The roads have been alive with colour recently. Specifically in the familiar nuances of pink, turquoise and green.

Food delivery companies have been working around the clock to bring us our morning coffees, quick lunches, and lazy dinners, forming a nascent industry growingly referred to as Quick Commerce or q-commerce.

For seven years, Jakob Angele helmed the leading food and grocery delivery platform, foodpanda, and saw the business evolve from restaurant deliveries to include q-commerce: superfast delivery of anything to our doorstep.

Prior to entering the food delivery industry, Angele was a project manager at McKinsey Company, where he focused on management strategy. He joined foodpanda in 2014 and moved to Singapore the year after to oversee operations in the Asian markets.

When foodpanda was acquired by Delivery Hero, he found himself knee-deep in organisational changes and restructuring. It was a new chapter in the business. Since his first days, foodpanda has grown from 300 orders a day in Malaysia to more than 2 million orders a day across 12 markets. At a time of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, Angele saw an opportunity for foodpanda to help the local communities by providing reliable and safe access to fresh food through home deliveries.

foodpanda led a new era of e-commerce in Asia, growing to 450 per cent year on year in the q-commerce verticals. Today, it has Asia’s largest network of cloud grocery stores and micro warehouses providing consumers with on-demand access to over 4,000 grocery and household products, delivered within 25 minutes.

Aside from restaurant and grocery partners, foodpanda’s eco-system includes more than 8,500 home-based businesses across four countries. Assistance has been rendered through a number of initiatives to support its eco-system of community and consumers, riders, restaurant, and grocery partners from the start of Covid-19 through till today. In other words, foodpanda is more than just about convenience, it’s also about the people.

Explain your fascination with q-commerce.

The need for speed is the new norm. Our service is focused on swiftness, accessibility, and variety. Customers can click and receive deliveries on-demand. Across the region, we saw the number of first-time customers ordering groceries more than double between the first and second half of 2020, including the older demographic. This is a trend we believe will continue to grow in 2021. Q-commerce is not only here to stay but will only become more relevant as the world becomes even more digitally connected. When was the eureka moment in your life where you knew you wanted to explore e-commerce?I studied physics in university, so I love science by nature. But when I started consulting at McKinsey and working at foodpanda, I realised that my true passion is solving complex problems, which to be honest, I do daily now. From operational challenges to people management and industry relationship building, the sheer variety of things I get to work on daily keeps me going and fulfilled.

Upon entering the market, what were the first few things you observed that prompted you to adopt new technologies and adapt the service accordingly?

The food delivery industry is still relatively young with huge opportunity for growth. The key drivers are the need for choice and speed of delivery, so our immediate priorities are to offer a diverse array of cuisines at different prices, delivered fast. Onboarding restaurant partners and gaining a strong rider base were mission critical in the beginning, and we significantly improved our tech platform and user experience along the way. An individual interacts with food about 120 times on average in a month. If the average customer orders food delivery 10 times per month today, we had to ask ourselves how we can be a part of more food moments in our customers’ lives.

Characterise the state of Singapore’s delivery market against the rest of the countries in the APAC region.

Asia is so interestingly complex and diverse, and each country is different in terms of geography, policies and market conditions. We have an interesting mix of markets in Asia – Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are relatively mature markets, while markets like Pakistan, Laos and Cambodia are rapidly developing. We also have Japan, which is a very sophisticated consumer market that has a lot more potential for growth in terms of food and grocery delivery.

foodpanda is hyperlocal in everything we do, and we cater to what is required for each market. For instance, in developing markets where cash is still king, we offer cash deliveries so more people are able to use the service.

In Singapore specifically, there is a greater expectation of and focus on speed and convenience. Everything can be delivered to your doorstep within 15 to 20 minutes, and frequent food and grocery deliveries have become part of our daily lives. Baking cookies and forgot eggs? pandamart will deliver them to you in no time, often in 15 minutes or less.

In terms of food delivery, we also support the local eco-system in unique ways. For example, we’ve taken major steps in supporting local hawkers with lower or zero percent commissions during Circuit Breaker and heightened alert phases so we can help protect our beloved hawker culture. Customers in Asia are expanding their appetite for on-demand deliveries, which is growing quickly, especially for fresh produce. International research firm IGD Asia forecasted that online grocery sales in Asia are expected to grow by 198 per cent by 2023, and this trend corresponds with what we are seeing across our 12 markets.

In such times of uncertainty, how does foodpanda’s outlook on flexibility benefit (or can benefit) the local markets and hawkers that are most affected?

