At your door-steps: A spurt of delivery service in Addis
“Let the food come to you; your food is three simple steps away: browse restaurants, order and check order,” reads an emblem on Telalaki Delivery Service website. The emblem is followed by a long list of restaurants and their menus. Amsterdam, Fusion Bistro, Via Via, Sangham and Aladin are among the choices on Telalaki’s restaurant listing. One only needs to take a pick of any of these restaurants or any other, Telalaki delivers the food.
Customers are required to create an online profile to use this trending delivery services in Addis Ababa. Phone number, Email and physical address are only essential details making up the online customer profile. A customer may place an order either over the phone or online. As they say, the rest is Telalaki’s job. Soon after, the motor bikers of the company picks the order, track down their customer’s address using GPS and deliverers the food mostly while still hot. A standard delivery time for Telalaki’s motor bikers is less than an hour. But this is not a simple pledge; actually customers are entitled to 50% reduction on the delivery fee if the delivery took more than an hour.
The service covers most of Addis Ababa except the remote areas. In fact, the delivery service is not limited to food. For the price of 60 birr, one can also order drinks like wine and coke, not to mention flowers for loved ones.
Even though this kind of service is well-known in other countries, the idea is relatively new to Ethiopia. These days, coming across a biker wearing a uniform of a certain delivery company is not surprising. Of course, the over a century-old Ethiopian Postal Service and international companies such as DHL have been in the business of fast-track delivery services for long. But recently, the streets of Addis have welcomed personalized delivery service companies and their noisy motorbikes.
Telalaki is basically just a start-up business founded by five like-minded entrepreneurs. They saw the potential market in delivery service and officially launched the company six months ago. Starting the company was not easy, since most people were not familiar with the concept, says Adey Fissahatsion, one of the five founders of Telalaki Delivery Services. She says infrastructure was another challenge.
“The idea is new so the bureaucracy and not knowing what would happen challenged us at first. But, now we are happy with the progress we have made”, she explains.
Presently they are relaying on word-of-mouth to attract new customers. However, they are thinking to promote themselves using different mechanisms - beyond their professional and personal network. She says delivery service makes life easier and the service should expand in the entire country.
According to Adey, they have a plan to expand their service beyond food and flowers to documents, stamps and other materials. “Time is money, and we want to provide logistics of all kinds. But, security is important in delivery; and we can start doing that once we had gained the trust of our customers,” she states.
Although she believes that delivery service is yet to be embraced in Ethiopia, Adey is still satisfied with the customer base Telalaki managed to garner in its short existence, which she says include both foreigners and locals. For Adey, the fact that the idea of delivery service is being customised in Ethiopia is indicative that the service sector is growing and becoming more innovative. In addition to the current market, with blooming online shopping platforms in the capital, she hopes their facility will be in greater demand in future.
However, Adey thinks that some things can use a little bit of improvement. “We are a business that relies on technology and the lack of this infrastructure complicates things,” she elaborates. For now, they work from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM to 9 PM.
Deliver Addis, another delivery service provider, which is fresh in the market, also jumped into the business only a year ago. Founded by Feleg Tsegaye, the company mainly provides food delivery services. He started the business from the experiences he had in other countries. “We started out very small and allowed the company to grow naturally. I wouldn’t have said this a year ago, but it exceeded my expectations,” says Feleg.
Dliever Addis’s website too contains details of restaurants and food menus. Customers could choose restaurants within the nearest location and order. Be it burger, pizza, Thai food or dessert, they have it. They have an exclusive agreement with some of the restaurants, according to Feleg. Depending on the time of restaurants’ opening, they work from Monday to Sunday- 10 AM to 8 PM.
According to Feleg, limited supply of motorcycles and slow telecom and internet connectivity are the basic challenges in the sector. Considering the fact that delivery service is vastly needed these days, he believes the more companies operate in the business, the better. He says: “At the end of the day, we are all promoting delivery service.”
Currently, Deliver charges 60 birr for 1 up to 4 kms and this rate goes up to 75 as the distance increases to 4 up to 7kms. Whenever their customers place their order via telephone or online, they send a map of where they live. This is where another challenge emerges, Feleg says. In this regard, he observed that the home address system in Ethiopia still leaves a lot to be desired. “It is not easy to locate people,” he says. In the near future, he hopes their service expands out of Addis.
Companies like Muday Gift Shop, on the other hand, focus on delivering gifts from different countries. Muday is firmly entrenched in the delivery market but focuses more on gifts such as flowers or even whisky.
However, the delivery services sector also features bikers that operate independently. In fact, the bikers are not limited to delivering goods; rather they are known for driving people around town at a very cheap fare. The bickers also tack care of personal businesses such as bids or paying water and electricity bills. Khat delivery service is another booming and popular service in town. Bickers deliver khat to wherever the customer is within a few minutes.
Bicker Girmay Mekonnen has been in this business for quite some time now. He worked for various companies delivering materials for the past few years and now he is employed at Telalaki. His bike is all furnished to carry food, drinks or even laptops. He says Saturday and Sunday are his busiest days. From Megenagna to Old airport or Bole to Sidist kilo, he never stops. He drives around the city delivering orders at peoples’ homes, offices or get-togethers.
Traffic jams and rainy seasons create difficulties for bickers like Girmay. According to him, delivering priceless materials is risky and some sort of insurance is in order. “The motorcycle is the easiest form of transportation. I pay 230 birr for gas per week. And the number of people using delivery service is increasing, which is a good business prospect.”
Eyob Reda, who lives around Gerji Sunshine, often uses delivery service. He uses Deliver Addis whenever he wishes to have something from popular food joints like Sishu or Mendi restaurant. Eyob, who had lived in America for many years, appreciates the commencement of delivery service. However, he notes some things that need to be upgraded. “The companies can use mobile applications for orders. Customer service begins from the way they speak to the customers over the phone. They can learn a lot from other countries,’’ he explains.
Years ago, he used to work for pizza Hut, a popular fast-food franchise bases in the US, and he witnessed the improvement of the service over the years. He suggests that the delivery companies try to use latest technologies and work more on promoting their businesses.
Tihut Kebede is happy to see delivery services in an organized manner. She heard about both companies at Taste of Addis Festival and uses both. She also directly orders from restaurants that have their own delivery system. She says, “Delivery service goes hand-in-hand with most peoples’ lifestyle. For example, my brother uses delivery service for stamps and documents.”
She refers it to traditional means of delivering materials such as going to a bus stop or airlines to give some stranger a material to be delivered to someone. She says there are still many people who have to be introduced to the modern delivery system.