El Grocer, the UAE-based on-demand grocery delivery app has seen daily downloads increase 10 times in recent months, compared to January-February 2020. The brand has seen an incredible increase in the number of orders. Currently, El Grocer is focused on building resilience for the future, widen partnerships and expanding into other markets.

“The COVID-19 crisis has brought the whole e-commerce industry into the spotlight. Even after the pandemic is over, online shopping will continue to be part of a consumer’s day-to-day life,” observes Nader Amiri, founder, El Grocer. “It took food delivery platforms almost a decade to reach where they are today. In our case, the growth rate has accelerated; food and grocery delivery platforms will see rapid growth in the two-three years.”

“New habits have formed, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. Online shopping has become a part of day-to-day life; it is a necessity now, not a luxury. However, it is difficult to predict how much of these online buying habits will stick. From the early adopters to early majority, we are still talking about single-digit online penetration rates. In some cases, it might go up to low double-digit. Overall, in the UAE, the online penetration rate is around 5-6%. A lot of businesses are considering going online. Many new users are getting online daily. The number of people shopping online, and the penetration rate will increase. There might be some changes in cart size and frequency, and as such online shopping will accelerate.”

“We started collaborating with more and more home-grown speciality brands since last year. We have signed up with local butcheries, speciality grocery stores like 1004 Gourmet,” Amiri shares. “Many predominately home-grown B2B brands – like Bread & Co. – are also interested to partner with us given the current situation and their need to reach consumers.”

“We have always offered same-day delivery timelines within two-three hours. Amidst the current situation, depending on the store and our increased delivery strength by three times, we have been able to maintain same-day delivery in most cases, with some spilling over to the next day. And for some extremely busy stores, the delivery timeline has gone up ranging between two days and a week,” Amiri states.

Being agile to take decisions

“Like many other businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic caught us by surprise,” Amiri admits. “On noticing early trends, around online shopping behaviour, we had to quickly take some business-critical decisions around hiring more people to be able to meet the demand surge.”

“With every passing week, we had to add tweaks; basically, be on our feet for the entire month of March. From early-April, things started settling down as we pre-planned for the next two-three months. We made some crucial decisions around recruiting more people – in picking, delivery and customer service roles – and tweak some of our technology applications in the background,” he adds.