Digitalising Asia’s food ecosystem: How this delivery platform is creating possibilities beyond tech

Since its founding 10 years ago, foodpanda has pioneered tech solutions to uplift its community of merchants, riders and customers – and it’s hungry to make an even bigger difference

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, innovative delivery platform foodpanda aims to continue finding even better ways to enhance the lives of its merchants, riders and customers. PHOTO: FOODPANDA

Just a decade ago, ordering pizza meant dialling a landline, waiting patiently for an hour or so for the delivery to arrive and paying in cash. Food options for deliveries were few then, and ordering in was perhaps a once-a-week treat. Today, food and groceries get delivered anytime, anywhere, at just the touch of a button – flying robots can even feed hungry sailors or holiday makers offshore.

Case in point: Pioneering food delivery platform foodpanda made headlines last month when it used drones to deliver hot meals from Sentosa to customers at St John’s Island. This follows a successful trial in August 2020, when they delivered five packets of ayam penyet (“smashed” fried chicken) from Marina South Pier to a vessel 3km away in under 10 minutes, a feat that is hard to envision a few years ago.  

From developing Singapore’s first food delivery platform and mobile ordering app in 2012 to piloting drone deliveries, foodpanda has blazed a trail in the digital transformation of the food delivery ecosystem.

Putting technology in the hands of more users 

Since it started operations in Singapore a decade ago, foodpanda has grown by leaps and bounds, becoming Asia’s largest mobile and online food ordering marketplace in more than 400 cities across 11 markets.  

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic presented the world with unprecedented challenges. Daily lives changed overnight, as customers stayed home, restaurants faced dining restrictions and livelihoods were affected as the job market became more uncertain. Food and grocery deliveries became an essential service and so did the need for an entire economic segment to quickly digitalise, especially small local businesses. 

In its inaugural Social Impact Report, foodpanda reported an investment of almost $50 million across the region last year to support local communities, digitalise Micro-, Small and Medium-Enterprises (MSMEs), and train and upskill delivery riders across Asia.

Most of the funds were channelled to help MSMEs such as wet market vendors, hawkers and mom-and-pop stores adopt digital tools to expand revenue streams and reach new customers. The company also invested in relief initiatives, such as fee waivers, to help merchants cope with digital transformation. 

In July last year, foodpanda employees in Singapore reached out to 200 hawkers in five hawker centres to teach them how to use online food delivery services to boost their businesses. 

“The hawker culture is a large part of Singapore’s food scene and we have to do everything that we can to help our hawkers survive this pandemic,” says Mr Amirul Shah, commercial director at foodpanda Singapore. “Technology might be daunting for many of our local hawkers, and these face-to-face interactions helped us better understand their concerns and address specific questions they have when working with a food delivery platform."

Using technology for inclusive growth 

A strong advocate for using technology to enhance lives, foodpanda does not just harness tech to give customers and merchants greater convenience, but also to create more opportunities for people to improve their lives.

Last year alone, foodpanda provided earning opportunities for more than 370,000 new riders across Asia – many of whom were workers displaced by the pandemic – and invested more than $8 million in rider welfare and benefits, such as safety training, insurance and financial support for the purchase of bicycles or motorbikes. 

In Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, foodpanda invested an additional $120,000 to upskill riders in language, personal growth and marketing programmes for future career readiness. It also launched an eLearning portal in partnership with Temasek Polytechnic and microlearning platform Gnowbe, giving riders easy access to hundreds of courses.

Across Asia, foodpanda has also empowered women, persons with disabilities and other underprivileged communities to earn an income with dignity.

De-mystifying a career in tech

Today, more than 10 million users – customers, merchants and riders – interact with the foodpanda platform on any given day. The secret ingredient to its success? A dedicated team of tech professionals whom foodpanda has nurtured over the past decade. 

From identifying talent early on through mentorship programmes with local tertiary institutions, to upskilling and training programmes for new entrants and mid-career employees, foodpanda has made a career in tech more easily accessible for the local workforce. 

Through the GoSchool and #GetReadySG programmes, for instance, foodpanda dedicated 19,500 hours last year mentoring mid-career employees in its Singapore Tech Hub, as they transition to careers in data and software engineering.

Mr Muhammad Azhrin Bin Azahari went from part-time delivery rider to a full-time position as area manager, where he works to optimise rider supply and delivery demand. PHOTO: FOODPANDA

Mr Muhammad Azhrin Bin Azahari is one good example. He started out as a part-time delivery rider in 2015 to supplement his income. At weekly team meetings, the 33-year-old would gather concerns from other riders and share them with the foodpanda team.

Seeing his ability to connect with the rider community, the company hired him as a full-time employee in 2016 and he was entrusted with establishing foodpanda’s Malaysia operations. When he returned to Singapore in 2017, he was promoted to area manager, where he currently ensures that rider supply and delivery demand are optimised.

“I said yes immediately because I wanted to be part of a team that makes a difference in people’s lives,” says Mr Muhammad Azhrin. “I also want to help build foodpanda and grow alongside the company as we scale up in the next few years.” 

From just 285 employees in 2019, foodpanda’s regional headquarters located in Singapore is now powered by over 1,200 employees. Across Asia, almost 10,000 ‘pandas’ — as employees in foodpanda are affectionately called — work hard to make the platform, the ecosystem and the lives of their communities 1% better every day

Want to join the foodpanda community? Visit now. 

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