Expert Interview: Fetchr Global Director of Operations on How We Maintained Operational Flexibility During Ramadan
Fetchr has grown tremendously over the last few years. Keeping up with the demand, specially during the month of Ramadan, has never been easy. However, Fetchr’s Global Director of Operations and Excellence, Angad Singh, explains that the increased shipping volume provides great opportunities for learning from successes and failures resulting in greater customer experiences as we go along. By building more warehouses closer to our customers, using data science to predict addresses, and relying on the spirit of its workers, Fetchr is working harder to exceed all customer expectations.
Interviewer: Tell us briefly about your role.
Hi. I am Angad. I am the Global Director of Operations and Excellence at Fetchr. I manage the warehousing, last mile, middle mile, and first mile, as well as launches and programs at Fetchr.
Interviewer: How is Fetchr handling the challenges of delivering the growing number of orders during Ramadan and Eid?
Angad: Fetchr has grown at the rate of three- to five- hundred percent, year over year, over the last five years. The expansion is primarily driven by the fact that we performed very well over the peaks and the valleys of our business. The peaks happen during holiday periods which is when the buying trend is high.
We add a lot of data science and analytics into our planning of delivering a perfect order. Additionally, If you see our planning mechanisms, they’re very flexible to cater to fluctuations in forecast, order categories or customer trends. We’re servicing a very large geographic area, since we are spread all across the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region. We have thousands of drivers shipping happiness.
We’ve taken into account what our clients and customers really expect by very actively listening to the customer/client feedback along with analyzing our data on perfect and imperfect orders. Customer/client feedback have been a huge influence on our offerings. One example is that, We’re very flexible with our delivery time slot offerings now. In Saudi Arabia, we deliver packages from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., the time slot which our customers prefer during this holy month. On the flip side of that, there are customers who want complete flexibility in choosing a time slot. So, in the UAE, we have wider time slots and more flexibility. Our planning helps us deliver the customer experience which we’re looking for.
We have failed in the past, obviously, because we’ve never been able to catch up with the demand. Being a startup, our expenditures are limited. We had to come up with more frugal and innovative ways of managing our operation while exceeding customer/client SLA’s. We see the turn around time (order delivery timeline) as an important metric in our delivery success and thus a good example of merging frugal expenditure while improving customer was realigning the way we are going to build our warehousing and our hubs during expansion. We now build smaller warehouses/hubs closer to our customers. We’re dotting the MENA region, with hubs all over and thus can reach a customer much faster than anyone else in the region. When I joined Fetchr two years back, we had around twenty warehouses. And now we have more than a hundred warehouses. We have pick-up locations. We’ve reached much closer to our customer and improved turnaround times. We can offer two-hour deliveries. We can offer same-day delivery. We can offer next-day delivery. That’s how flexible we’ve gotten and that has been the backbone of our success operationally, Our flexibility with respect to the elements that drive an amazing delivery experience.
And what’s amazing with Fetchr is that we were able to do this within a year. So, that’s what differentiates us from anybody else out there, the time within which we can execute such major strategic changes.
So, getting back to the original point with Ramadan: all this planning, which has been backed up with a lot of data and customer insight, plus our flexibility, helps us deliver quicker and more efficiently than others. You can see that in our numbers and smiles that we deliver now.
Interviewer: How does Fetchr use data, machine learning, and AI to optimize operations?
Angad: At Fetchr, we take data analytics and data science very seriously. Every decision is backed by data. The highest element of contribution is always customer feedback, insight and customer requirements. The next level of feedback comes from our data, which backs our decision sciences at Fetchr. We focus a lot of our systems and intelligence upstream in the order delivery cycle so that we do not fail downstream. One of the very cool things we’ve done is AI auto scheduling. We do have an app, by which the customer can tell you when and where he/she wants an order. They can also mention in the notes any special instructions during delivery. We are very flexible in our delivery experiences as well which vary by client and customer type. An example would be a premium credit card delivery and sim delivery which have a very different delivery experience than a document
When it comes to data science and machine learning, one of the key elements of succeeding in the last mile business is having your address, having a time slot, among other pieces of information. In this region, there are multiple ways of getting that information. One is you have a contact center, where you contact the customer and get this information. That’s not a scalable way of looking at it, though. As we’ve scaled, we’ve seen that we cannot hire a lot of contact center agents to manage it. Additionally, we receive this information from, The app like I mentioned earlier but these channels do not schedule all the orders we receive.
So, over the past 2 years, the data science team led cool AI-based scheduling mechanism, where we can read and predict addresses on a zone level. And we broke down every country to thousands of zones. For example, UAE is approximately two thousand zones for us. We have a lot of data, which helped us predict a repeat customer, or new customer address either by address phasing, or multiple other ways, which is a proprietary in-house technology at this point. We have been able to predict the zone and timeslot. We test-piloted this over the course of a year.
