The Future Of On-demand Food Delivery In Bangladesh: An Interview with Zubair Siddiky, Co-founder & MD, foodpanda Bangladesh

The Future Of On-demand Food Delivery In Bangladesh: An Interview with Zubair Siddiky, Co-founder & MD, foodpanda Bangladesh

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Zubair B.A. Siddiky is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Foodpanda (stylized foodpanda) Bangladesh. Over the past few years the company, which launched its operation in Dhaka in 2013, has grown significantly.

Food-tech, which includes among other things food delivery and restaurant discovery services like foodpanda, is an interesting business. In Dhaka, we have a host of players in the space working in different verticals from restaurant discovery and reservation to food delivery to homemade meals marketplace. In our neighboring market India, it is a big business having players like Zomato and Swiggy among others.

Foodpanda is an important player in Dhaka’s food-tech space for several reasons. It is part of the world’s largest online food delivery group Delivery Hero. Over the past few years, the company has built a solid business while expanding its operation in two more major cities apart from Dhaka. It just revamped its platform and launched its foodpanda for business service in Dhaka.

In this interview, Zubair Siddiky tells us about his journey to what he is doing today, talks about foodpanda, its current state, challenges, organizational culture and future ambition, discusses automation and major technology upgradation and how data informs almost every decision at the company, shares his thought on overall food delivery business in Bangladesh and key to this business, illustrates his management philosophy and explores the eminent importance of believing in your work and leading by example while building a startup and why ego is the enemy on our way to achieving great things in life.

Future Startup

Please tell us a bit about your background and your journey to what you are doing today?

Zubair Siddiky

After finishing my graduation from North South University in Economics, I joined a development organization funded by the US government where I worked for the next two and a half years.

While working there, I came to know about Groupon, a daily deal site, operating in many countries around the world at that time through a friend of mine who was working at the company’s Dubai office. It was a hot topic. We then launched a discussion of starting a similar service in Bangladesh which eventually led to the founding of onestop.com.bd in 2012, commonly known as Oscom, which was backed by German Venture Capitalist firm, Rebate Networks. We knew Rebate had an appetite for investments in daily deals site including investments in ‘Livingsocial.’ That’s how my journey into the world of technology startup began.

Onestop.com.bd was initially a daily deals site modeled after Groupon. Later we turned it into a marketplace model. It was one of the earliest eCommerce companies in the country. The company was doing well but had to close its operations in 2013 due to some internal challenges.

I got in contact with Rocket Internet in the middle of 2013 – through my HR firm called HR Connections – as they were trying to fill a lot of positions, including the position of Country Director for their classified ventures.

foodpanda was launched in Dhaka at the end of 2013. Food-tech was a hot topic around the world and we could see that food delivery has potential to revolutionize the e-commerce sector in Bangladesh.

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Future Startup

Please give us an overview of foodpanda.

Zubair Siddiky

We started our operations in December 2013. Over the past 4 years, we have grown significantly. We are now part of the largest online food delivery group, Delivery Hero, in the world, having operations in Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

In the past few years, foodpanda has become a household name in areas where we operate in Bangladesh, a feat we are proud of. However, our ambition is higher and we aim to serve the mass population.

We currently cover a significant part of Dhaka. The main locations, which we call zones, are Baridhara, Banani, DOHS, Niketan. Then we have Uttara, another prime area. We have Dhanmondi, Lalmatia as one area and Mohammadpur, Shyamoli as another area. We also cover Shantinagar and Baily Road.

Food delivery is a hyper-local business in nature. You cannot afford long-distance delivery for several reasons: first of all food doesn’t travel well. The second reason is that distance often reduces rider’s efficiency given that Dhaka is a high traffic city. In order to maximize rider efficiency, the ideal average distance for us is between One – two and a half kilometers. We try to put vendors in different zones based on this distance which is a common practice for us in across all of our operations around the world.

There are some areas in Dhaka which we don’t cover yet such as Wari, and Old Town. However, we are expanding our coverage and plan to cover these areas by the end of this year.

Outside Dhaka, we have operations in Sylhet and Chittagong.

We are now a team of 45 people in corporate and we have another 250 riders who manage our delivery.