We know these are challenging times for everyone and we are committed to supporting our riders and merchants even more in this time of need and uncertainty. The role and mission of foodpanda now more importantly than ever is to provide our riders and merchants with a platform to generate revenue. In June 2021, foodpanda joined the ‘SG Together Alliance for Action – Online Ordering for Hawkers’ work group chaired by the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment, and the Ministry of Communications and Information.

The group aims to tackle pain points faced by hawkers looking to go digital and help them tap on food delivery platforms to ensure they are sustainable in the long run. During the Phase Two Heightened Alert, 50 foodpanda employee-volunteers reached out to over 200 hawkers across five hawker centres in Singapore to help them understand how online food delivery works and equip them with information on the benefits of going digital for their business.

We also offered incentives like zero per cent commission, waiver of onboarding fees, and a free product photoshoot. To empower hawkers to grow their businesses with foodpanda, we provided marketing support and training materials in dual languages, along with performance reports and tips on how to increase orders on the app. These are all super critical in helping hawkers digitalise, plus giving them extra income streams. We support SMEs across Asia in similar ways.

What challenges did foodpanda face as restaurants reached out in waves to get onboard during the pandemic?

Our number one priority was to support customers, riders and merchants to serve the community. In order to adapt and continue to support our eco-system, we had to move quickly.  We expedited the onboarding process and implemented remote onboarding for our riders so they could get on the platform quickly and safely.

For our customers, we were the first platform to introduce contact deliveries by default to minimise rider-customer contact. Finally, for our merchant partners, we shortened the onboarding time for new merchants and for existing merchants, we allowed delayed payments in extreme cases to reduce the strain on businesses.

I’m very thankful we have such a resilient and quick-thinking team who could accelerate our onboarding processes from the standard two weeks to just 24 hours to get restaurants live on the app as quickly as possible, as we had a surge of applications.

What new strategies have you taken onboard in light of Covid-19, and how do you maintain the consistency across the APAC region?

When Covid-19 first hit, we got the managers in a room to look at ways in which we could help our merchants, riders and customers cope with the changes. Some of the specific strategies we have implemented include ramping up efforts to vaccinate our fleet of riders in the early stages of the pandemic and distributing millions of hand sanitisers and masks across Asia.  We also doubled our fleet size across Asia to meet the growing consumer demand and provide more earning opportunities for our riders.

What aspect of technology has been the most useful in accelerating the growth of foodpanda’s endeavours?

Technology has always been at the core of our business to build efficiencies in logistics. We have been using AI and machine learning algorithms for many years, enabling us to provide faster and more efficient deliveries through shift and route planning. Our data science teams also continue to push the envelope to ensure smoother deliveries and to build a more personalised user experience for our customers. Last year, we did our first drone delivery test flights for pandaFly with the support of ST Engineering. We hope to make drone delivery a reality in the near future. In June this year, we began conducting a pilot of autonomous food delivery services at two university campuses as part of our progress towards a contactless, sustainable and more efficient eco-system of on-demand delivery.

How are pandamart locations decided and how often are the products restocked?

Technology plays a big role again. The location of each pandamart is guided by location intelligence, so we are able to open pandamarts where they are most needed. Our inventory is guided by data on what people are purchasing, so we can always provide what customers truly want and need. This is also important from a sustainability standpoint, so we minimise wastage of perishable goods.

How do you keep delivery fees low, especially for pandamart?

Being the leader in most markets we’re operating in, we have a vast network of riders, merchants and cloud warehouses spread across different corners of the cities where we operate. Optimising our operations across this scale and being able to deliver from stores closest to our customers are some of the ways we have kept deliveries affordable for customers.

What situation have you been in where you could not have been more grateful for foodpanda or pandamart?

I think we’ve all been in a situation where you’re throwing a party and your guests are about to arrive, and you realise you’re missing an essential ingredient for the big dish. Maybe limes for the cocktails, or something special for dessert. I can honestly say that pandamart has been a real life-saver in that regard.

Name three similarities between you and the foodpanda brand.

Operations-focused, speed-oriented, and a champion of technology and innovation.

Describe your idea of convenience.

Having what I need delivered before I even know I need it.

Would you take up the challenge of being a foodpanda rider for a day?

I already have. Several times even. It is always an extremely important experience for me because I want to know what our riders go through and how I can solve more operational challenges or create more ideas that make a difference to their work. The best way to really understand their needs and challenges is to walk – or cycle – a mile in their shoes.

(Images: foodpanda)

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