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Deliveroo’s General Manager Anis Harb on strategy, growth and superlative service.
What do the first 30 minutes of your day look like, your morning routine?
I start my day with some quiet meditation and stretching. I choose to do this first thing in the morning to help me kick off my day in the right mindset. I then drink a cup of hot water with lemon before jumping into the shower. Breakfast is usually a healthy smoothie or freshly brewed coffee on the go on my way to work.
How has your role changed since you started at Deliveroo?
I joined Deliveroo in early 2015 in London, and later that year moved to Dubai to launch the business here. From day one it’s been nonstop, but the role has definitely evolved. At first I was laser-focused on executing to build liquidity on all sides of the marketplace. I was selling to restaurants, hiring riders and experimenting with various (very unscalable) marketing initiatives. As we continue to grow and lay the foundations for a larger business, I spend a lot of time collaborating and problem-solving with a world-class team with whom I love spending time. I’m very lucky to be able to do this day in and day out.
You were previously based in London with Deliveroo. How different is overseeing the logistics there to within the Middle East?
The Middle East and London are both very different markets. Until the time that I was in London, food delivery was still a ‘weekend treat’ for customers. This has changed in the last few years. However, in the case of the Middle East, delivery is embedded into people’s lifestyles so that is a complete change in mindset if you compare to other markets. Our structure in the Middle East is also different compared to the UK when it comes to our riders. In the UAE, we work with 3PL companies to work with riders in compliance with country regulations. The coordination of rider operations, training and onboarding is a much more formalized process in the UAE and has helped us contribute towards more job creation in the market. It’s also a very different culture and as a multinational business, Deliveroo has grown in this market by respecting its local traditions while working closely with local concepts and creatives to truly embed ourselves in the lifestyle of the customers here.
Do you have any mentors or guides and how did they help navigate you on the right path?
Being originally from the region, definitely helped. I had a network of friends in the UAE that helped guide me in the beginning and connected me with the right talent to build Deliveroo’s team. We are also lucky to have an amazing network of GMs across our international territories. We all utilise each other’s learnings to develop and perfect strategies in our own markets.
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What are the main challenges that you faced amid the pandemic and how did you manage to overcome them?
Food delivery became an essential service during lockdown not just in this region. This meant that riders were seen as frontline workers who continued to keep the city healthy and moving during the pandemic. Their safety, security and onboarding became our number 1 priority during this time. Due to the surge in demand, we had to recruit large numbers of riders, train them and initiate them into our fleet within a matter of days. Our next priority was to support restaurants. In 2020 alone, we onboarded 2,600 new restaurants in the UAE. This included concepts that had never implemented home delivery before so ensuring that we provide them with the right advice and infrastructure becomes crucial for us. We also introduced other initiatives like weekly cash payments to help improve cash flow for restaurants. Our Editions kitchens became essential for businesses relying on delivery and looking to expand their radius.
Deliveroo was a lifeline for many during lockdown- did the growth during this time surpass projections and what did you need to implement to scale so quickly?
The onset of the virus saw customers concerned about the health and safety of food deliveries, while with people forced to work from home, our corporate clientele was reduced significantly. There was a significant decline and then recovery. By Q4 2020, we had rebounded to pre-Covid levels and have been seeing rapid growth since. We also used this time to introduce services to better facilitate customers. This included Deliveroo’s Express Mart launch for grocery We are very proud to have been the lifeline for a number of people during the lockdown and are pleased to have been able to reach and supply so many.
‘Proper food, proper delivery’ is the core message – how do you manage to constantly ensure you achieve this?
Great service lies at the heart of our business. Our vision for efficient service is what prompted us to make a bet on the cloud kitchen space in 2017 with the launch of Editions, a collection of bespoke delivery-only kitchens. We were the first to bring this concept to the UAE, and over the years, have continued to perfect this model for the optimal delivery experience. With an entire infrastructure in place dedicated to delivery, we ensure quick dispatch and delivery times with the chance of minimal error which overall adds to the customer’s experience. Such initiatives have trickled down to all aspects of the business, ensuring quality and consistency at every step.
Deliveroo is known for providing a seamless delivery system. How do you manage to stay on top of the game?
Investment in technology, priority for service and great teamwork. As a leading logistics operator in the region, our technology does the job of connecting all the links of a delivery efficiently. Our in-app experience is seamless and user-friendly. Our restaurant partners and riders work together to deliver the best service and food. Our account managers work closely with restaurants to help them utilise our full suite of delivery services. Anyone in the aggregator business will tell you that a lot of people come together to make one perfect delivery happen. At Deliveroo, with quality checks and accountability at every level, we aim to make this the case for every delivery.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Before jumping into learning hard technical skills, take a job where you need to sell. The importance of selling doesn’t go away in life. Spend more time learning new languages. Then immerse yourself in new experiences to practice those languages.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs in the region?
Don’t be so hard on yourself when you fail. The falls are inevitable, so be clear on your learnings and move forward. Be persistent, brave and patient- because everything takes time. Also, don’t forget the mental health of your team members who are giving it their best. Empathy makes you a better leader and a better person.
This is The Icon Issue – who or what to you is iconic?
Dubai. Everything about this city. Its diversity, its ambition and its constant evolution. It was also our first entry into the Middle East and a huge decision for the business. Deliveroo’s success so far and any further expansion in the region has been because this market understood what we had to offer and chose to grow with us.
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