Food delivery is a hyper-local business in nature. You cannot afford long-distance delivery for several reasons: first of all food doesn’t travel well. The second reason is that distance often reduces rider’s efficiency given that Dhaka is a high traffic city. In order to maximize rider efficiency, the ideal average distance for us is between One – two and a half kilometers. We try to put vendors in different zones based on this distance which is a common practice for us in across all of our operations around the world.

Future Startup

Please tell us a bit about the early days of Foodpanda as well as about your journey to where you are today as a company.

Zubair Siddiky

We started our formal operation in December 2013 with a team of 5 people. We had 4 people in sales, signing up the restaurants and onboarding vendors. One person was doing the accounts, cash collection and rider management and another teammate was looking after marketing and social media. We quickly grew as a team with new hires in sales and operations to meet our growth pressure.

One challenge that we faced initially was that most restaurants in Bangladesh didn’t have the delivery services, which is not the case in our neighboring markets such as India and Pakistan and many other markets where foodpanda operates. Restaurants often have food delivery service, albeit limited scale, of their own that meet home delivery needs. But the scenario was completely different in Dhaka.

When we started, only 3 of our vendors had their own delivery option, that too in a limited scale. Restaurants were not interested in handling delivery which was a challenge for us because we did not want to manage logistics either. Moreover, our operations in other markets did not have any logistics arm at that time.

Initially, foodpanda was only a marketplace that used to connect the consumers and the restaurants. We were not an end to end service provider. In fact, we didn’t want to be an end to end service provider. As I mentioned, we didn’t have logistics in any other countries.

But in Dhaka, we came to face a different scenario. We realized that it would be difficult to grow without fixing the logistic challenge. Initially, we came up with a quick fix by entering into collaboration with a third party logistics company. We knew the company from our previous experience. Otherwise, it was hard to find a reliable third party for logistics back then. While they provided us initial support, they failed to meet our growing scale need. Moreover, the performance was not what we were looking for.

After much thought, we decided to start our own logistics arm in the middle of 2014. It was a difficult decision because none of our operations in other markets had logistics operation at that time. We had to convince our investors that this is something we need here in Bangladesh if we want to continue our business and grow.

We put together a solid proposal to our global team and suggested that if we do not start logistics arm in Bangladesh, we will have to face a life-threatening challenge in the future and may have to close our operations. We had to convince our Global management team that the investment we are making in logistics now would pay off in the future.

That’s how in 2014, we finally launched our logistics unit with about 100 bikes. We hired riders and started expanding our areas. I think Bangladesh in that regard was the first country to start logistics arm and manage end-to-end of customer experience.

We initially started with Gulshan and Banani area. Then we slowly expanded our coverage to Dhanmondi, Uttara and other areas in Dhaka and then outside Dhaka.

But the challenges did not stop there. While launching our own logistics arm solved a critical problem for us, it also created other new challenges. While we started logistics, we didn’t have reliable technology or data to manage the logistical operations properly. We were doing everything manually. For instance, once you placed an order, we passed it to restaurants and informed a rider, then what was happening from there to end customer was out of our control.

The reason was that we didn’t have technology at that point. We were dispatching riders through SMS or calls. We could not know locations of our riders and as well as could not map delivery timing for our customers. We could not also see who got the orders delivered and when. The result was simple: we could not control overall experience of our customer that we were badly trying to control and improve and we struggled with efficiency.

In order to fix the challenge, we started working on developing logistics software in the beginning of 2015. The software, called Urban Ninja, was developed by our Global team and formally introduced in 2015 which has made our job easier and efficient since. We believe that logistics will be a big part of the game in Asia.

At the same time, we focused on automating our restaurant management system. Before we used to call up restaurants every time we receive an order, now orders directly goes to the restaurant if the customer address is verified. We started automating the restaurants from 2015 which we finally completed at the beginning of 2016. Restaurants now either use our restaurant app to receive orders or get the orders via foodpanda printers.

Today, we have managed to improve our process and make it even more frictionless for our customers. We have made order verification system simpler for repeat users who don’t require verification every time they place a new order. For new customers, we send a verification code when they place an order and as soon as a customer verifies the mobile number, we send the order to the designated restaurant. The restaurant can accept it or decline depending on the availability of the product. The notification or confirmation is sent directly to the customers.

