WIMTACH partners with Epipresto on an applied research project

Great ideas are often a result of major life changes, and for brothers Djalil and Walid Baba-Moussa, their transition into Montreal as international students was the catalyst for a business idea that merged their new life in Canada and the familiarity of life in Benin. In the summer of 2019, Walid and Djalil were inspired to develop Epipresto to give students access to ingredients and specialty items from various grocery providers with internationally sourced products. When they faced challenges in getting specialty grocery ingredients from their home country, often finding it difficult to find all the items they needed from one store, they saw an opportunity to assist other students facing a similar challenge. The development of Epipresto came as a way to help everyone to get a taste of home through one click. “We decided to digitize those local stores to allow people like us … to be able to order them online easily and then delivered at their homes,” said Djalil.

Initially, the brothers faced difficulties in persuading grocers to adapt to digitizing their products, but things quickly changed with the advent of Covid-19. “With the pandemic, it really reinforced for them the idea that ‘oh my business needs to be digital’ … it was kind of like the only way to deliver and sell online,” said Walid. Although many companies were negatively affected by the turbulence of lockdown provisions, the Epipresto model, which relies on assisting grocery businesses with delivering goods to customers, was recognized for its innovation and considered an essential service. This recognition helped the brothers to establish the Epipresto brand and secure partnerships with over 20 grocery businesses in the Greater Montreal Area who were beginning to see the value in establishing an online presence and a new alternative to traditional shopping for the modern buyer. Since many of these grocery owners did not have the resources to digitize their product offerings, Epiprestro offered an easy solution. “70 percent of them don’t sell online. They don’t sell online because you have to digitize the product in your store, set up every infrastructure like an omnichannel point of sale, creating the website … to be able to sell online,” said Walid. “That’s why we launched our company; we digitize the products and help them sell online.”

With the success of Epipresto and growing partnerships, Djalil and Walid connected with CEDA, WIMTACH to expand their electronic commerce platform and develop an image-based content capturing and management system to digitize the products of their grocery partners better. “We really want to give every merchant the tools to be able to sell online easily,” said Walid. The collaboration will enable the brothers to resolve their challenges in collecting and managing product data from grocery partners. This process is currently cost and labour intensive for their team, often taking up to a week to complete. CEDA, WIMTACH will design and develop an Optical Character Recognition based content capturing and management system that will automate the process of collecting product details from their partners. To date, this collaboration has successfully supported the brothers on their start-up journey and accessing resources such as grant funding for further innovations. “That was a key factor in making a decision,” said Walid.

Walid and Djalil are pleased with the project development process of the WIMTACH research team and are eager to see the results of the collaboration. “WIMTACH is really good at what they are doing,” said Walid. “It’s really impressive.” Walid noted that the WIMTACH project management style, which enables them to participate in weekly meetings to get project updates, is very helpful in enabling them to see meaningful progress and the efforts of the faculty members and students who are helping to develop their vision. “By working with WIMTACH, I think it’s the best experience I have with working with students,” he said. Their ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of time spent digitizing products, and as the project continues, they are hopeful that they will be able to reduce time spent on their digitizing process by 10 hours.

Next on the horizon, the brothers are rebranding Epipresto to a new platform called One Trip: a Shopify for independent grocers. It’s an online platform that allows them to digitize their inventory using AI and sell online. The platform integrates with their existing point of sale system and seamlessly integrates with logistics companies for same day delivery. The successful conclusion of the collaboration with WIMTACH and the name change will help the brothers to reach new heights in their entrepreneurship journey. Ultimately, the brothers are happy with their decision to collaborate with WIMTACH and they have stressed that WIMTACH is a great resource for start-up companies like Epiprestro, particularly because of the grant funding support they have received. “For start-ups, funding is always an issue, so if you are able to get the grant to develop some products with WIMTACH, it’s a huge plus,” said Djalil. “So I would recommend WIMTACH to other start-up companies.”

WIMTACH proudly recognizes funding to support this work from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) with Applied Research and Technology Partnership grants (ARTPs)

For further information, please send press inquiries to ptyagi@centennialcollege.ca

Apr, 20, 2023