Jérémy Doutté is the Vice President of Talabat in the United Arab Emirates and currently leads the operation, expansion and growth of the company in the United Arab Emirates market and leads a team of over 250 employees from 31 nationalities. He came to talabat in September 2020 and has a wealth of experience in the e-commerce industry. Doutté joined talabat from Jumia E-Commerce, an online marketplace in Africa, where he held various positions during his eight years in Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria, most recently as Executive Vice President in January 2016. Prior to this, he was Jeremy’s acting consultant McKinsey & Company.
Doutté was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in France. He completed his studies in 2007 with a business bachelor’s degree at the ESSEC Business School (France) and completed his training in 2012 with a Master of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School (USA).
Please tell us more about the beginnings of Talabat.
Talabat was born and raised in the MENA region. It was first founded as a tech startup in 2004 by young Kuwaiti entrepreneurs when we were connected to the internet via a modem. With the advent of the internet and the rise in smartphone penetration rates in Kuwait, Talabat’s growth skyrocketed and in 2015 it was acquired by Delivery Hero, the world’s leading provider of online and mobile food orders.
Headquartered in Dubai since 2012, Talabat shares the vision of the UAE leadership, especially when it comes to creating roadmaps and guidelines that will facilitate digital transformation and AI integration in the region. Talabat is now the leading online grocery delivery and Q-Commerce (Q for quick) app in the region with a presence in 9 markets across the region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq) and has grown exponentially over the past 17 years.
As a delivery service, Talabat was at the fore during the pandemic; how did you deal with the challenges?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has irrevocably changed the way business is done around the world. Our first response was to ensure the preservation and safety of our ecosystem – our customers, drivers, partners and the community as a whole.
The business continuity of our partners was a top priority and we focused our efforts on helping them through this difficult phase. In April 2020, we announced a “Community Continuity” plan to support partner restaurants with commission deferrals and fee waivers for 6 months to support the cash flow of 4,500 small and medium-sized restaurants. During the most critical period March to September, our SMB partners grew an average of 25%, with some in the UAE growing by more than 100%.
We have also postponed renewal fees during the pandemic while new restaurants have been added to the platform for free. And earlier this year, we increased the frequency of restaurant affiliate cash settlement to twice a week to further support and empower our affiliates and boost cash flow, as we’ve found that having reliable cash flow is an important area.
In terms of safety, we were the first in the industry to put in place the strictest COVID-19 security measures, such as tipping the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all drivers, as well as the option of contactless and cashless delivery for customers, to ensure the safety of drivers and others.
We were also one of the first private companies to proactively reach out to the UAE health authorities in December 2020 to facilitate a vaccination campaign for Talabat drivers who play a vital role in helping communities during the National Sterilization Program and Ramadan played in the UAE. Not only did the drivers make sure we got our favorite meals on our doorstep, they also delivered 90,000 meals and 4,000 medication packages free to those in need across the country during these troubled times.
Thanks to the great support and efforts of the Ministry of Health – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) and the Ministry of Health and Prevention, almost all of our fleet in the UAE received the first shot and half of the fleet shot and shot the second advised that all of our drivers in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain have been fully vaccinated since April 2021. This makes our drivers feel more confident on the job, and even customers and restaurant partners have welcomed the initiative and expressed that they feel safer knowing that Talabat drivers are choosing to have a vaccination.
However, our initiatives are not limited to the pandemic. We are continuously investing in various projects, most recently in the Talabat-Patrol road safety initiative, which we launched in April together with the Abu Dhabi police and the Integrated Transport Center (ITC). As part of this project, 20 Talabat safety officers, known as Talabat patrollers, were deployed in the Emirates to ensure that drivers continue to adhere to road safety rules for their own safety and that of the community. We are also currently in the process of setting up rest areas for riders in the summer.
Many aggregators have come under fire for the charges; What do you think of this and how did you deal with the backlash?
Our earnings are actually used to support our ecosystem, including our business partners, drivers, employees and ultimately our customers, by providing them with improved online services to ensure their satisfaction. Our commission has different levels based on many factors, the three most important being the cost of delivery, marketing and operations.
● Shipping costs:
The majority of our commission income, as well as a high proportion of the delivery fee, flow directly into payment for the delivery. Our size and technology enable us to provide the best service in terms of coverage area and customer experience at the lowest possible cost.
A large part also goes to improving the restaurant community. It does this through spending on marketing campaigns, promotions, and other incentives to ensure that existing partners are supported and to attract new customers.
The remaining income goes to Talabat. We use it to pay our fixed costs – rent, electricity, water, administration, etc., as well as our employees.
Therefore, reducing commission fees would have an immediate impact on our delivery partners as it would be impossible to maintain the current level of delivery service – which affects the customer experience.
How is the company positioning itself on the market with strong marketing campaigns?
At talabat, positioning is simple – it is to provide the best value and experience to our consumers and that philosophy is reflected in our efforts. We take a very integrated approach.
Be data-driven – data is the oil of the digital age and in most cases is critical to the success of a strong marketing campaign. talabat is a purpose-driven technology powerhouse that relies on data and analytics to better understand and serve its entire ecosystem.
Be customer and partner-centric – Our tech hub with over 300 talented employees in our headquarters in Dubai brings undeniable advantages so that we can work closely with them to better understand customer behavior so that we can constantly adapt our services and offerings to improve their online travel and experience. It’s important to know that our restaurant partners are also critical to our success as we feed their feedback into our business and create value-added offerings that people can identify with.
Be agile – agility also plays an important role. We are an agile company and despite our growth in the last 17 years we remain committed to a startup mentality that enables us to constantly break new ground in order to be creative and thereby improve our offer and our campaigns.
What are your next plans in the region?
A recent Mastercard study showed the rapid growth of online shopping, with nearly three in four UAE consumers shopping more online than they did before the pandemic.
Over the past year, talabat has identified a need in the market for a service that provides people with a safe, fast and reliable online grocery supplier. Q-commerce was introduced and talabat Mart (also known as t-Mart) was launched in Dubai in February 2020. t-Mart is a 24/7 storefront with no storefront and the first in the region to deliver groceries in less than 30 minutes. Today t-Mart has more than 20 t-Marts in the United Arab Emirates with plans for further expansion this year.
Also, when we spoke to some of our partners, one of their concerns was rent versus profit. Many are opting for alternatives like cloud kitchens with delivery-only to a wider audience at a lower cost. The cloud kitchen concept has no dining options and offers restaurants a cost- and time-efficient way of fulfilling larger order quantities. We currently have seven cloud kitchens in the UAE and plan to have 12 more by the end of the year.
We’re also working very closely with government agencies to make sure we’re going in the same direction. Through our partnerships with Dubai Economy and the Department of Economic Development in Ras Al Khaimah, for example, we offer Emirati house project owners the opportunity to expand their business by using our platform. We started as a startup and one of our core tasks is to support SMEs and share our knowledge and expertise with them in order to grow their business.
I will end this with our most exciting announcement of the year and the most anticipated event, Expo 2020. Last year, talabat was announced as the official food delivery platform for Expo 2020. Art Cloud kitchen concept, robotics, autonomous vehicles and more in our two story venue with a selection of restaurants serving freshly prepared food. We look forward to seeing you there!