We have also launched our new logistics software which has auto dispatching capabilities.

The new technology introduction has accelerated our growth directly and improved customer experience. We have seen a huge lift in the order acceptance right after the introduction. Our order acceptance time went down from 8/9 minutes to just 2 minutes on average.

We now can monitor the delivery time of our riders accurately. We can also monitor the order preparation time of a restaurant. This allows us to better understand the entire process.

We can now see exact time requirement in different points of the entire process starting from a customer placing the order to restaurant preparing the food and the pickup time by the riders. When a rider picks up an order from a restaurant we call that his pick-up time. The difference between pick-up time and order acceptance is the cooking time for the restaurant. This helps us to identify inefficiencies in the entire process and manage it accordingly.

We have a separate team for vendor services and operations who deal with restaurants in order to increase restaurant efficiency. The whole food delivery business is basically about how fast you can deliver foods. There are many challenges that affect overall delivery time. Riders are one factor of the whole experience. The other factor is the restaurant compliance which means whether restaurants are giving the foods to riders on time. If they are compliant, it helps to cut the delivery time.

For instance, some vendors may face capacity problem on a certain day that can hamper entire delivery schedule. We also face challenges at times. If it is a rainy day then riders may not show up on time or all riders may not show up. Data helps us to deal with these contingencies more effectively. Since we have data, we can anticipate things and make more efficient decisions ahead of the time. We are seeing a direct result of this as our delivery time is coming down on a month-to-month basis.

In terms of operations, we have come a long way. From the manual system of running the business, we are now fully automated. It makes the entire operation transparent and efficient.

As an organization, we have become much more structured and efficient over the past few years. This is an outcome of relentless technology adoption as well as continuous experiments with new processes and systems.

We have grown as a business in every possible metrics. Our app download has grown manifold. Our order numbers, new customers, and returning customers, all have increased significantly. Since we are part of a public company, I can’t disclose any numbers, what I can tell is that we have grown substantially and are doing good business-wise.

We can now see exact time requirement in different points of the entire process starting from a customer placing the order to restaurant preparing the food and the pickup time by the riders. When a rider picks up an order from a restaurant we call that his pick-up time. The difference between pick-up time and order acceptance is the cooking time for the restaurant. This helps us to identify inefficiencies in the entire process and manage it accordingly.

Future Startup

When you started in 2013, what were the major challenges? What are the challenges now?

Zubair Siddiky

As I mentioned earlier, logistics was a major challenge. Not for us alone, it was for every other ecommerce companies at that time. While we have come past that challenge by putting together our own logistics arm, I would say logistics remain a persistent problem in Dhaka for many companies even these days.

The second problem was online payment which is a challenge for these days as well. People are not either interested or habituated in online payment. Trust is also an issue when it comes to the online transaction.

A significant percentage of our payments now happen offline. In some instances, it is around 90% which is inefficient for us as a technology business. Consequently, we have to collect, monitor and keep track of cash from our 250+ riders every day. It is a major activity which could have been smoother and faster if people had paid online. It was a challenge when we started and it remains a challenge.

Thirdly, I would say that infrastructure was and is a major challenge. The traffic is now worse than before. Since we run a logistics team, we get to endure the troubles that come with traffic and road conditions across the country.

We have made significant progress in terms of overall internet penetration in the country. That said, the overall internet connectivity experience, starting from cost to speed, remains a major issue for not only us but also all the e-commerce businesses. This reality is hampering overall growth of e-businesses.

These were the major challenges in the beginning. Some of the challenges persist even these days.

The other most prominent challenge is finding skilled talent with an understanding of eCommerce. One of the reasons is, of course, our eCommerce industry is quite nascent. We can recruit and train people easily and people are also delivering but still, if we could have more skilled people then we could change the entire industry dramatically.

This is one of the major differences between our online business environment and that of India and Pakistan. That said, we are growing fast and I believe future is going to be quite interesting.

Future Startup

You charge the restaurants a commission, right? Is there any uniform commission or it varies?