Within our key regions, this was a significant improvement on how we got the delivery address of a customer, or the delivery zone of a customer. After this is done, we do reach out to the customer by message, telling them ‘Hey, we have got your order. This is the address we have in our system Or this is the address our system has read. If you would like to change it, or you would like to modify the time slot, here you go.” What we’ve seen is the number of customers who will actually change it are minuscule. So, that means our data, and our feedback mechanism on this machine learning based system, is working. And it’s working really well if you see our perfect order metrics.
This system is multi-lingual as well. It can read and predict in different language inputs. We’ve also worked with our clients, who now push order level information and preferences downstream to us. Our system is grading this information, translating it to when and where a courier has to deliver. We get feedback if it is not delivered. We take that undelivered feedback and feed it back into the system. It learns. The more orders we dispatch, the more it’s learning, and the less errors we create down steam at the last mile delivery.
Interviewer: What is Fetchr’s main strength?
Angad: There are some strengths of Fetchr which I don’t think you can find anywhere else. I’ll tell you that. The first thing are the people here. The people here have a lot of spirit and character. We’ve always been behind the eight ball when it comes to delivering the number of orders which our clients want us to. We are one of the only companies I’ve seen in the world — and I’ve worked in some giant e-commerce firms in the past –who say, “No, we cannot take more orders.”. E-commerce has expanded at such a rate because the logistics have supported it and fetchr has played a key role in the region to ensure that.
There are two segments which make an e-commerce company thrive. One is your selection, your categories, the number of onboarded sellers etc. And then the second are your operations. Which is the fundamentally your deliveries and your warehousing, which is what we do. Since the e-commerce companies have been very successful in creating selection and giving ranges, along with our success in operationally managing the last mile of an order to the customer means this ecosystem is getting more efficient and thus more attractive to customers.
Fetchr’s people have a lot of spirit and character. We have grown and we’ve worked really hard. We’re now easily one of the biggest last mile delivery companies in the region. Its quite astounding and can only be attributed to the drive and character of people here.
The second biggest strength at Fetchr is our engineering and data science teams. We have exabytes of data, which feeds into our decision sciences every day. We know when we are going to deliver an order. We’ve become boringly predictable on when we’re going to deliver an order, how we’re going to deliver it. But behind that, there’s a lot of ‘chaos’. There’s a lot of fun that works behind the scenes to ensure that we are smart and predictable at the end.. All that fun and chaos happens at the back end, Customers never see this. The customer just sees the courier delivering their order as required and predicted by us..
I think the third thing that would set us apart is: A lot of companies say this, but our primary objective is how important are our customers’ happiness. That’s our primary objective. There are times where we’ve been slammed by customers because we’ve not delivered as per their expectations. The last peak in December was an example where we have failed. There are times when our clients have been unhappy. We’ve taken this feedback very seriously. We do not like to make the same mistake twice. Like I said, the team character and the systems we have in place play a major role in this.
We take that feedback so seriously that you would see, if we get one escalation from one of the Facebook groups in Dubai saying, “My order was not delivered on time,” it will be investigated to the core to understand why. We might not be able to successfully reach out to our customer and resolve all the issues. But I promise you that we work very hard not to make the same mistakes again. I think this is what sets Fetchr apart, our customer focus. We are very cognizant of the fact of what is being said by customers and what we need to do to succeed. We work very hard to ensure that we deliver beyond expectations every time.
Interviewer: Last, but not least, tell us, what motivates you every day?
Angad: It’s a cliché that no two days are the same. A lot of people say that. At Fetchr, my journey has been extraordinary. My first month was an overload of information. Understanding where we are, what we aspired to do vs What are we doing? What are our failure points? What are the different elements that contribute to our success? On a scale of a thousands of orders per day. It is a very complex operation. The challenge is what motivates me.
The leadership team delivers order our selves regularly in our operation, It helps us stay grounded and iterate on how to get better everyday. If you ever go to deliver an order to a customer, and you see how happy they are when they receive their order, and you know that you caused that impact for hundreds of thousand customers a day, I don’t think there’s anything else that is required for motivation. This is what motivates all of us here.
Through our technology and operations, We’ve changed a lot of our customer behavior’s and thus expectations which in turn has been able to influence this industry. We’ve been able to influence the e-commerce industry and the market, with our success. This is huge motivation. Having this kind of impact on people, on society, on this business, is beyond anything else I could have expected. It is easily the best job I’ve had. Some days aren’t the best, they are frustrating, but when you deliver that package and you see a customer smiling, you know you’re doing a great job.
Astounding growth brings its share of challenges, but Fetchr’s Global Director of Operations is optimistic that the company has what it takes to keep moving forward. At a place where even the senior management team goes out on deliveries once a week, you can rest assured that customers are at its core.
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This blog is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered business or legal advice. MENA 360 DWC-LLC (Fetchr) will not be held liable for the use, non-use or misapplication of this information, lost profits, personal or business interruption, or any other loss.