24. January 2022

10-minute dash: New startups join fast delivery race


For years, Ahmed Shrif managed delis for different individuals. Now he has his personal enterprise, a nook retailer referred to as Chippendale Scoop he bought from the Greek household that had lengthy operated the bodega close to Sydney’s Redfern station.

One of his first strikes was placing the shop’s small however tasty number of cold and hot takeaway meals on-line by way of delivery suppliers DoorDash and Menulog.

It has accomplished fairly nicely, however there aren’t as many orders as Shrif, who can also be coping with the lack of customized from the scholars that usually parade from the station to the University of Sydney close by, would love.

Like thousands of other business owners, Ahmed Shrif is trying to bring his corner store into the 21st century. But with instant online grocery stores arriving, he has new competition.

Like hundreds of different enterprise homeowners, Ahmed Shrif is making an attempt to carry his nook retailer into the twenty first century. But with on the spot on-line grocery shops arriving, he has new competitors.Credit:Rhett Wyman

So his subsequent transfer might be to make the remainder of the shop’s vary, from ice cream to fruit, pet meals to toothpaste, out there on-line. “There are lots of people who don’t want to go to the shopping centre, so they come here,” Shrif says. “But it’s more convenient online maybe.”

In a approach, Shrif will join a gold rush that has led to a flurry of Australian startups vying to grow to be the nation’s subsequent billion-dollar firm, all promising to ship grocery necessities at retail costs inside 10 or quarter-hour.

Milkrun, Voly and Send (which all stylise their names with block capital letters in an obvious consensus on Millennial tastes) are the three most superior new gamers, all launched final yr.

With brands catering to millennial tastes, Milkrun, Voly and Send are all hoping to build a cult like following of early adopters before branching out.

With manufacturers catering to millennial tastes, Milkrun, Voly and Send are all hoping to construct a cult like following of early adopters earlier than branching out.Credit:Composite: Monique Westerman

The playbook, tried and examined abroad by firms reminiscent of Germany’s Gorillas — the quickest agency in its nation to succeed in a $1 billion valuation — is to arrange a community of “dark stores” in inner-city places that maintain grocery store items however are inaccessible to the general public.

Riders on electrical bikes then zoom from the shops to clients’ houses when orders are available in by way of a smartphone app. It’s not simply fruit, milk and canned items both. Users can order tampons, condoms and RATs — a minimum of once they’re in inventory.

So far, Voly and Milkrun are solely in Sydney whereas Send has additionally launched in Melbourne, however the corporations is not going to be constrained to these cities for lengthy.

And in a departure from the final wave of delivery firms reminiscent of Uber Eats, Deliveroo and DoorDash, the newcomers are using their workers instantly, that means they’ve a minimal wage, employees’ compensation and superannuation funds amongst different advantages. They additionally solely use their very own services, slightly than partnering with main supermarkets or nook shops.

The prize is a share of the $100 billion Australians spend yearly on grocery store objects however the newcomers should take care of the giants of the sector: Coles and Woolworths.

Then there are the comfort chains like 7-Eleven and unbiased grocers reminiscent of IGA and, far additional down the size, individuals like Shrif, who nonetheless is aware of lots of his clients by identify.

So far, the service from the brand new apps is superb.

Delivery riders Mariella Bagang and Chintan Mewada work for Send in Melbourne. Unlike gig economy riders, they enjoy traditional employment.

Delivery riders Mariella Bagang and Chintan Mewada work for Send in Melbourne. Unlike gig economic system riders, they get pleasure from conventional employment.Credit:Paul Jeffers

The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age ordered a single apricot from Voly for $1.70, with no delivery charge, at 9.29pm on a Thursday evening in mid-December. It arrived at 9.37pm with a hand-drawn card of a smiling, anthropomorphic avocado ($?), an actual free avocado (roughly $1), and a packet of Green & Black’s chocolate (about $4.25).

The delivery, in fact, misplaced cash for Voly. Indeed, as startups, not one of the three are worthwhile and out there measures of their scale are restricted. Voly says it serves 42 suburbs in Sydney, Milkrun 34, and Send says 46 throughout Sydney and Melbourne.

Voly co-founder Mark Heath is open concerning the firm’s technique. “The reality is the industry as a whole is focusing on growth more than it is profitability,” he says. “But Australia, in particular, as a market is one in which that path to profitability is incredibly clear.”

He has a couple of issues in thoughts: encouraging clients to purchase extra objects per order, defraying the delivery price over extra items; negotiating higher offers with suppliers as the corporate grows; and tailoring every darkish shops’ items to its small native space.


By holding only some thousand totally different objects sourced from wholesalers and retailers, the businesses purpose to have the ability to pivot rapidly.

(Encouraging clients to purchase extra items per order might be difficult for Voly and its rivals as a result of their lack of a minimal order dimension and fast speeds are a part of what differentiates them from the established delivery companies operated by Woolworths and Coles.)

One factor Voly’s founders say it is not going to do is jack up its costs. “That’s definitely not part of our plan,” says the corporate’s different founder, Thibault Henry. “And the reason why this model will work is stickiness. If you sell at retail price, people just come back.”

Mark Heath (left) and Thibault Henry, the co-founders of Voly, say they want to keep prices in line with retail stores.