Zubair Siddiky

Well, the commission/success fee that we charge new restaurants now is quite uniform but it wasn’t the case when we started the business. The way we charge commission is quite complex and depends on a few factors. We also maintain a rating of restaurants that also affect their commission.

Apart from that, we have a sponsored restaurants option which is basically ad space that any restaurant can buy. Restaurants can buy a spot for a fee which allows them more visibility and put them right on the top of the restaurant listing page.

Future Startup

Can customers see this rating?

Zubair Siddiky

No. It is an internal system that we use to categorize restaurants to streamline our decision-making process. The customers don’t have access to the rating. The ratings are done based on a host of factors that only we can see and measure.

The customers can only see the restaurant ratings and reviews posted by foodpanda customers. This is visible on the front-end.

Future Startup

What factors do you use for your internal rating?

Zubair Siddiky

The first criterion is conversion rate. That means the more people come and order from your menu, the higher your rating goes. In simple, the popularity of a restaurant affects its rating. That said, it takes a lot of work to make a restaurant popular.

Secondly, there are commercial aspects, which means profit margins that we receive from a particular restaurant also affect the overall rating that we assign.

Finally, the operational performance of a restaurant which means cooking time and order delivery time is also an important aspect. Overall service and customer ratings are also considered in the process.

Team foodpanda | Courtesy foodpanda

Team foodpanda | Courtesy foodpanda

Future Startup

How many vendors do you have now?

Zubair Siddiky

We have around 550 vendors at present. We initially had over 900 registered vendors. The number often goes down because we do regular vendor clean-up in order to make sure that best ones are getting enough attention.

We have a Business intelligence department which provides us performance data of every restaurant that we have which party guide our clean-up mechanism.

We have a list of criteria that a restaurant has to maintain in order to be on our platform. We go through the checklist and let the low-performing ones go. This is a regular process which allows us to serve both our customers and restaurant partners better.

As I mentioned before, we look at the order data of a restaurant, if a restaurant is not generating enough orders for 6 to 9 months, then we let them go as well. We don’t see a point in expanding the vendor base for sake of a long list if it is not useful to our users.

We also look at the operational performance and reviews. If the performance is subpar and often fail to meet the time requirement of orders and the reviews are consistently bad, then we drop the vendor.

We have let almost 400 vendors go who failed to meet these criteria over the past years.

We have a list of criteria that a restaurant has to maintain in order to be on our platform. We go through the checklist and let the low-performing ones go. This is a regular process which allows us to serve both our customers and restaurant partners better.

Future Startup

What are the key metrics for you as a company?

Zubair Siddiky

First one, of course, is sales growth. We monitor our growth on the weekly and monthly basis as well as area wise.

Revenue is another key metric, which is quite straightforward, that we monitor per order basis and monthly basis.

Apart from that, overall customer experience is a key metric for us. If our customers are not happy, we don’t have a business. Delivery time is something we are constantly monitoring and trying to improve in order to enhance the overall customer experience. We have improved significantly in this area compared to many of our competitors in the market, but we aim to do more.

We are trying to reduce the number of the failed orders. Failed orders are situations where a restaurant has failed to meet an order either because they did not have the product at that time or some other problems. Our operations team is working diligently with the restaurants to update their menu on a constant basis and suggest improvement so that we can reduce this failure rate.

We want to provide a seamless experience to our customers. While our business metrics are important to us, we understand that customer experience is equally critical for our success. We are closely working with our restaurant partners and other stakeholders to improve on these metrics on a daily basis.

Future Startup

How many riders do you have now? How do you manage riders?

Zubair Siddiky

We have around 250 riders now. The operations department manages and monitors them. We have riders for each hub who work for that alone.

Our riders mostly work on a contractual basis, as freelancers. We have two shifts for riders. Around 25% of riders work both shifts and the rest 75% work one shift.

We receive relatively slow orders post-lunch which affect our riders demand and we plan accordingly. Our number of orders goes up in the dinner time and that’s when we employ most of our riders. This allows us to control our cost and put our resources into best possible use.

Moreover, we do planning and scheduling for the riders beforehand. We have the data of our orders which allows us to forecast and then assign or allocate the riders in different shifts and schedules.

