Hellofood Online and App Review-Taking Ecommerce/MCommerce in Kenya to The Next Level

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Every year for the last three years or so we have been saying the time is ripe for ecommerce or m-commerce to thrive in in Kenya, but every year things never turned out as predicted. Late last I wrote a post detailing some of the challenges that need to be tackled for the ecommerce to thrive in this country. Some of the issues talked about then were: Ideal site for ecommerce/mcommerce, Payment system, Delivery and Trust Issue.

By all accounts, Online Payment systems are no longer an issue, they come in many shapes and colors.  I also think there are number suitable websites and mobile sites which are ideal for the online transaction. People also seem to have learned how to give consumers great online experience. That leaves us with the delivery and the Trust Issue.

Delivery is a real problem. As I said last year the unplanned nature of Nairobi’s residential areas is a big stumbling block for e-commerce or m-commerce business in Kenya. But I still think there are many places within Nairobi which is fine and should not be held behind by other parts. Also I think that the use of collection points could help with messy places. A well-known and frequented place by residents can be used as the collection points.

For a country where 60% of the population use mobile money, we should not be talking about trust anymore. And  the actions of some of the big names like Safaricom, Bata Kenya and Airtel in the last few months has shown that the country is moving to an interesting time as far as ecommerce is concern in Kenya.   Bata Kenya went big with their Ecommerce site, which was launched towards the end of last year. Safaricom and Airtel put up pre-order sites for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and both reported to have received substantial pre-orders from Kenyans.

And that brings me to the topic of the day, have you ever heard of Hellofood.co.ke? Towards the end of last year a new local venture called Hellofood launched its online food delivery website in Kenya. I have been impressed on how they made it simple to order food online through Hellofood.co.ke. Three steps:

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  1. Enter Your Area. The operations are Still within Nairobi area only. The great news is that,  most places within Nairobi are covered, such as CBD/Town, Dagoreti Corner, Embakasi, Industrial Area, Kahawa West, Westlands, Ngara, Langata, South C, South B and many more
  2. Select a restaurant. Once you have indicated you area, the site allows you to select your favorite restaurant within the area.  For example by selecting CBD/Town, there are 30 restaurants within the CBD to choose from. Among those listed are BoBo’s, China Plate, Osteria, Tin-Tin, Swahili Plate, SiamThai.

In the process you can also filter your selection further based on the type of restaurant like Italian, Chinese, Thai, Pizza ….

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3. The delivery/Your food is on the way. Like a boss, at this stage Hellofood customer service team would do the rest to quickly get your food right to your desk or doorstep.  If you making a big order then it is advisable to do a pre-order a few days in advance

Hellofood is striving to provide the best food delivery platform in Kenya and I think they are capable of doing it. First, their online website is well structured and very easy to use.  They are also taking the fact that Kenya for example is a mobile market and therefore have a mobile app out which I will talk about shortly.

Hellofood is an affiliate of the global brand Foodpanda based in Berlin. The local Kenyan team offices are based along Kindaruma road ,Nairobi. The technical aspect of the site is handled from Germany while the local team negotiate partnerships with restaurants and ensure smooth operations. Below are the reflections of Bryan Kariuki, the managing director of Hellofood :

  “Our belief is that ordering food online should be fuss-free, fast and fun. Restaurants are definitely expecting an increase in customer numbers from the cooperation with Hellofood. We’ve spoken to many restaurant owners, and the online delivery service will be enthusiastically embraced by their customers as their hectic lives can take the leisure out of dining at restaurant premises”.

And Mr. Kihiko, owner of a coffee house in South B agreed:

“Without a doubt, the exposure from Hellofood’s online ordering website would increase business revenue”

Mobile APP

To be success in this part of the world, you have to think Mobile. Hellofood launched their mobile app, for both Android and iOS at the end of January this year. Around 250,000 Hellofood customers downloaded the app by the beginning of April 2013. Now it is ranked as number one food app in Kenya and seven other countries.  Ralf Wanzel , The Co-founder and global Managing Director is happy with the progress:

  “We are impressed by the overwhelming feedback we received from our customers and the worldwide success of our mobile app. Leading the global mobile app market for online food delivery services makes us extremely proud. The success in the first eleven weeks demonstrates the need for innovation. We are very ambitious and want to continue this growth and become the number one food app worldwide.”

Rankings a side, the app gives the users the fastest way to order food with a smartphone or a tablet. The process remain the same as the online website. Specify your local area and the app lists all restaurants available nearby. After placing an order, the user receives a notification with all order details and the expected delivery time.

The app provides enough details and clear description of the type of menu available in each of the listed restaurants. Well, this is important in making it easy for people to place their orders. But one thing which I would like to see is the restaurant food ratings. The ratings should be done by the users and those who have had the experience of eating at a given restaurant. Ratings in my view would help the customers especially the new ones to choose good restaurants. On the other end of the scale, the restaurants would try to improve their services and quality of food they offer the public.

Overall, I like the approach the Hellofood is taking but the fact that the minimum order level is Ksh.1200, could be a problem. In other parts of the world, that probably is fine but in Kenya, the amount is too high. Once in a while people do go out of their way to spend over Ksh.1000 on a single meal but in normal circumstances, most people in Kenya do not spend more than Ksh.300.

My suggestion is that they should find a way to reduce the minimum order level to around Ksh.300. The restriction is probably informed by the cost of delivery to different parts of the city but if they want mass adoption then lowering the minimum order level is the way to go. One way of lowering the cost of delivery is working closely with restaurants. Most restaurants in Nairobi do deliver food to the buildings and houses around them.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Kennedy Kachwanya
Lead Blogger at Kachwanya.com
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Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.
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