Food delivery apps are the order of the day

By The Hindu

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Get delivered to your doorstep your favourite delicacy with a swipe of your finger

Feeling spent after five days of toil and stress at work and in no mood to fix a meal? Don’t fuss. Simply reach for the phone and make a couple of swipes before tuning in to the next episode of your favourite TV show. Voilà! The chow you’ve been craving for all week is at your doorstep soon enough.

With the mushrooming of app-based home delivery services in the city, “eating in” has become the new thing, with many denizens preferring to indulge their taste-buds while enjoying the familiar comforts of their homes or multi-task at work and still not skip that vital energy-boosting meal. Such apps are proving handy not just for gourmets keen to relish their favourite delicacy from a preferred restaurant but also for those looking to tuck into some authentic naadan food prepared by professional home chefs. PinStove, Swapp, Hoppon, Streetbell and Rabbito are some of the popular options available.

As the trend catches on, MetroPlus catches up with some entrepreneurs behind the tech-driven hunger solution in the city.

With over 100 home chefs on its rolls, PinStove has quickly established itself as a trusty conduit to connect customers with verified home chefs at their service. Officially launched in early 2017, the app was brought to life by a core team of four business partners — Baiju Muhammad, Bhagavan Das, Harry Croydon (from the U.K.) and Jayamohan R.S — of an IT company who often met up in London in course of their work.

“Though there’s a multitude of home chefs in the city, the sector used to be quite unorganised. With PinStove, we wanted to bring in more connect and cohesion. We knew that such an app would also remove uncertainties over placement and delivery of orders for chefs as well,” says Aneesh V.K., one of the directors of PinStove, head-quartered in Technopark.

Once a home chef registers himself or herself with PinStove, a team visits the person to “create a personal bond” and assesses the kitchen facilities for certification. The chefs are given the freedom to decide the prices depending on the dish. Despite choosing not to tie up with restaurants, Aneesh says the response from customers for home-cooked food has been rather overwhelming. Ask him what the most sought-after item on the menu is? “Inevitably, pothichoru,” he says.

For the fast-expanding mobile app Swapp, food delivery is one of the many services on offer. “We believe there are two kinds of hungry customers. First, those who need a bit of help to decide from where they want to eat or what they want to eat. Then there is the second type who knows exactly what food they want and where they want to buy it from, say a specific masala dosa or a specific biriyani from a specific restaurant. Swapp works for the second type, as it is a platform that fosters a direct relationship between a loyal customer and a restaurant,” says Bavani Srinu, who co-founded Swapp with her husband, Ashwin Panicker.

Once you are connected to a particular restaurant or eatery, the next time you open Swapp, they automatically appear in the “wallet section.” Users can thus keep on adding their personal favourites, in effect creating a list of preferred options. Bavani says Swapp aims to finish the delivery within 30 minutes from the time the food is prepared, depending on the locations, while also employing an “internal” delivery team.

For Hoppon, an e-commerce platform for “hyper-local businesses” currently supported only on Android, the food delivery department is an integral part of its larger business network. Started in January last year, Hoppon now predominantly focusses in and around Technopark, apart from certain “busy” pockets in the city. Though started with tie-ups with restaurants having delivery facility, the company has been utilising its own team for the purpose for the past six months or so, says Suri Amarnath, CEO of ThoughtLine Technologies, which powers Hoppon. Suri plans to expand the network beyond Thirumala in one direction and Pappanancode in another soon.

With rising prices of fuel and the sheer number of orders flooding in every hour, Streetbell, an online shopping market platform, however, prefers to tie up with only those restaurants with a home delivery service.

“The mechanism of having a small delivery team that has to rush to places may not be always feasible, especially on weekends when orders pile up,” feels Hari Sambudevan, CEO of Streetbell, which takes orders on both its app and website. Streetbell’s app, which was part of the Kerala Start-up Mission, was conceived and brought out by a core team of nine members. It now has tie-ups with over 50 restaurants in the city, with over 14,000 registered customers.

If the four key players in the market have IT-based origin, Rabbito, a stand-alone food delivery app launched earlier this year, took wing after a group of four friends faced a practical dilemma. “We once wanted to order a cake for a friend’s mother. However, we couldn’t find anyone in the locality. We then had to zoom in on a seller located some distance away and had to pay extra for delivery charges. That’s when we realised we could establish such a service ourselves. That’s how the idea came about,” says Anto Joseph C.J., a co-founder of Rabbito, who works with the police department.

When they consulted a software service provider in the city for technical support, it so happened that it had already done a similar model for a U.K.-based firm. “So we could easily formulate an Indianised version and add necessary features to it,” says Anto. With an in-house delivery apparatus, the three-month-old service is open from 11 am till 11 pm.

However, despite the digital ease of placing an order, a lot of manual work goes into the system, and sometimes things may not go according to the plan. “On delivery failures or other glitches, customers can avail themselves of either refund or loyalty points that can be redeemed for another order,” says Aneesh of PinStove. Hari of Streetbell points out that delivery issues can crop up once in a while, but “we cannot categorise a seller right from get-go.”

With an eye on the burgeoning market pie, Zomato, an online restaurant search and food delivery platform that was started in India and now has presence in over 20 countries, is taking baby steps in the city.

Restaurants and home chefs seem to embrace this symbiotic model of food delivery as it helps cut down transportation charges and tide over practical hurdles.

So, next time pangs of hunger gnaw your tummy and its either scorching hot or raining cats and dogs outside, just sate your appetite with a simple swipe of your finger.

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