We want to provide a seamless experience to our customers. While our business metrics are important to us, we understand that customer experience is equally critical for our success. We are closely working with our restaurant partners and other stakeholders to improve on these metrics on a daily basis.

Future Startup

How do you find riders since they don’t work full-time for you?

Zubair Siddiky

This is always a challenging affair for us. Moreover, riders handle payment for us and carry large cash which requires us to be careful in selecting riders.

We hire riders through both online and offline ads and activities. We have a simple application form that riders can use to apply for the job. We have two dedicated persons in the team who are responsible for the recruitment and other rider related activities.

Additionally, we have a rider recommendation program that offers benefits to current riders if they recommend new riders, which is, in fact, our biggest offline recruitment activity. Other than that, we do flyers and posters for the recruitment of riders.

The referrals and facebook posts are so far the most effective mediums for us to hire riders. We hire about 30 to 40 new riders every month.

Future Startup

You are part of a global operation, how does your operation in Bangladesh work? How do you collaborate with the global team?

Zubair Siddiky

We collaborate with the regional team sitting in Singapore and Thailand. We also collaborate with the global team sitting in Berlin.

Our collaboration with the regional team is quite regular and happens all the time since a lot of the processes are similar and interdependent. In many instances, the only difference is location and legal and cultural issues.

Future Startup

How frequently do you collaborate?

Zubair Siddiky

Operational collaboration happens on a daily basis. Apart from daily communications, there are global management summits that take place twice or thrice a year where all the heads of different countries come together and share knowledge and experiences.

We have functional summits that bring together heads of functional departments of all the countries to share the best practices and lessons from their own country. For example, marketing summits bring all the marketing people together and allow them to share knowledge, lessons, and strategy with each other. Same goes for the operation, finance, accounting and all other functional heads. These functional summits take place almost twice a year.

This is one of the greatest learning opportunities for our people as they get to meet people from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and countries and learn best practices from around the world. It also offers a wonderful platform to exchange your ideas and share challenges with others.

Future Startup

How do you reach out to your customers? Please tell us about your marketing efforts.

Zubair Siddiky

A large part of our communication strategy is designed in collaboration with our regional team. Our marketing team works closely with the regional team on a near constant basis.

Medium-wise, we do both online and offline communication activities. That said, digital remains the dominant medium for us. We use google, facebook, SEO and some other tools.

For offline, we have recently launched a campaign of handing out discount vouchers through hand to hand flyer, particularly targeted to new customers. We have promoters who distribute the flyers in different parts of the city.

While it is an offline effort, we have put together a tracking system in order to measure the ROI of the overall campaign as well as the performance of individual promoters. We assign promoters in different areas and use unique ID numbers on flyers and each promoter distribute a range of these codes/flyers. Now when a customer uses a code we can immediately know where and from whom he got the code.

This also allows us to monitor the active new users. The challenge with any offline activity is that measuring ROI is difficult because data is hard to come by. Before launching an offline campaign, we wanted to make sure that we have the capability to measure the ROI.

We have started this recently and we are excited to see the result and are in the process of scaling it up. Our goal is to turn this into one of our biggest customer acquisition channels in the future.

Apart from this, we have been running activations in different university campuses for a while now.

Over the past years, our communication effort has been largely niche because we were trying to reach out to a niche group of people in Dhaka. Now that we are growing and our aim is to become a mass brand, we have plans to go into mass media engagement.

Future Startup

That means, distribution-wise, your online marketing budget is higher than offline?

Zubair Siddiky

That is correct. However, once we start doing mass media communication, it will look more balanced.

Bangladesh is a big market and we are still in the growth phase. We think that the next few years are going to be critical for ecommerce. In ecommerce scale is critical if you are to survive and thrive in the long run.

The players who have been working here for a long time need to scale up their business and communication so that they can survive in the future. We think online and offline both medium of communications is critical in order to be effective in our context.

Over the past years, our communication effort has been largely niche because we were trying to reach out to a niche group of people in Dhaka. Now that we are growing and our aim is to become a mass brand, we have plans to go into mass media engagement.

Future Startup

What do you think about the competition in your sector?

