Customers in the UAE are used to having to wait for products ordered online to arrive at their doors. An up and coming startup, FODEL (Forward Delivery) is offering them an alternative.
The Middle East is known for not having standardized postal codes and strict addressing guidelines, which can lead to difficulties in completing deliveries. Other hurdles, such as traffic, often delay the shipment of a product. FODEL is offering to turn the concept of product delivery on its head. With their service, customers pick up their items from one of the 1000+ pickup locations in FODEL’s network.
FODEL already works with all kinds of e-tailers, and their latest partnership has seen them collaborate with the convenience store chain 7-Eleven.
Founded in 2018, the startup raised $2.6 million in a pre-series A round this March from multiple investors, including Saudi-based Al Rajhi family members.
Looking to find out more about their innovative service that has found success in many parts of the world, AMEinfo spoke to Soumia Benturquia, Founder & CEO of FODEL.
AMEinfo: Providing customers with pick-up points (you have more than 1000 in the UAE) provides an interesting solution to the issues faced by e-retailers in the country. The lack of standardized addresses and postal codes remains a hurdle when delivering goods in the UAE. What has the response been to your alternative delivery solution?
Benturquia: We are extremely satisfied with the response we have received so far as a growing number of online shoppers opt to have their online parcels to be delivered at their preferred FODEL pick-up locations. They can simply and very easily select a grocery, pharmacy, laundry, or a gas station which is part of FODEL’s network and their parcel will be delivered there. They can then simply pick it up whenever it’s most convenient for them. This way they enjoy the peace of mind of the delivery part and they don’t miss their delivery.
It’s a proven business model which has been very successful in US, Europe or China, and which FODEL brings to the region.
AMEinfo: Do you accommodate cash on delivery payment at your pickup points, or is a debit/credit card transaction necessary?
Benturquia: Cash on Delivery is a preferred payment method in the GCC. It was important for us to provide the best customer experience and enable the payment by cash in our network of pick-up locations.
Online customers have an option to pay for their orders by cash at FODEL pick-up point.
AMEinfo: Can you tell us about your clients and the type of goods they deliver to your pickup points? How do you store refrigerated goods, such as groceries, for example?
Benturquia: We already work with well-known logistics companies as well as ecommerce platforms including AWOK, JollyChic, Landmark Group and many others. We target small and medium parcels and non-perishables.
The parcels delivered at FODEL locations most frequently contain fashion items, electronic gadgets, accessories and in general the most popular products on sale at ecommerce platforms.
AMEinfo: Do you foresee partnership opportunities with major e-commerce retailers looking into the FODEL model of delivery? (Think Amazon.ae, etc.)
Benturquia: We are already in partnership with well-known ecommerce and logistics platforms as they can massively expand their delivery capacity. This is possible thanks to the scalability of the solution which provides crucial operational advantages during peak seasons such as White Fridays. Secondly, our solution is proven to significantly reduce Return To Origin (RTO) deliveries, which are failed deliveries because of unavailability of customers, and which currently account for 18% of all UAE e-commerce parcel dispatches. Finally, by using pick-up locations in high density areas, the logistics companies can deliver more goods faster, increasing their same day delivery success rate.
AMEinfo: What technological innovations do you hope to implement to your service (24/7 AI chatbots, machine learning analysis of pickup habits of consumers, etc.)
Benturquia: FODEL is first and foremost a technology company and our aim is to stay on top of the game regarding innovative solutions and new technologies. We are launching our 24/7 chatbots and planning to introduce new tech solutions by the end of the year. Being able to give shoppers full visibility of the parcel journey and be “in control” of the delivery experience is a priority for us.