You’ve just put in a full day’s work. Inching through peak time traffic, dodging the occasional skittish tuk-tuk, you’ve managed to pull-up at your gate. Just then you catch a glimpse of a grocery list you’ve completely zoned-out on. If the thought of pulling back out into traffic calls for uncontained colourful vocabulary, the folks at quickee.lk completely understand, which is why they’ve been in the business of delivering goods since 2013.
Three years later, they’ve ditched the purple logo featuring a sultry silhouette in a very “tongue -in-cheek” rendition of the brand’s name. Going instead with the sleek white ‘Q’ against a black background this change we’re told is more than merely superficial. On board with Quickee, since “November last year,” Non-Executive Director, Dimitri Whittal talks us through some of the brand’s upgrades.
Before all else, Dimitri clarifies that he started out as a customer. “There was nothing more annoying,” he says than coming home to find that a trip to the Supermarket was in order. Resorting to Quickee- the brainchild of Ashan Whittal and Mariam Moosa, he says the initiative did, in fact, have a cult following and generating orders hasn’t been a problem.
Mariam’s Parents’ home thus became the birthplace of a concept entirely new to Colombo- Express Delivery. “It is common in other parts of the world” he’s been to Dimitri says, but the idea of placing an order and receiving it within the hour at your doorstep was completely novel to Sri Lanka. Admittedly, a night owl’s recourse for a quick fix, like a piping hot Kottu from Pillawoos, he feels the brand has come a long way since then.
For instance, the website now includes categories like electronics, groceries, and even flowers. “We focused on people living in apartments” with no live-in domestic helper to run to the shops. “Times are different from our parents’ generation,” he says and with the “almost over-supply of apartments” DIY if it’s after work hours type of shopping has become a way of life, even for those with hired help.
Quickee’s 20 black-clad riders zooming through Colombo resembling an interesting hybrid of ninja-genies. Constantly in operation from 9am up to 3am, long after other businesses with in-house delivery systems have closed-up shop.
This wasn’t the only gap in the market which Dimitri felt Quickee had correctly spotted. There’s much-untapped potential in “the Business to Business delivery market as well.”
“It’s not rocket-science,” the Director says of the business, but it’s a hard operation. A service of this nature he shares generally means even though you’re only handling logistics you answer for much more than just delivery.
The previous business model was one based on credit we’re told. Vendors were paid the cost of their products delivered by Quickee over a period of time. Some debt was racked up and when a good friend Abbas Sethwala was called in to restructure the finances, Dimitri and his sister Nadika also hopped aboard. “My sister is with Quickee full-time,” he says, devoting only the best of his analytical prowess to the enterprise. In any case, he says “we were looking for something in which we wouldn’t be silent investors.”
Ghost investor, however, is far from Dimitri’s brief since he claims to be “spending 10 times more” of his time on Quickee than initially anticipated. “I’ve become passionate about it” he shares, and the market still has many opportunities to hone.
Those who have called Quickee can attest for the warm, obliging service. “This is still very much a part of the business” Dimitri assures us, Ashan and Mariam will still be answering the phones and continue to be the essence of the business. They have however been joined by a few others and the call centre strength is now at 10 operators. A mobile phone application is yet another addition we’re asked to wait.
To take some slack off the already busy call operators they’re also in the process of installing a “completely integrated backend.” Directly alerting both the Quickee staff and the vendor that a new order has come in, within the next few months this system is to have a significant effect in favour of the efficiency-conscious crew. Working with a new range of vendors such as Laugfs and Dialog has launched Quickee to an entirely new dimension.
If you’ve taken one of those detour tasks against a clock on a video game for extra virtual credit, you can guess what it’s like to be a rider on Quickee’s fleet. Managing 125-150 orders on a daily basis, last month marked a record of 4,000 orders. With just 20 riders entrusted to make timely delivery trips, the achievement in the Colombo’s traffic is monumental. The senior few who always come through have earned definitive “Rockstar” status we’re told.
However, that’s not enough. In order to forge a strong presence in the city, they’re looking to strengthen the fleet by 30 riders. 50 riders will not only cut short delivery time but also facilitate Quickee’s absorbing of more vendors as subscribers to their service. In fact “certain restaurants have asked us to manage the delivery” side of their operations.
In attempting to diversify and cater to the “B to B” delivery market, opportunities for satellite riders, who have a vehicle and time to clock-in whenever they’re free is yet another future development the team is optimistic about.
Also within the course of next year, they plan to set-up three locations. Ideally, first to better facilitate delivery is the Battaramulla area then in Mount Lavinia and thirdly in Wattala. Since the nature of operations is heavily digital, the smallest of spaces will suffice for a centre to which orders will be re-routed.
In the long-run Dimitri hopes Quickee will become an island-wide affair. Franchising the concept, he feels would be the answer. Ironing out the model to induce “those with round 3 million to invest” in a local Quickee delivery kiosk will ease many logistical issues around the country, making this a uniquely domestic delivery network.
Interestingly, a wide-spread network we’re told will greatly help in what Dimitri has planned for Quickee next- drone deliveries.
“I get that a lot” he laughs at our initial confusion. Currently, it isn’t top secret that former Boeing engineer Tilak Dissanayake is building drones, and “we’ve made it very clear” that Quickee is interested in these developments. “We’re not going to build a drone,” we are reminded. A store-bought model will suffice for what the delivery service has in mind.
If you just imagined little parcels fluttering down from the sky as in the Hunger Games movies, we’re sorry to say it’s off the mark. Dimitri believes Tilak has or is in the process of obtaining certain air-routes exclusively for his copters. There will be some “riding on his coat tail” but similar routes he feels could be used to deploy deliveries to various pick-up locations. This is where he feels the local franchises come into play, picking up and delivering the products to the customer.
“Everything is going to be automated” in time to come we’re told and this industry isn’t exempt to this reality. Gearing Quickee up to survive not only competition but time itself these are just the first steps of a longer journey. There’s still room he says for an investor who believes in this industry to join his team of pioneers.
Co-founder of Quickee, Ashan Whittal is finally starting to see his effort attaining its potential. “I wanted it to be much bigger” at the inception he admits, but despite setbacks and “difficult times,” this new version of Quickee is showing promising signs.
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