Zubair Siddiky

At present, the competition is not hurting us that much. We are quite comfortable in our place. The past few years have been more about creating the market and awareness about the service. In that sense, having a few competitors is good for the growth of the overall industry. That said, we are in no sense complacent.

Since the market is relatively mature now, the competition is going to be a matter of concern in the coming days. There are chances that new player may come into the market and competition may intensify. That said, we are not worried about competition. We have already taken measures in order to maintain our market share and growth, in case new challenge appears in the market.

We are a business of essential items. Given the cultural shift that we are seeing over the past few years, there are opportunities in the food delivery space. We are excited about the future and at this moment, we are competing with ourselves to improve our service every day.

Future Startup

How does your user demography look like?

Zubair Siddiky

Young professionals and housewives are the two major groups for us.

We are an ultimate data-driven company. We make almost no decision based on gut-feeling unless there is data-based evidence in favor of that decision. For every decision, starting from operations to vendor performance to rider performance and individual KPIs, we track data and make decisions accordingly.

Future Startup

Do you have any plan to launch anything specific for the corporate customers? I think there is a solid business opportunity there.

Zubair Siddiky

We are about to officially launch a separate platform for businesses call corporate.foodpanda.com.bd. We have already signed a big client.

We already have this corporate operation in a few other markets. We plan to offer special benefits to businesses when they come onboard with us such as specialized menu cards, a dedicated Accounts Manager and call center facility along with monthly or weekly payment option. We have already received some really good responses from the market. We think that the response will be even better when we launch the platform.

We plan to offer two options where one user can order on behalf of an entire company like a Super User where we will charge the company. The other is Allowance basis, which is quite popular in abroad where employees are given allowances from the company for food that they can use to buy food from restaurants. We are considering both options.

Future Startup

You collect a lot of data. How do you manage and use data in your decision-making process?

Zubair Siddiky

We are an ultimate data-driven company. We make almost no decision based on gut-feeling unless there is data-based evidence in favor of that decision.

For every decision, starting from operations to vendor performance to rider performance and individual KPIs, we track data and make decisions accordingly.

For our sales and account manager, we use a customized version of SalesForce. We track each and every activities, signing and inputs. We have a CRM tool called Zendesk that monitors the activities and performance of our customer care agents. We also collect data on customer satisfaction Via Zendesk.

Our individual performance measurement is also completely data-driven which guide our overall training, improvement and incentive system in the organization.

Future Startup

Tell us about your organizational culture at foodpanda, how do people work and collaborate?

Zubair Siddiky

As I mentioned earlier, data is a key aspect of our culture. This applies to how people work and operate as well. Our individual performance is closely monitored and is judged based on data and performance indicators.

Initially, it was a challenging job to build a mindset around it since this is not a dominant culture in our country. The advantage, however, we enjoy is that we are a fairly young team – our average age is about 28 years – and we adapt quickly which has made it possible to be very quantitative.

The company culture is open and friendly. We maintain an open office without any individual chamber or room. The employees can approach freely to anyone and everyone. Even the riders walk into the office to see things and get their job done. Whenever we have an issue, we talk together and solve it.

We work hard and we play hard as well. Being a startup, it is only natural to work really hard which our entire team does. But at the same time, we enjoy our work and make sure that we have fun at work.

Future Startup

What are the future plans for foodpanda Bangladesh?

Zubair Siddiky

Growth, in all possible directions, is a key priority going forward. We want to expand to and cover more locations in Dhaka and outside Dhaka.

Our ambition is to become a mass brand and serve millions of people. We believe that food delivery is and should be a mass thing. Our plan is: “If there is a restaurant, foodpanda should be there”.

Future Startup

Any plans around product and expansion?

Zubair Siddiky

We have just launched a major rebranding initiative with a new color, theme, and a new front-end for all devices and a new identity. We are very excited to see the response of our customers.

In order to reduce friction around refund and payment, we are working on a mobile wallet as an added feature through which we will be able to easily refund our customers which is quite cumbersome in the existing voucher system. In the mobile wallet, the refund will be stored which customers will be able to use for a later order.

Personalization is another area where we are investing. We are working on advanced features around personalization which will show our customers a personalized feed of what they want to see.

