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Fetchr - A revolution in the world of shipment and delivery

From a small office with seven employees to expansions in six countries with over 5000 employees, the journey of Fetchr has not been less than a roller-coaster ride. We unfold a few milestones of the Fetchr story to decode their success mantra.


Iris is expecting an important shipment from the U.K. which is due to arrive today. At 8 am, just as she is about to leave for work, she receives a message from a courier company asking her to be home between 9 am to 12 pm that day to receive the delivery.

She is now in two minds. She has a really important meeting to attend and changing her address on the courier company’s website at the last minute may cause more delays in the shipment. She decides to cancel her meeting and stay home.

Meanwhile, the courier deliverer is given an address near a shopping mall with no street names or numbers, which he finds difficult to navigate to. He calls up Iris and delivers the package at 12.30pm, half an hour late from the estimated time.

Now imagine, if there was a way Iris could share her office location via WhatsApp to the courier company and he could deliver the package using the GPS system, all the hassle above could have been avoided. And that’s where Fetchr was born. The Dubai–based courier service company devised a unique solution to this problem with the use of cutting edge technology. What was it? Read on…


The start

A Special Armed Forces professional, Idriss Al Rifai hit upon the idea of using technology to help deliveries while working as the head of operations for Marka VIP which, at that point of time, was the second largest e-commerce company. An MBA graduate, Idriss who had worked for BCG before joining Marka soon found out that logistics companies neither had the requisite technology to cater to the demands of e-commerce companies nor could they satisfy the demands of emerging markets.


The Gap

The essential gap was between the customer and the deliverer with both facing much inconvenience to execute a simple task. Identifying this gap, Idriss launched Fetchr in 2012 with seven employees. He had a two-fold motivation for starting his own company. The first was the lack of ability of logistics companies to design solutions targeted towards e-commerce companies and the second was their unwillingness to address the lack of ideas.

The world was becoming increasingly ‘mobile’ so why should delivery companies be tied to a stationary addresses? They should be able to deliver consignments wherever the consignee is at that particular point of time. Idriss realised this issue and that the field of e-commerce was expanding at a rapid pace but was in dire need of a technology enabler who would give it the last mile connectivity and solve the problem of delivery to the right customer at the right time.


The concept

Alibaba, ZTO and YTO in China has expanded mainly on the strength of their technology and so have many delivery companies in India. Fetchr aims to become a similar company that is an e-commerce enabler fulfilling their delivery needs and which understands technology really well.

Since long, delivery is a huge problem, especially in the Middle East. In countries like the UAE and many parts of the emerging markets, there are no post-codes and about 80% of deliveries are cash on delivery.  Thus if the address can’t be located in time, it is a huge loss to the company and the client. Fetchr circumvents this problem by locking on the location of the consignee through the GPS on his smartphone.   


The challenges

One of the major challenges that Fetchr encountered was the huge volume transacted through e-commerce companies on a daily basis.  During peak seasons particularly, deliveries have been delayed, the ire of which had to be faced by the deliverers. Sometimes, however,  the delivery company received the consignment late as the e-commerce companies were overwhelmed with orders.

Understanding this, Fetchr solved the issue by creating a platform for seamless communication between the staff and the customer so that they’re informed well in time when and where can they expect to receive their orders. Moreover, more staff was hired to meet the growing needs of the e-commerce clients.


The expansion

One can have a brilliant idea, but implementing it needs loads of money and private funding is one way of getting this money. In its initial years, Fetchr received a funding of 11 million dollars from the Silicon Valley, the first and also the biggest funding in the history of the Middle East at that time. Then in series B, Fetchr raised 41 million dollars and is now preparing for series C that will probably be announced in about two months time.

This additional flow of capital meant that Fetchr could now expand geographically. It expanded its operations to Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Oman, and plans are afoot to enter Kuwait next. The company has set its sight on entering two other markets during the next year too.


The innovation

The concept of the company itself is innovative, as it does away with the necessity of a physical address for delivery and uses the GPS functionality of smartphones to deliver your orders.

Going forward the company is working on a two-pronged strategy to make its services more efficient. On the operational side, it is working on having leaner and stronger operations with more control at every step of the delivery chain and on the customer side, it is extensively using data science to know the precise time of delivery which will ultimately lead to shortening the time slot for delivery.


Tips for startups

Idriss says that entrepreneurs need to realise how difficult it is not only to launch a startup but also to sustain it. He is of the view that startups should be ready to grapple with problems throughout their journey as no company can grow at 300-400% per year and expect that it won’t face problems.

The second tip is that the marketplace for funding is highly competitive so one has to strive hard and contact as many companies, venture funds and people as possible, locally as well as internationally to raise substantial funds and lastly he wants start-ups to focus on human resources. Idriss is all for giving sufficient chances to people to succeed despite the fact that time is a precious commodity for any startup.


The verdict

The future looks bright for Fetchr.  Fetchr’s focus on technology has meant that it has a return rate of just 6% when compared to 25-35% non-delivery rate for traditional logistics companies in the e-commerce sphere. The rapid expansion of the smartphone market too should prove beneficial for a tech-driven company like Fetchr.

A huge market is waiting to be tapped not only in the developing countries but also in the developed world for a technology-driven delivery system that makes your address irrelevant thereby delivering you whatever you want, wherever you want.