tim@huboo.co.uk)

 

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Huboo in The News

 

Welcome to Huboo in The News! Our weekly roundup of all things Huboo that have reached the press this week that we’d love to share with you, right here, on our blog.

 

Now, it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that recently, most of us approach daily news bulletins with bated breath. We gingerly open a web browser or tentatively flick on the 10 pm news bracing ourselves to be met with more reports of post-Brexit difficulties, delays to our fourth parcel of the week, or a third national lockdown. But sometimes, a ray of sunshine breaks through the clouds of turbulent bulletin updates and gives us a reason to smile. This ray of light is called Jake, and he’s our new corporate bard.

 

corporate bard huboo
Jake, our new corporate bard

 

After the pandemic forced Jake and his band to postpone their 28-date tour, he swapped gigs for pallets and timbre to make ends meet, but when he saw Huboo’s call for a musician, he jumped at the chance to exercise his creative flare once more. With a nod to Celtic Britain and Ireland, Jake will be producing medieval-inspired music that tells the stories of Huboo, our clients, our staff, and our achievements.

 

But it’s not just the morale that Jake will be lifting. Our CEO, Martin Bysh, commented that “it’s an extraordinarily inexpensive marketing tool.” By hiring such a creative person as Jake, you can generate “huge amounts of content, to the extent that not only can you market yourself, you can market your clients and staff.”

 

Whilst lockdowns and tight restrictions are necessary for our health and wellbeing, the effect on the music industry has been somewhat catastrophic. Providing paid opportunities, like a creative bard, for musicians and creatives is paramount to ensuring these artists aren’t left behind. As Jake put it, “It’s nice to know that there are some companies out there who are looking at more creative roles and opening up some more options for musicians who are out of work at the moment.”

 

You can read the rest of the Bristol Live Article here.

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Week In Review 25th January

It’s been another week in logistics dominated by the continued fallout from Brexit, and whilst we’ve seen some shimmers of light with DPD resuming full EU road delivery service, couriers and consumers alike are still feeling the effects of additional red tape when it comes to European deliveries.

We touched upon this in our previous Huboo post but, as the days continue, so do the challenges. Britons ordering items from EU sites and stores have been facing import duties since January 1st, with some having to pay over £100 to receive their already paid for items. A woman from Norfolk was told by a UPS courier that she must front £121 to obtain her £236 clothing, while a Londoner was asked to pay an extra £82 for a coat that has cost her £200. She sent back her purchase due to these added costs. It is likely that others will follow in refusing to pay the duties, returning their items, and therefore engaging in less business with EU countries.

As uncertainty continues due to the lack of a free trade deal, it seems some businesses are having to operate in a somewhat grey area. Some smaller EU retailers have ceased to supply to UK consumers, while other merchants continue to distribute their orders without amending their VAT. This leaves couriers asking UK customers to pay the outstanding fee on their doorsteps before couriers can release the purchase to them.

There has, however, been some guidance on how these charges work. The government website has a page dedicated to outlining new tax rates for goods sent from abroad. Consumers must pay VAT on goods from non-EU countries and EU Special territories if they are:

• gifts worth more than £39

• other goods worth more than £15

• alcohol, tobacco products, and fragrances

These charges are dependent on the costs incurred for postage, packaging, and insurance, any duty the consumer owes, and, of course, the price paid for the item.

When it comes to customs duty, consumers will be charged for gifts and other goods sent from outside of the EU if they’re above a certain value. This is again dependent on the price of the item, as well as postage, packaging, and insurance.

• anything under £135 will not be charged

• gifts worth £135-£630 will be charged on average 2.5%

• gifts above £630 and other goods above £135 depend on the type of good

We’re working with our partners to find suitable solutions to overcome these hopefully short-term challenges and will update and inform in due course.

Courier Updates

Hermes has released their total number of parcels delivered in 2020 to be 630 million. This is an increase of more than double the figure reported in 2019, where only 250 million packages arrived on doorsteps. The volumes can be attributed to lockdown restrictions forcing consumers to rely on eCommerce purchases, and Hermes adapting their strategy to being more flexible with retailers’ demands.

DHL has reported a high number of shipments that require sanitary and phytosanitary checks, being held at customs at EU borders. Although this is a very selective group of products, it shows how wide-reaching the arms of post-Brexit fulfilment reach. During the customs clearance, drivers are reporting that their entire trucks are being held, rather than just the items that require checks. This obviously leads to yet more delays in orders being fulfilled and arriving by their specified delivery date, yet another delay caused by Brexit for the fulfilment sector. We’ve found the customs advice & support at DHL to be really helpful.

We’re pleased to announce that our weekly courier service report has returned, and can be viewed here.

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