Mark Heath (left) and Thibault Henry, the co-founders of Voly, say they wish to preserve costs in keeping with retail shops.Credit:Janie Barrett

Milkrun, which charged $2.99 for a pattern delivery, is seen by some because the market chief due to its rumoured fundraising prowess and high-profile founder Dany Milham, who was additionally behind the Koala mattress model.

Milham sees his firm as finally among the many largest within the nation, maybe a $10 billion enterprise. It’s evident in his description of the corporate’s branding.

“We chose the blue, the very strong Milkrun blue, because Woolies is green and Coles is red and we have to be able to stand out,” Milham informed The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in his first interview since founding the corporate.

Milham is aiming excessive, constructing a legion of consumers that may come again to Milkrun time and again because it expands right into a burgeoning vary of services and products far past grocery store items. “We could sell them anything,” he says.

Milham’s rejoinder to the critics who see Milkrun and the opposite gamers as nook retailer rivals with an costly delivery community is that they’re solely seeing a part of the image.

He envisions Facebook teams to let customers have enter on merchandise, reminiscent of Jewish customers recommending good Kosher meals, and a Discord on-line discussion board for probably the most devoted customers. If Milham could make it a actuality — and Milkrun’s social media feeds already present enthused clients — it might be a far cry from Australians’ relationship with the grocery store majors, which already reap the benefits of their buyer base to supply every part from insurance coverage to bank cards.

The vital case

Others aware of the business, however who spoke on situation of anonymity, are deeply unconvinced.

They see a enterprise mannequin that has to hire shops in costly suburbs as a result of they are usually stuffed with dense housing and well-off clients however expenses no or minor delivery charges, and makes use of not one of the identical labour price financial savings that firms reminiscent of Uber profit from.

University of Western Australia senior lecturer Caleb Goods, an skilled on the gig economic system, says: “Often when these platforms start up they’re trying to gain market share, they price the deliveries quite low, they pay workers a reasonable hourly rate.”

But “there are questions about the financial sustainability of Uber Eats and Deliveroo and they’re using a very different non-employment model”.

In the sceptics’ view, the moment grocery apps will go one in every of two methods: promote out to a longtime participant eager to enter a brand new market section and profit from its model and clients or step by step increase costs, particularly if a number of the different gamers bow out.

Already, German multinational meals delivery firm Delivery Hero is likely one of the largest buyers in Gorillas. Major retailers, reminiscent of Woolworths, Coles, and 7-Eleven, all declined to remark.

Rob Adams, the founding father of Send, insists his enterprise might be worthwhile long run, trying to abroad progenitors which have already reached markers of sustainability and Australians’ excessive grocery expenditure in comparison with different international locations.

With using delivery apps skyrocketing in the course of the pandemic, Adams is bullish on the sector’s future. “I think we’re seeing a profound shift away from the conventional sort of big weekly shop behaviour over to a more frequent, small shopping format of rapid grocery delivery,” he says.

Deep pockets

But for Send, Milkrun and Voly to achieve success an unlimited quantity of enterprise capital money might be required.

“So the cap raising environment for this business is a super intensive one,” says Send’s Adams. “Already a considerable amount of capital has been poured into the space, and I’d imagine hundreds of millions of dollars will be poured into the Australian rapid grocery delivery market over the coming years.”

More capital equals extra shops, riders, items, promoting and in the end customers, giving an enormous benefit to whichever firm strikes first and quickest.

Voly’s newest capital elevating spherical noticed it soak up seed funding of $18 million, led by the Indian arm of Sequoia Capital, one of many oldest and most storied Silicon Valley enterprise capital funds, whereas Send’s newest spherical was $4 million. Milkrun didn’t disclose how a lot it had raised.

Another key piece of potential revenue for these apps is promoting so-called ‘sin goods’.

The Voly doc describes including alcohol and cigarettes to its retailer as a “quick win” and the attraction, each for customers and the corporate, is clear.

But the well being questions of including such objects are apparent.

In response to written questions, a Voly spokeswoman confirmed the corporate deliberate so as to add a “range of products over time” however mentioned it wouldn’t be rushed and would include tech and processes to make sure clients’ security.

Safety extra broadly has been an issue for the gig economic system delivery firms, which noticed their manufacturers battered when 5 riders (who had been contractors slightly than staff and consequently paid per delivery slightly than by the hour) had been killed in two months in late 2020. There have been enhancements since.


Transport Workers Union secretary Michael Kaine, a critic of the unbiased contractor mannequin, mentioned: “We welcome these newer companies directly engaging their riders, rather than taking the low-road of forcing workers into precarious and insecure arrangements with no rights.

“But the reality is that without blanket minimum standards applying across the industry for all workers, we risk continuing the same cycle of pressure and abuse which makes food delivery so deadly.”

Uber has lengthy defended its contractor mannequin, mentioning that its riders benefit from the flexibility of setting their very own hours. A spokeswoman didn’t touch upon the newcomers however mentioned Uber Eats was serving to companies from nationwide retailers to native fishmongers get on-line and ship items to assist them develop.

Whether that mannequin, which serves the likes of Shrif’s Chippendale Scoop, or the darkish shops of Milkrun, Send and Voly in the end triumphs is a multibillion-dollar query, and one that may have profound penalties for that the majority native establishment: the nook retailer.

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