As you probably know, online shopping has caused a drastic rise in the amount of shipping and delivery to individuals on a daily basis. This raises issues that one might expect, such as dealing with the volume or keeping track of that much data, but there is a complication that is less commonly talked about: how to deliver to people without a clear address. This issue is more common that you might think.
In emerging markets where the ecommerce boom has been exponential, as seen in UAE and KSA, the lack of a formal address system makes the delivery of mail extremely complicated. Countries where this is prevalent include the UAE, KSA, Pakistan, Nigeria and Egypt. Normally in these situations, companies will call the recipients of packages ahead of delivery, and recipients will need to clarify their location to the point of physically describing their home, what they are adjacent to etc. This process happens every time the recipient receives a package – think how often you receive parcels in the mail, then consider how frustrating that would be. There is also a high rate of mis-delivery or non-delivery using this method (between 25-35%).
Where there is an issue like this, there’s a gap in the market, and this is what inspired Fetchr. The company was founded in Dubai in 2012 by Idriss Al Rifai, who hails from an e-commerce background understood the pain points of the industry and was keen to build a scalable solution to match the growing needs of the region. Fetchr considers itself to be a tech startup rather than a logistics company, giving it the ability to adapt to the latest industry trends in comparison to traditional industry players with rigid organizational structures, inflexible operations and, ultimately, low delivery success rates. Through a wide network of 60 warehouses and a 4,000 employee-strong team, as well as an extremely impressive bank of 70 IT-oriented minds that have come together from Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Amazon and IBM, Fetchr has been made a success.
Fetchr provides a courier app (available for both Android and iOS) that allows users to arrange pick-ups and deliveries. Its courier service is both local and international, shipping to and within UAE, Saudi Arabia, China, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain and Egypt. All details of arranging and managing a delivery can be run through Fetchr’s app, which also uses your phone’s GPS as your address instead of putting recipients through the outdated method we described earlier. As well as using GPS, Fetchr’s team have built an AI scheduling channel that uses the data it collects to learn how to better identify and pinpoint locations in the future. The app leaves a notes section for any details you want to share, all of which helps the AI learn, but the days of repeated phone calls and lost packages are over.
However, the address issue is only one of the three problem areas in last-mile delivery services that Idris set out to solve: the other two were a lack of cash-on-delivery infrastructure, which Fetchr specialized in , and the issue of scalability. Fetchr has addressed this issue in order to enable businesses to use their shipping service as well as individuals, serving not only e-commerce clientele, but also banks, airlines, major supermarket chains, telecoms, restaurant chains and more. As the company states, “Fetchr helps local merchants and global brands build, launch and grow profitable e-commerce and online businesses.” Sellers are able to benefit from the GPS address system and other shipping solutions that Fetchr provides, as well as being able to schedule and track everything with the ease of an app. “It’s because we understand e-commerce and the region that we have been able to build a customised solution for this region,” said Idriss Al Rifai, the CEO and Founder of Fetchr. “None of our competitors come from that mindset and tend to use tools and software that are not optimised for the problem at hand.”
With lengthy payment cycle that averages 15-25 days, Fetchr has developed a COD solution with a daily reconciliation process across the region that is consistently fast, reliable, and efficient for healthy cash flow and growth of its eCommerce partners. The tech solution is completely digital starting with the COD information required to be collected to disbursing the cash to our eCommerce partners. Fetchr is currently looking to further expand this service with same day disbursement through various tech enhancements with partners.
Being able to scale up its services in this way proves the careful programming that went into Fetchr’s software. Omar Yaghmour, the Cofounder and Chief Operating officer at Fetchr, explained: “Our in-house built technology enables us to scale at a much faster rate than our competitors. Fetchr is here to enable the growth of e-commerce in the region, ticking the box of providing a hassle free last mile experience while empowering the client to expand their portfolio and focus on their core business, making their market expansion strategy effortless.”
That said, with Fetchr’s key focus on building products in the last mile sector, they partnered with key players who are already specialized in their respective domains to leverage potential synergies. For example, SAP provides Fetchr’s communication via SMS, which in turn supports one of its main scheduling system. For this service, Fetchr needed a partner who it could rely on to scale up with it – especially as it has grown at an impressive pace of 500% and 320% over the last two years!
Also assisting in this scaling up of operations, Fetchr’s data science team even built an ingenious internal matrix for predicting future sales, which allows for more accurate volume estimates, and therefore allows Fetchr to be prepared to smoothly meet these needs. Shahin Abdul Salah, a senior project manager at Fetchr, told us , “This has allowed Fetchr to scale up effectively as compared to some of our competitors. Fetchr, now, can easily identify spikes in volumes, not only based on seasonality, but also on the type of client and their products.”
Fetchr’s team have achieved something truly impressive: the group built the app’s technology from scratch, in order to make it as smooth, intuitive and suited to their task as it could be. Now, with this steady platform in place, the company’s R&D engineers continue to develop services to improve upon this successful base. This team’s tech talent, and the ongoing potential of their app, was recognised in 2015, when Fetchr became the first company in the Middle East to be funded by a Silicon Valley investor, New Enterprise Associates. In 2017, the recognition came again, when Fetchr obtained the largest series B funding in the region, with investors from Majid Al Futtaim, Nokia Group Partners, BECO Group and more . To top this all off, Fetchr also is regarded by Forbes as one of the most promising startups in the region.
So, what future developments has this team come up with? Recently, Fetchr introduced ‘AI Rango’, its new scheduling channel, that will be able to predict accurate address using various algorithms, and in November, it will launch ‘Nancy’, a scheduling channel that works over WhatsApp. Continued improvements to the scheduling process directly affect customer experience, but this isn’t the only area Fetchr is working on. It is also looking closely at fleet management, such as monitoring driver behavioural patterns to analyse performance, safeguard against fraud, and make more accurate delivery projections. It is also looking to create software that will enable smooth and easy cross-utilisation between fleets, which needs to be approached with precision in order to avoid confusion and wasted driver-time.
The team also hopes to develop software that will identify high-risk customers that can potentially default on COD payments, which would assist both Fetchr and its business clients. It also hopes to develop customer and client credit ranking through data analytics, and off the back of this, to develop an effective price structure for clients with low credit ratings, so that Fetchr can be accessible to everyone.
It is remarkable what Fetchr is doing; this is a gap in the market that greatly inconvenienced many, and yet, the solution seems so obvious that one wonders why it hadn’t been done already. This is always the mark of a good invention – it is the natural conclusion to a problem, and it was Fetchr’s founder and team of engineers that made it a reality. Opening up successful product delivery in developing markets will aid the quality of life for individuals as well as aid in the growth and successful trading of emerging businesses, both of which should boost economies and remove needless mail-delivery stress. From small-scale benefits to the bigger picture, the way Fetchr is changing the game in the Middle East is exciting, and is bound to have a trackable knock-on effect in the years to come.