Amjad Puliyali’s new app is a welcome relief for those looking to avoid overcrowded supermarkets and mundane grocery trips. But in a market dominated by retail giants, can it create a space of its own?
Let’s face it. We live in a world filled with smartphone-addicted consumers; people who want everything better, faster and easier. And, this is making way for a new breed of start-ups like GetBaqala that provide instantaneous service, on-demand. This grocery delivery app allows customers to select and purchase grocery items from a range of partner stores. Not only does this eliminate the need to physically visit the store, but it gives the customer the ability to compare products and prices before making a purchase. Revolutionary? Absolutely! But, is it actually working? We asked the man behind the concept himself.
“We did a soft launch in August last year in three locations across Bahrain. The first customer to download the GetBaqala app shopped for over BD 2000 in the very first month! Since then, we’ve added 15 more locations, reached over 5000 installs and 1500 active monthly users. We have been able to maintain an 80 percent retention rate and our current average order value is US$25, with only 1500 SKUs available. So, to answer your question – yes, it’s working,” replies Amjad confidently. And, indeed it is! In less than four months, the company has already gone on to forge partnerships with local supermarkets, hypermarkets, small neighbourhood stores, the bigger FMCG brands, distributors and manufacturers.
From bricks to clicks
While some of Amjad’s success is due to market opportunity, a considerable amount of credit goes to his ability to sell his product.
When I developed my concept, I knew it would be difficult to convince others of its potential. But, I truly believed in my product and nothing was going to stop me. I think the first positive sign of my app’s impact was in December 2015, when I was able to raise the pre-seed money to start working on a minimum viable product (MVP)
“It was at that moment that I knew I had to keep going – even though I faced tough competition.” Amjad’s passion for his product is quite obvious. What’s intriguing, however, is why did he decide to quit his full-time job and launch a food delivery app?
“My entrepreneurial journey can be traced back to the time I was based in Dubai. I lived in the vibrant city for nine years and worked with major national entities to develop online revenue portals. Thereafter, I returned to India in 2015, which is where I began observing how businesses and utilities were moving to mobile platforms, and felt that there was a huge gap between India and other markets with regards to app development. India was beginning to personify the ‘there’s an app for that’ culture, but it had yet to catch on in the GCC,” he reminisces.
Let me be frank. I felt starting up a business in Bahrain would cost less. There is a very strong start-up ecosystem in Bahrain, and I was able to take care of a lot of the initial paperwork while I was still in India. The Bahraini Economic Development Board (EDB) selected GetBaqala along with three other Indian start-ups to launch in Bahrain, and was very helpful with the registration process. I should also add here that EDB Bahrain and Rowad Incubation played a pivotal role in the formation of my company.
Powered for success
With less than a year of operations, GetBaqala is still at a nascent stage. Even so, Amjad has big ambitions for his small start-up. “We have now launched the full version of the app and are all set for further expansion within Bahrain itself. There is a lot more room for growth in Bahrain before we make the move to other GCC countries. We’re providing a complete end-to-end service to our customers; right from picking up the best items to delivery. We want to add more home-grown products to our offering.” Amjad’s ambition also extends to product development: he reveals that his team is working on a very interesting ‘smart feature’. “We’ll be adding a scheduling feature that will allow customers to pre-order items they need on a monthly basis, without having to select items repeatedly; so it works like a subscription. We’re looking to introduce special offers for in-demand products from supermarkets, so both the customer and supplier are in a win-win situation.”
When it comes to the challenges that lie ahead, Amjad remains unfazed. “The journey so far has been super exciting and being an entrepreneur is truly rewarding. Of course, it requires a lot of effort. Customers expect deliveries at any time! If someone needs milk for tea at 7 am, we’re going to look for it get it to them. Most orders come on the weekends, so we have all hands on deck to ensure accuracy and timeliness. And then there are the salaries to be paid out at the end of the month. I’m responsible for the livelihoods of my team now. But, guess what? I love it. I love the rush. I love the excitement.”