Helping hungry hermits in the rain

Helping hungry hermits in the rain

Food delivery firms use technology

Food delivery services in Bangkok such as Foodpanda and GrabFood have seen a rise in demand in the rainy season, with services using technology to steer customers to closer restaurants.
Food delivery services in Bangkok such as Foodpanda and GrabFood have seen a rise in demand in the rainy season, with services using technology to steer customers to closer restaurants.

Despite some logistical challenges, the rainy season actually provides a boon for delivery businesses in Thailand, increasing sales and sometimes even reducing delivery times.

The delivery business for food and some packages is unique in Thailand and much of Southeast Asia in that it is done primarily on motorbikes. This leads drivers and their cargo vulnerable to the torrential downpours common during the summer and fall monsoon season.

However, innovations in both technology and equipment have allowed some delivery companies to profit off the inclement weather keeping people indoors.

"When it rains, it's good business for us because people don't go out and the restaurants aren't as busy, so they can cook faster and the delivery men can travel faster if the streets aren't as busy," said Bhavani Mishra, director of operations at Foodpanda, one of Thailand's leading online food delivery apps.

On the other hand, he said extremely heavy downpours could end up slowing their drivers.

Mr Bhavani said Foodpanda's deliveries increase during the rainy season, when people are less likely to go outside. To protect against spillage, the company provides drivers with waterproof jackets and thermal boxes to keep the food warm. It also offers insurance for drivers that covers accidents in the rain and employs more riders during the rainy season.

Foodpanda's biggest innovation may be technological. The delivery system monitors drivers and tracks rain and traffic congestion. When it rains in one area of the city the system directs drivers to that area in anticipation of higher delivery numbers.

Foodpanda will also discourage customers from ordering from restaurants farther away by listing such businesses lower down in the app during heavy rain.

"When it's raining cats and dogs, usually no one is at the restaurant and cooking times can go down as much as 10 minutes on an average 30-minute delivery," he said.

Tarin Thaniyavarn, country head of Grab Thailand, said GrabFood also sees increased delivery demand during the rainy season, but driver safety remains a key concern.

"We understand our driver-partners sometimes do not make deliveries during heavy thunderstorms because of safety concerns, as most of them ride on motorcycles," he said. "They also want to ensure the food they deliver is of a high standard and not affected by the rain."

Grab employs similar tactics to Foodpanda -- equipping their drivers with waterproof jackets and food storage boxes, as well as using their tracking technology to move drivers towards rainy areas that are likely to see spikes in demand.

"Supported by a strong tech back-end, we are able to monitor the allocation and fulfilment rates during peak situations when orders spike," Mr Tarin said. "This allows us to optimise delivery fees and driver incentives in reaction to demand and supply, ensuring we are able to make as many successful deliveries as possible."

Some delivery companies such as Happyfresh, the online grocery delivery app, find rain to be burdensome. Grocery delivery order sizes are often much bigger, meaning drivers can have a tougher time braving torrential rain.

"If the rain is very heavy, the best thing we can do is to be upfront with our customers," said David Lim, vice-president of marketing at Happyfresh. "We are preparing notifications as well as blasting out push notifications and emails to inform customers their deliveries might be delayed. Most people are understanding as they aren't leaving their homes."

He said rainy season is less problematic in Singapore, with more manageable traffic and delivery by car.

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