DEDICATED TO DELIVER | Manisha Safiya Tarek, Head of Marketing, foodpanda, Bangladesh

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Manisha Safiya Tarek, Head of Marketing, foodpanda Bangladesh, elaborates on the company’s evolution over the years, the future of delivery services and her journey as a Millenial Marketing professional in the country’s thriving tech sector.

Being highly proactive by nature, Manisha Safiya Tarek started working as early as the 9th grade. She was head over heels on her first encounter with the world of marketing during a pro bono summer internship at a family-owned business. As she spent summer holidays shadowing people at her mom’s office, being part of the brainstorming sessions, her interest in the sector grew exponentially.

Consequently, after completing her undergrad in the UK in just three years, she returned home and dived right into the world of marketing, working for a beauty brand at Unilever. Over the next few years, Manisha’s stint at some of the most reputed MNCs in the world allowed her to make significant contributions in respective sectors while teaching her valuable lessons along the way. Her latest stint at foodpanda Bangladesh has been analogous to her career as a marketer.

Under her watch, the marketing team scaled from a 3-member squad to 16 people strong team. Subsequently, foodpanda’s coverage grew to all 64 districts across the country. In an interview with ICE Today, Manisha Safiya Tarek, Head of Marketing, foodpanda Bangladesh elaborates on the company’s evolution over the years, the future of delivery services and her journey as a Millenial Marketing professional in the country’s thriving tech sector.

Tell us a bit about foodpanda’s evolution in Bangladesh as a brand over the past few years.
We’ve been operating in Bangladesh for almost 8 years now – one of the first tech companies to come into the delivery space here. What is so great to see is the belief our parent company, Delivery Hero, has in a market like Bangladesh. Our economy is flourishing – and that means the opportunities for business are immense. We have in the past couple of years seen significant growth both in terms of volume of orders and, more importantly, the value we are able to add in people’s lives.

Since our inception in Bangladesh, we have had the opportunity to serve millions of customers, created opportunities for thousands of rider partners and been able to add an additional channel for growth for all our restaurant and shop partners.

It’s been fantastic to see the growth story – we’ve moved from being a transactional delivery service to a brand that is reliable, relevant and loved, every single day. We’ve always wanted to place ourselves at the forefront of convenience – the notion of delivering food and more in just 30 minutes was something unthinkable at some point in time. But we’re building on that promise.

I often hear from my friends and family that every time they are out on the streets, they see at least one, if not more, foodpanda rider partners on their cycle diligently doing their deliveries. And it’s true – our riders are now almost synonymous with perseverance. A regular day, a special occasion, a pandemic that shuts down everyday life – foodpanda will deliver. Consumers have that trust in us – and that’s the true north star for any brand professional. Of course, there are challenges when operating at a large scale and we are improving and innovating daily to ensure we keep that faith and goodwill as a strength for our brand.

The pandemic has certainly fast-tracked the rise in demand of e and f-com platforms among consumers – how do you think that will affect businesses like foodpanda, and in turn the economy?

It is very encouraging to see online commerce platforms – whether e-commerce or facebook-based businesses sprout up in Bangladesh. The rapid introduction of e- and f-commerce platforms shows that people are looking for greater convenience in their daily lives. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of internet penetration, the rationalisation of mobile data prices and other macroeconomic factors that have pushed the masses to adapt new behaviours – it’s incredible to see the aspirational nature of people in Bangladesh. Everyone is working hard to improve their standard of life.

The pandemic has obviously fast tracked the adoption rate of online services – it has proven to nascent adopters of online services that it is not just a luxury as once thought, but an essential service – a part of everyday life. This behavioural change is not just on the consumer side, it’s empowering individuals to start their own business and offer their products and services online and hence reach more customers. This in turn helps inject more capital into the economy – and we’re seeing the impact at a national level for Bangladesh overall.

I’ve always believed healthy competition helps any business to constantly innovate and keep improving in order to present the best service or product to the consumers.

It’s no secret that the mass digital adaptation due to the pandemic facilitated a sharp rise in demand for delivery services. Do you expect this level of demand to sustain in the long run?

I believe this level of demand will be sustained in the long run. In the near future, the pandemic might be a memory of the past, but it’s unlikely that people will go back to spending hours in grocery stores and shops. Over the past year and a half, people have become used to the accessibility and convenience associated with reliable online delivery services and when everything goes back to normalcy in the future, this shift in customers’ preference will likely remain.

Also, the past several months has helped to illustrate the importance of quality time spent with family, friends or pursuing interests and hobbies, so it seems likely that people will continue to shop online in the future and will allocate their free time to other activities.

Tell us a bit about the “home made, with love” section of your service? Is the demand for home-cooked food on the rise?

Good home cooked meals are a cornerstone of our culture so there’s always been a demand for a hearty home cooked meal. With the pandemic, work-from-home schedules, and life just being a little busier in general, cooking at home every day has become a challenge for many. We see that there are also a lot of people who are looking for a platform to sell their home cooked meals and delicacies – and that’s what we’re helping them do. We’re proud of being able to present this platform to individuals who are looking for a means to earn additional income by selling food they make, with love, to the masses. Over three thousand home cooks have signed up on our platform.

Of them, most are women who now have a channel for additional income. Our passionate home chefs prepare a multitude of cuisines and meals in the comfort and safety of their own home. They consistently keep quality, taste, and hygiene in mind, and we have a team in place who work with these home chefs to keep improving the overall experience.

What new services or features can we expect from foodpanda in the near future?

As a company we are constantly looking to grow and innovate so there are always new features and services on the horizon. In the last year alone, we launched foodpanda shops – our marketplace for groceries, electronics, beauty shops who want to reach more customers through our platform. Our own grocery darkstores, pandamart, is scaling rapidly with 25 locations across Bangladesh.

We’re getting groceries delivered in under 30 minutes. Through cloud kitchens, we are supporting restaurant partners to expand their footprint and reach more customers. We have our logistics-as-a-solution service ‘pandago’ which is making it easier for entrepreneurs to run and scale their business ventures with both ease and convenience. Our home chef programme is also geared towards empowering individuals to turn their passions into careers. All these ventures demonstrate that we are dedicated to empowering businesses of all sizes.

Services such as ‘foodpanda for Business’ and the Pick-Up feature were also launched in recent months to cater to busy professionals and people on the go. We’re trying to keep our finger on the pulse as we move forward so that we can anticipate what our customers want. Our main goal is to strengthen the online delivery ecosystem and industry by making the digital marketplace more accessible to entrepreneurs, customers, and our community members across the board.

As a millennial marketing professional, how rewarding is it to work in an online marketplace? Given your experience, what’s your prediction on the future of online delivery services in Bangladesh?

Working in tech centric organisations has a thrill of its own – you see the impact of your strategies and decisions almost immediately and in real time. Working in the online delivery industry means having to constantly be agile and ready for change, which means that there’s no chance of getting bored. Every day brings forth new challenges to overcome and new opportunities to grow. It will stretch you in the best way possible.
Even though we are an online service, the impact is very tangible.

The fact that thousands of people including women and transgender people choose our platform as their means of earning additional income is an incredible feat for us as well. We’ve helped our restaurant partners grow in a time when every single industry is impacted by the pandemic. That value-added is the reward in itself. It is so rewarding to work at a company that is constantly pioneering and implementing new innovations and driving so much habitual change in the country.

The last couple of years has been very promising for the online delivery industry in Bangladesh and the consumer’s appetite for adapting to online delivery services, now more than ever, is increasing daily. It’s been exciting to see and be so closely involved in driving this change. And we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Photographs: Khan Imran Ahmed

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