The Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) hosted a live webinar on 20 June to talk about how the e-commerce industry and real-time delivery industry can hope to adapt post Covid-19.
The webinar panel was moderated by compère and show host Thilina Udayaratne, discussing issues with Daraz.lk Managing Director and Country Head Rakhil Fernando and PickMe Food Head of Operations Mevan Peiris who also serves as an Advisory Council Member of the Global Shapers Community.
Responding to the crisis
The webinar commenced with a discussion of how both industries had been impacted by the pandemic and their responses so far.
Fernando explained that in Daraz.lk’s case, there was a big disruption given the overnight increase in demand, going from about 15,000 orders a day to over 100,000 orders a day after the lockdown was implemented. Being able to meet the demand was very challenging, but it has resulted in Daraz.lk building a wider network. A true silver lining of the situation, Fernando shared, is the creation of a lot of new online customers, many of whom are likely to stay online now that online shopping has been normalised for unusual items like FMCG goods and perishable items. Now that the lockdown is largely over, Daraz.lk has seen a 50% growth in customers, and is hiring aggressively to cope with this growth.
PickMe Food had heard of cities in China becoming reliant on deliveries in lockdown, Peiris explained, and PickMe Food had been slowly preparing in case of something similar taking place locally. There was a decline in orders just before the lockdown because people weren’t sure if food could be contaminated and how to deal with the possibility. The overnight element of it was a challenge, particularly with all restaurants being shut down. PickMe Food depends entirely on third parties for the products they deliver. PickMe Food has also seen a need for expansion post lockdown.
After ceasing operations for a day and reflecting, they realised people would need gas more than ever if the whole country was switching to cooking at home, leading to their partnership with Litro Gas Lanka which then led to Sathosa becoming a partner as well, allowing them to resume operations and keep their delivery partners (who are gig workers) employed.
Implementing a contactless delivery and payment system was also something PickMe Food delivery took very seriously to maintain the safety of their delivery partners, even at the risk of losing some customers.
Responding post pandemic in the longer term
Fernando explained that the pandemic has brought to their attention that their warehouse facilities were based in Colombo, which was a big challenge when delivering to customers across districts and provinces. Over 70% of Daraz.lk’s orders come from outside the Western Province, with a substantial amount of these orders being from rural areas and placed through the Daraz.lk mobile app.
A long-term strategy that Daraz.lk will be looking at is to expand its warehouse and delivery bases. Daraz.lk is also looking to create a one-stop online environment where a customer can find everything they need including entertainment. Daraz.lk has also recently launched utility bill payments through the Daraz.lk platform and other initiatives like Daraz.lk credit cards and online wallets are also planned.
PickMe Food is also looking at expanding, Peris shared, and their first priority is to get all their existing restaurant partners up and running, and then getting new restaurants on board. They will also be looking at optimising the app for better user experience and expanding their marketplace initiative. There has been lots of demand from new restaurants wanting to join the platform, and PickMe Food will be striving to include everyone.
There will be checks and balances put in place to maintain quality and safety. Given the nature of PickMe Food’s operations, they will not be able to audit partners themselves but will lean heavily on government health, safety, and quality regulations and putting the onus on partners to make sure regulations are followed.
The service sector in the digital era
Both Fernando and Peiris explained that collaboration will play a big part in times to come for both sectors. On the possibility of Daraz.lk and PickMe Food collaborating with each other on some aspects of business, the idea was not ruled out, but given the different operating models of both companies, it would need to be looked into carefully.
To newcomers to the sector, Fernando explained that there are huge gaps in the market for those who are looking for opportunities, and not simply in the form of starting an e-commerce website. There are support services in the sector that are vastly overlooked but still have the opportunity to add great value like e-commerce-focused logistics and businesses that facilitate and support offline sellers looking to go online.
Fernando also commented that customer relationship management-based marketing and promotion tools will play a big part in effectively promoting e-commerce and other service sector businesses in the digital era.