Jérémy Doutté is the Vice President of UAE talabat, currently spearheading the company’s operations, expansion and growth trajectory in the UAE market, leading a team of over 250 people from 31 nationalities. He joined talabat in September 2020, bringing a wealth of experience in the e-commerce industry. Doutté joined talabat from Jumia e-commerce, an online marketplace in Africa, where he held several roles in Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria during his eight years with them, most recently taking the role of Executive Vice President in January 2016. Prior to that, Jeremy was an acting consultant at McKinsey & Company.
Doutté was born in Seoul, South Korea and was raised in France. He graduated in 2007 with a Business Bachelor from ESSEC Business School (France) and completed his education with a Masters of Business Administration at Harvard Business School (USA) in 2012.
Please tell us more about the beginnings of talabat.
talabat is born and raised in the MENA region. It was first established as a tech startup by young Kuwaiti entrepreneurs in 2004, back when we connected to the internet using a modem. With the rise of the internet and the increase in smartphone penetration rates in Kuwait, talabat’s growth soared, and in 2015, it was acquired by Delivery Hero, the global leader in online and mobile food ordering.
Headquartered in Dubai since 2012, talabat shares the UAE leadership’s vision, especially when it comes to creating roadmaps and policies that facilitate digital transformation and AI integration in the region. Today, talabat is the region’s leading online food delivery and q-commerce app (Q for quick) with presence in 9 markets across the region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq) and has been achieving exponential growth in the last 17 years.
As a delivery service, the spotlight was on talabat during the pandemic; how have you handled the challenges?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the way business is done across the world. Our first response was to ensure the conservation and safety of our ecosystem – our customers, riders, partners and community as a whole.
The business continuity of our partners was one of our top priorities and we focused our efforts on helping them navigate this challenging phase. In April 2020, we announced a ‘community continuity’ plan to support partner restaurants with commission deferrals and fee waivers for 6 months, supporting the cash flow of 4,500 small and medium-size restaurants. On average, during the most critical period of March to September, our SME partners grew on average 25% with some growing more than 100% in the UAE.
We also deferred renewal fees during the pandemic, while new restaurants were on-boarded to the platform free of charge. And earlier this year, we increased the frequency of cash settlements for restaurant partners to twice a week to further support and empower our partners, and strengthen cash flow as we have identified that a reliable cash flow was a significant area of concern.
In terms of safety, we were the first in the industry to roll-out the strictest measures of COVID-19 safety, such as utilising Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for all riders, as well as offering customers the option of Contactless Delivery and cashless tipping to ensure the safety of riders and others.
We were also one of the first private companies to proactively reach out to health authorities in the UAE in December 2020 to facilitate a vaccination drive for talabat riders, who played a crucial role in supporting communities across the UAE during the National Sterilization Program and Ramadan. Not only did riders ensure we received our favorite meals at our doorstep, they also delivered 90,000 meals and 4000 medicine packages free of charge to people in need across the country in these difficult times.
Thanks to the amazing support and efforts of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), and the Ministry of Health and Prevention, almost our entire fleet across the UAE has received first shot and half the fleet the second shot, noting that all our riders in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are fully vaccinated since April 2021. As a result, our riders feel more confident while they are on duty, and even customers and restaurant partners have welcomed the initiative and expressed they feel safer knowing that talabat riders are choosing to vaccinate.
However, our initiatives are not limited to the pandemic. We continuously invest in various projects the latest being the talabat-Patrol rider road safety initiative which we launched in April with Abu Dhabi Police and Integrated Transport Centre (ITC). As part of this project, 20 talabat safety officers called talabat-Patrollers were deployed across the Emirates to ensure that riders continue to adhere to traffic safety rules, for their own safety and that of the community. We are also currently in the process of launching resting areas for riders during the summer.
A lot of aggregators were under fire due to fees; what do you think of this and how have you faced the backlash?
Our revenues are actually used to support our ecosystem, including our business partners, riders, staff and eventually our customers by providing them with improved online services to ensure their satisfaction. Our commission has different levels based on many factors, in which the three main ones are the costs associated with delivery, marketing and operations.
● Delivery Fees:
The largest part of our commission revenue, as well as a high portion of the delivery fee goes directly to paying for the delivery. Our scale and technology allow us to provide the best service in terms of coverage area and customer experience at the lowest possible cost.
● Promotional Activities:
A big portion also goes for the betterment of the restaurant community. This is through spend on marketing campaigns, promotions and other incentives to ensure existing partners are supported, and to attract new customers.
The remaining revenues go to talabat. We use this to pay our fixed costs – rent, power, water, admin etc, as well as our people.
Hence, lowering commission fees would have an immediate impact on our delivery partners as it would be impossible to sustain the current delivery service levels – impacting the customer experience.
With strong marketing campaigns, how does the company position itself in the market?
At talabat, the positioning is simple – it is to offer best value and experience for our consumers, and this is the philosophy that is reflected in our efforts. To do so, we take a very integrated approach.
Being data-driven – data is the oil of the digital era and, in most cases, is critical to the success of a strong marketing campaign. talabat is a purpose-led, tech powerhouse that relies on data and analytics to understand and serve its entire ecosystem better.
Being customer and partner driven – Having our tech-hub of over 300 talented people in our headquarters in Dubai does bring with it undeniable benefits, allowing us to work closely with them to better understand customer behaviour so we are able to constantly customise our services and offerings to improve their online journey and experience. It is important to note that our restaurant partners equally play a crucial role in our success, as we channel their feedback back into our business and create value offerings that people can relate to.
Being Agile – agility also plays an important role. We are an agile company, and we remain committed to nurturing a startup mentality despite our growth in the past 17 years, allowing us to constantly explore new ways to be creative and improve our offerings as well as our campaigns as a result.
What are your upcoming plans in the region?
A recent Mastercard study revealed the rapid growth of online shopping with nearly three out of four UAE consumers shopping more online than they did before the pandemic.
Last year, talabat identified a need in the market for a service that allows people a safe online, hyperfast and reliable grocery supplier. Thus q-commerce was introduced and talabat Mart (also known as t-Mart), was launched in February 2020 in Dubai. t-Mart is a delivery-only 24/7 store, with no shopfront, and is the region’s first to deliver groceries in less than 30 minutes. Today, t-Mart boasts more than 20 t-Marts across the UAE with plans to further expand this year.
Additionally, when we spoke to some of our partners, one of their concerns was rent vs profit. Many are opting for alternatives such as Cloud Kitchens with delivery-only operations to a wider audience at a lower cost. The Cloud Kitchen concept has no dine-in facility, offering restaurants a cost and time efficient way to fulfill larger order volumes. We currently have seven cloud kitchens in the UAE, with plans to launch 12 more by the end of the year.
We also work very closely with government entities to ensure that we are heading in the same direction. Through our partnerships with Dubai Economy and the Department of Economic Development in Ras Al Khaimah for example, we are offering Emirati home project owners the opportunity to grow their business by utilising our platform. We started as a startup and one of our core commitments is to support SMEs and share our knowledge and expertise with them to grow their business.
I will end this with our most exciting announcement of the year, and the most-awaited event, Expo 2020. Last year, talabat was announced as the official food delivery platform for Expo 2020. We will be showcasing our state-of-the-art cloud kitchen concept, robotics, autonomous vehicles and more in our two-level venue, featuring an assortment of restaurants serving freshly prepared food. We look forward to welcoming you there!