In order to reduce friction around refund and payment, we are working on a mobile wallet as an added feature through which we will be able to easily refund our customers which is quite cumbersome in the existing voucher system.

Future Startup

How do you operate personally? How does your typical personal routine look like?

Zubair Siddiky

I think this is common for many startup founders – I end up doing crazy hours.

We usually start in the morning and work continues till late at night. Since we collaborate with regional and global teams, sometimes it requires us to stay super later to attend calls. The people here do not complain about it as they like working here and love foodpanda.

We are into building something that is new and exciting and we all understand that it takes time and effort to build something extraordinary. The 9 to 5 or 10 to 6 typical work hours are not going to cut it here at foodpanda.

Future Startup

From your perspective, what are the keys to food delivery business?

Zubair Siddiky

Product experience is the first thing here. It has to be user-friendly, intuitive and brilliant in design.

Secondly, you need top class restaurants on your platform that customers love which help with creating interest, trust, and reliability.

Thirdly, you have to manage logistics well because delivery is your business and if you can’t control this experience, your business will suffer. Delivery charge is something that you have to be mindful of because customers will be paying this incremental charge for using your platform. You have to ensure that customers don’t take your charge as something illogical.

The important keys to this business are basic things. The stronger your basics are, the better you will be doing in food delivery business.

Lead by example. Talk can only take you so far. It is our actions that inspire people. For example, if I ask my operations guy to work on the weekend then I have to come as well to show my dedication towards the same goal. It also helps to build a relationship of trust and reliability.

Future Startup

What advice would you give to people who are starting out?

Zubair Siddiky

If you are building a startup, believe in what you are doing. When you believe in your work, it becomes easier to persist in the face of obstacles and challenges.

Building a business is not an easy affair, it requires endless passion and patience and ability to endure countless obstacles. The first few months will be particularly hard and tough. You have to be patient and persistent.

A deeper understanding of the problem you are trying to solve is particularly critical because unless you understand it you will not be able to design a solution that delivers value to users. Many startups die in their first 2 to 3 years largely because they fail to understand the problem they are solving or the value they are creating.

The second advice would be: find a niche. Most people tend to follow the crowd because it often feels safe. But in life and in a startup, that is the most dangerous strategy you can apply. It is also hard to raise money in a crowded space. On the other hand, it is easier to build a business when you don’t have to worry much about the competition.

Invest in developing your leadership skills. You may be a brilliant person coming out of an Ivy League school but still, if you lack the leadership skills, running a startup will be difficult for you. Running a startup is all about managing different resources, mobilizing people and all kinds of resources. And it is a job of a leader.

Listening is a massively underrated skill in our today’s hyperactive society. We are always busy replying or talking instead of listening. But I have come to realize that listing to your people and customers is an incredibly powerful exercise while running a business. It helps to develop perspective and have new ideas and find unexpected solutions to problems. It also helps to build a lasting relationship with people.

The main problem that holds us back from listening to others is ego and in order to build something meaningful, you have to let your ego go.

Be direct. Have the conversation when it is the most difficult job to have one. Face to face conversation about delicate and hard matters is what moves us forward.

Lead by example. Talk can only take you so far. It is our actions that inspire people. For example, if I ask my operations guy to work on the weekend then I have to come as well to show my dedication towards the same goal. It also helps to build a relationship of trust and reliability. If your team does not think that you have got what it takes, then you will get neither their respect nor your required performance. You have to lead from the front, all the time.

Finally, create a shared vision. You have to engage your people in designing plans and strategy. They need to know where you want to go and where you want to take them in the future. Your goal and vision should be communicated with everyone in the team and you have to make sure that everyone owns it. This may sound risky at first, but it is even riskier to not being able to realize your vision. And if you don’t engage your people, you will never be able to achieve your ambition.

If you are building a startup, believe in what you are doing. When you believe in your work, it becomes easier to persist in the face of obstacles and challenges. Building a business is not an easy affair, it requires endless passion and patience and ability to endure countless obstacles. The first few months will be particularly hard and tough. You have to be patient and persistent.

(Interview by Ruhul Kader, Transcription by Md. Tashnim)

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