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Exclusive: “Digitization has changed how customers interact”

Deliveroo's Kuwait GM Seham AlHusaini shares her thoughts on women empowerment, the Kuwait F&B sector, major trends in e-commerce and more ...

"Women in Kuwait have empowered themselves, which is the best part of our story" "Kuwait is a food lover’s dream ... it's a huge market for any company in the F&B space" The most important trends coming to light are "convenience and time scarcity"

London-headquartered food delivery service Deliveroo entered Kuwait, its second market in the Middle East, by partnering with more than 900 restaurants in the country earlier this year. Deliveroo plans to employ more than 500 people in Kuwait – its 14th market overall – which will be overseen by its newly appointed Kuwait GM Seham alHusaini.

Kuwait, which already enjoys a strong presence of food delivery services such as Talabat and Carriage, is the third largest food and beverage market in the GCC. The F&B sector in the country is expected to grow by 9.6 percent by 2021, according to a MENA Research Partners study.

Seham AlHusaini shared her thoughts on women empowerment, the Kuwait F&B sector, major trends in e-commerce, disruptive technology, and more in an exclusive interview with AMEinfo.



Q: Could you share your thoughts on what it means to be the GM of Deliveroo's Kuwait market?

Seham AlHusaini: Having transitioned into this role from another tech initiative, I couldn't be more at home at Deliveroo. I love the culture, the diversity, the shared drive, and the sheer ambition across teams. Being the GM of Deliveroo in Kuwait is an extremely empowering role. It’s an opportunity to take everything that Deliveroo has built globally, and expand it to a very exciting market. There’s a lot of bridging that needs to be done in the role, and I’m excited to adopt Deliveroo’s global mission and bring it to life in Kuwait in its own unique way.


Q: What are your thoughts on woman empowerment? How do you think women in leadership are shaping the GCC market?

Seham AlHusaini: I'm proud to be a Kuwaiti woman in this generation, to have a path paved by many successful and talented female leaders. I think women in Kuwait have empowered themselves, which is the best part of our story. They've empowered themselves through education, by being courageous and by proving that gender is not an indicator of how well someone will perform in a certain role. It gives me great pride to see so many female leaders in Kuwait – from CEOs, to MPs, ministers, artists, and so much more. It’s empowering to see women in positions of power who are adding value to our companies and institutions.

In my opinion, what sets female leaders apart in our region is how important their roles are in the long run. By merely participating and being active in their roles, these women are ensuring that future generations of women continue to choose a path that allows them to contribute to making our markets and communities better. It’s no secret that seeing another woman in a position of power paves the way for future generations to imagine that one day, these doors can open for them too. I believe that, regardless of whether you're a man or a woman, the true leaders in our communities are the ones who are being active and allowing their talent to shine and move us forward.


Q: What makes Kuwait's market ideal for entrepreneurs?

Seham AlHusaini: I think there are a few factors here, but the most important one has to be education. Since the early 1960s, there has been a steady focus on education in Kuwait. As a country, Kuwait has invested in educating its younger population through various scholarships, public education, and training programs. Education is a fundamental building block for any entrepreneurial hub. Kuwaitis are also well-traveled, and have been for a long time, with many even traveling for college on government-funded scholarship programs or to extend community support.



Q: With a strong presence of Talabat and Carriage in the Kuwait market, how is Deliveroo positioned to make the most of the seemingly small e-commerce market?


Seham AlHusaini: Kuwait is a highly competitive market with some well-established players that have set the bar high. Taking the decision to come in as a contender meant really digging deep to assess whether we felt we could add value in the market. In the few short months since our launch, we have no doubt that we have already made an impression and we plan to stay on a path of strong growth, helping people to get amazing food whenever and wherever they want it. Our vision and strategy are clear, and we feel very lucky to be supported by a world-class team.

Our focus at Deliveroo is to be the go-to provider of food delivery services in Kuwait. To do that, we need to build great partnerships with restaurant owners, customers, and the community as a whole. Deliveroo aims to be the definitive food company, and our presence in this market is very exciting. Kuwait is a food lover’s dream, and I would argue that it's a huge market for any company in the F&B space.


Q: What are the major trends likely to impact the e-delivery and e-commerce sectors in Kuwait?

Seham AlHusaini: There are several key factors here, the most important of which is convenience and time scarcity. It’s no secret that we live in a time in which time is the most valuable commodity we have. Food ordering, in particular, has changed dramatically due to technology. In a region in which 60 percent of smartphone users have a food-related app on their devices (KPMG, 2017), digitization has changed how customers interact with restaurants. For a lot of families, the nightly dinner routine looks drastically different from how it looked just a few years ago. If I had to pick one major trend, it would be how convenience keeps getting translated across all touch points in the food value chain.

In the short time since our launch, we’ve even witnessed just how important convenience is to our customers first-hand. When we launched our credit card feature (the ability to safely store your encrypted credit card details within the app), we noticed a drop in cash payments as customers became more comfortable opting for e-payments. It seems clear that our customers are choosing a food delivery experience that is as friction-free as possible, and we are excited to offer features that will continue to enhance this feeling.


Q: Could you share more detail on how strong of a disruption technology has been to the Middle East food sector?

Seham AlHusaini: Technology is definitely driving the food sector in the Middle East. We talk a lot about how social media and food delivery apps are affecting the online food ordering experience for customers, but I think it’s also interesting to bring up what this shift in technology will mean for the brick-and-mortar restaurant landscape as well.

As the delivery scene continues to change and evolve, we’re also witnessing restaurants adapting as well. Restaurants increasingly see delivery as an essential part of their business as the dine-at-home trend picks up pace. With more and more customers opting for online deliveries, the dining-in at at-home element is vital and something that more restaurants are paying serious attention to.



Q: How have the growth of social media and online payment systems impacted the food and hospitality industry?

Seham AlHusaini: It’s no secret that social media is huge in our region. Social media has allowed us to explore new things, and share our experiences with others so that they might do the same. And a lot of people love sharing their food pictures! It’s also been interesting to note how important being active on social media is for many brands. For some businesses, an Instagram page is their first touch point with a potential customer. Social media has also given F&B brands a channel to talk to their customers and engage with them in an effort to further enhance their experience with the brand.

Social media has also driven entrepreneurship in the region, especially a visual medium like Instagram. Today, we’re seeing restaurants that are operating almost exclusively out of online orders — some don’t even have a brick-and-mortar location. Until just a few years ago, no one would have thought having an Instagram home business was possible.

The success of online payment systems is truly an indication of this growing trend of the value consumers are placing on convenience. We are seeing an increasing number of our customers opting to save their credit card details within the app to facilitate their online ordering experience.