We chat with Ordera founder, Noha Bassiouny, on how a journey to fill a market gap back in September 2019, was immediately catapulted by the pandemic to become what could be a turning point for queues in Egypt’s cafes and restaurants.
Day by day, we’re marinating in the fact that the post-Corona world has upended many menial activities. Take queuing for example. It’s an irritating task we have to endure, waiting for the person ahead as they contemplate getting a venti or grande latte.
Now, in B.C. times (before Corona), they were just that: irritating. Now? They’re a grave concern. For the past few months, governments have allowed for certain day-to-day activities to resume, but it doesn’t entirely shake off that knee-buckling feeling of having to drive to your favourite coffee shop, find a parking spot, walk in and stand in line for 10-15 minutes as the barista whips up your foamy, caffeinated treat - all the while trying to maintain a 6 ft. distance between yourself and others.
Ordera is an Egyptian app that seeks to streamline takeaway from food and coffee outlets, rendering unnecessary queues as bygone annoyances. The app’s philosophy is simple: you place your order through the platform, the selected branch prepares your meal/drink, and you just pop in to the branch for immediate pickup. You can also request for the order to be delivered straight to your car, similar to a drive-through.
“When we started back in September 2019, we were trying to fill a sinkhole in the Egyptian F&B industry,” says Noha Bassiouny, founder and CCO of Ordera., tells Startup Scene. “The takeaway experience is riddled with needless queuing.”
Despite being a gold-mine of an idea prior to the pandemic, and an even shinier gold-mine for a post-COVID world that’s trying to adopt contactless solutions, the vexing economic repercussions of the Coronavirus crisis did impact Ordera. “When we first started, it was all going so well. Really well. We boomed, word got out and usage was relatively high for a young startup that’s presenting somewhat of a niche service,” Bassiouny explains. “But after COVID, there was an inevitable stagnation. We took a hit due to cafes and restaurants being shut down and there was a great hustle in trying to adapt to the shifting landscapes to keep Ordera afloat.”
Before we had a ‘new normal’, and all that it entailed, there was this worldwide lethargy of trying to rack our brains to what’s happening. Coronavirus cases were climbing faster than one could keep up, what we can/can no longer do was still entirely vague, and the F&B industry had a whirlwind of challenges to figure out. People were told to stay at home. Now what?
“Before Corona, the set of challenges we had to face were mostly introducing Egyptian users to the service. People would often see it as this added luxury rather than an efficient tool to your day,” says Bassiouny. “Then came COVID, and it was an entirely new narrative that kind-of worked in our favour. When the turbulence started to stabilise, and the F&B industry had started to better grasp the situation, our usage grew tenfold.”
It’s something that can be seen across the board. Apps that helped accelerate that world were no longer providing an added luxury, but an essential service. The Coronavirus acted as a catalyst for the F&B industry in the region, for better or for worse. Food delivery giants such as Uber Eats shut down operations in Egypt, and after a short-lived comeback, so did Glovo, while many other services had to either pivot to offer delivery services, or simply suspend operations.
On the other side, however, there was a change for better: F&B and IT solution startups accounted for 6% of total investments in MENA during H1 2020. While Ordera is not a traditional F&B app that can be put in the same circle as delivery services like Elmenus and Otlob, the platform struck while the iron was hot: restaurants and cafes sprung back to life, and people were immediately looking for a simple alternative to waiting in line just to pick up your coffee, during a pandemic.
“We’re not looking to dabble in delivery anytime soon. Not because it’s out of scope, but we felt like that market gap’s fulfilled,” notes Bassiouny. “Our gap’s still very much there, and our service is emergent enough to be one of the few that can accommodate it and be a great benefit to both our users and clients.”
One of Ordera’s flagship features is a loyalty programme, which they provide to each of their clients, including local favourites such as Espresso Lab, Caribou, Cinnabon, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Beano’s, Mince and Ted’s, among many others. Through the programme, each brand can develop their own rewards system, so that users are incentivised to order through the app, and in turn get promo codes for free products or exclusive discounts. It’s a win-win-win situation: user’s get a simple way of ordering, the brand’s increased sales and Ordera keeps both client and user happy.
Ordera’s backing and funding hasn’t only come from local VCs, but Saudi-based industry experts and the coveted 500 Startups have backed them as well. “While we’re only currently operating in Cairo, there are very imminent plans to expand beyond the capital into other cities,” adds Bassiouny. “But we’re definitely also laying the groundwork to go beyond Egypt as well. With some of our investors hailing from Saudi, we’re eyeing a KSA expansion, a market we’ve already studied and realised there’s a huge potential there with the market and the same gap when it comes to queues. However for now, Egypt’s the epicentre. And then very soon, we’ll take off from there.”
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