Welcome back to Entrepreneur’s Insights! For those readers who are new to The Neo Dimension, we held interviews with entrepreneurs from all around the world. Through this interview, readers will hear from the entrepreneurs on the industry trends as well as their sharing on the startup journey.
Entrepreneur’s Insights is a bi-monthly interview written in Q&A format. This time we take the opportunity to interview Mr Ralf Wenzel from foodpanda
Ralf Wenzel is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of foodpanda group. Before, he held the position as the Group Chief Operating Officer at Skrill Holdings that operates the online payment system Skrill/Moneybookers. Prior to that, Ralf was the Senior Vice-President of Sales & Business Development at Jamba/Jamster. Ralf holds a degree in Computer Science from Berlin University.
- Technology has changed radically for the past decade. Internet used to be a place where people search and exchange information. Now, it has become an inseparable part of our social life. What trend in the Internet market did you foresee in the year 2015?
We believe the past years were the years for desktop and 2015 will be even more the year of mobile. We are investing heavy amount of our time and resources on our mobile application as that’s where we believe the market is headed. Every company that can make it to his customer’s home screen on his smartphone is the one that will stay and for the rest the market will be very challenging. For a company focused on service and convenience, it really comes to life when all it takes a tab on your mobile be it wherever you are from stuck in traffic jam, at your desk in the office or sitting in your living room.
- There are increasingly more and more competitors entering the food ordering business in both web and mobile sectors, how foodpanda is going to approach the market in order to stand out from the crowd?
foodpanda started in 2012 and has emerged to be the clear market leader in Singapore and most of its other markets. It’s a result of strong management, great user friendly product and commitment to customer as the king being a very service focused company. Our ambitions were always high to be the number one choice platform for the customers and we have grown and iterated reacting to our customer behavior.
Nonetheless, our biggest competitor is still the traditional telephone, the restaurant leaflets, the kitchen magnets. We are part of the internet revolution and want to switch food ordering from offline to online or directly to mobile. It is much more convenient and easier and faster through our app or website, than to call the restaurants via telephone and manually place your order.
- foodpanda has been making acquisitions everywhere. Is this going to be strategy for expansion, especially in Asia?
With the recent selected acquisitions, adding to our already strong foodpanda businesses, we have consolidated our leading position in Asia. Moving on our focus is on making the customer experience an even happier one with faster delivery from only the best restaurants and more interesting features on our mobile and web application.
- Why is foodpanda choosing to make acquisitions instead of other forms of expansion? What advantages does a business acquisition provide to foodpanda?
Our recent business acquisitions are very strategic and aimed at immediate gains for our customers and restaurants. With the acquisition of Roomservice and Koziness, Dial-a-dinner brands in Singapore, Hong Kong respectively, we have gained additional delivery resources and a team expert in operations. We are further empowering them with our automation and tracking tools to make it a more operationally efficient business ensuring improvement in the market overall and direct benefits for the end customer.
- What are the criteria that foodpanda looks at when selecting target markets to focus on, and how do you identify the businesses you want to acquire?
We enter into markets where we see a big opportunity to offer customers convenience in getting their food delivered and at the same time restaurants a channel for incremental revenue. Food ordering always existed in these markets but primarily via phone orders and our role is to make it convenient and easy with a click of a button on mobile or web. For restaurants it offers them a channel for more marketing exposure online, more new customers and more revenue through the delivery orders.
- What are the challenges or opportunities for foodpanda in the year 2015?
From where we started 3 years in Singapore as our first market, we are today one of the biggest choice platforms globally from Asia to Middle East, Africa to whole of Central Eastern Europe, and Latin America.
Our challenge would remain to get as many customers to go mobile and enjoy the real convenience over calling restaurants over phone. We will not stop to invest in our customer service and continuously improve our product and offerings.
- What are the cultural difference or barriers dealing with restaurants in Asia than the ones in Europe?
In many countries in Asia we have realized how marketing for a single restaurant owner starts and stops at the very traditional channels such as flyering in his neighborhood, and we have to get them past their hesitance to adapt to the digital world where things are more targeted and much more efficient. For restaurants, foodpanda is much more than an online order marketplace. We are experts in online, as well as offline marketing and serve as an extremely strong marketing channel for our partners.
- As an entrepreneur yourself, what are the attributes do you think that an entrepreneur should possess?
I believe an entrepreneur is one who sees a bigger purpose in life and wants to do something, create something that challenges the way people see, measure things and finds an interesting and better way to do so. One with strong passion to what he does, great amount of determination and willingness to persevere.
- For the graduates, do you advocate the idea of starting up fresh out from the college?
I would go even a step further, one does not need to be a graduate to be an entrepreneur, four years at the university already offer a great platform to explore such an initiative. One big advice I will give is, there is no best idea that you need to commit your life to, all you need to start somewhere, some things that excites you.
- It is rumored that every investor has his or her own set of checklist while evaluating a business venture. As an investor you, do you mind to share with us yours?
My checklist would be 1) market size 2) scope for expansion 3) similar players in the market/globally 4) current active customer base 5) revenue model/s 6) profitability target and very important 7) the team