“I would say it is much more disciplined. It really is a pleasure to work here. The level of education is significantly higher which results in a bigger talent pool of skilled workers. So finding strong profiles locally is not as big of a challenge despite the intense competition to attract the right people,” he said in the interview.
Meanwhile he added that his external priorities are very simple – to keep improving customer experience. With tech at the heart of the business, we talk to him about his challenges in the space.
(Check out the previous editions of Tech in check here:
Tech in check: Havaianas’ SG and MY MD Jaime Syjuco
Tech in check: PropertyGuru Group’s CMO Bjorn Sprengers
Tech in check: Honestbee’s VP of marketing Christina Lim
Tech in check: Carro’s chief marketing officer Manisha Seewal
Tech in check: Liquid Pay’s founder and CEO Jeremy Tan
Tech in check: McDonald’s senior director Daniel Lee)
Marketing: What was your first digital/tech role like?
My journey into the tech industry is a rather unusual one. I started my career working in diplomacy, became a business consultant, then worked in the energy sector before moving into tech. The decision to end up in tech was driven by my desire for a fast-paced, high-impact environment. I landed at Lazada Vietnam at the end of 2013 before moving to Lazada Indonesia in 2015, where I was SVP – chief marketplace officer.
When I started in e-commerce, the industry was very much in its infancy stage. It was like the wild west back then! Fail fast, iterate and improve, building on progress every day. I loved being part of Lazada in its early stages, watching it evolve into the largest e-commerce player in Southeast Asia and eventually being acquired by Alibaba.
Marketing: What was your biggest tech booboo? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?
One of the biggest challenge is to align local priorities with the global and regional tech teams' directions. As with most multinational tech companies, centralised tech teams typically receive numerous, sometimes conflicting requests from the various country ventures.
In the early days of Lazada, it was crucial for us to build dynamic campaign pages for our local markets, but it was not possible with the back end support that we received globally. We ended up building a tool locally, which could circumvent our core backend system. Being able to hack our way through growth is an important component in a company’s early stages, especially when we’re working in vastly different markets with very different needs. As the company grows, you need to be able to evolve towards a more mature set-up over time, with proper prioritisation, road mapping, and global alignment.
It helps that now at foodpanda, our parent company and global leader in the food delivery industry, Delivery Hero, has managed to remain very agile although we are active in more than 40 countries.
Being able to react to local demands and trends in a timely function is key in order to achieve success and push local boundaries.
Marketing: What are some of the common challenges you face with digital today?
In today’s “digital” sphere, the first thing that comes to mind is personalisation. How can we optimise relevancy, engagement and conversion rates through tailored messaging and recommendations? The solution is to ensure that each customer receives the best possible customised offering and we’re constantly seeing how we can further improve on this. Not just based on the restaurant/cuisine type of their previous order, but on an even a more micro level - the dish itself. For instance, we recently noticed that a user only ordered dishes that contained coriander. We decided to reach out to him and discuss this and he had yet to realise that he liked all of those dishes because of the herb.
Marketing: Are there any digital trends which excite you or that you are wary of?
The possible applications of artificial intelligence in food delivery is a very exciting prospect. In our industry, timing is key - from the time need to prepare food to the time taken to deliver food to ensure freshness. With AI, we will have an even better ability to anticipate how long a particular restaurant will need to prepare the food. On top of that, it provides a more dynamic routing of our riders to take into account road conditions in real time to maximise the speed of delivery and minimise delays.
Strength in numbers. With a digital marketplace like foodpanda, we are able to leverage on our leading network of over 6,000 restaurants to generate real change when it comes to sustainability. Earlier this year, we pioneered the launch of the opt-in plastic cutlery initiative which will help us to save more than 1,000,000 cutlery sets by the end of 2018. Besides significantly reducing the use of single-use plastic, we also were the first one in the industry to ban shark fin on our platform.
Lastly, in this digital era, where a large amount of our private information is stored online, I can’t stress the importance of customer data protection enough. This is something we take very seriously at foodpanda given the complexities of cyber risk. As we continue to grow and expand, ensuring our customers’ data is kept secure is paramount for us.
Marketing: Any top tips for marketers and brands embracing digital?
For companies still in their early stages, don’t aim for perfection. At this stage, it is important to be able to execute fast and be agile or be left behind. You have to accept that your front and backend and supporting processes will be flawed, but this is something that can be easily enhanced and improved over time.
In the long run, companies should invest heavily in technology. At the early stages, you can still out-execute average technology systems, but to be able to scale and grow your business, it is important to quickly ramp-up to a state-of-the-art tech setup. At foodpanda, we are constantly pushing ourselves on the technology front, in particular, to keep innovating to ensure that our customers have the best experiences possible.