With activity on the rise and a greater demand for convenience, it’s no surprise that food deliveries continue to surge. Having been accelerated by the covid-19 pandemic, the industry shows no signs of a decline. Adopting the trio of online storefronts, digital payments, and logistics, these businesses provide customers with meals, anywhere they are, within minutes of placing orders.
One of these companies with its eye on the ball is OliliFood – a food ordering and delivery mobile app that lets users find the best restaurants around them. Taking the road less traveled, they launched operations in one of Nigeria’s fastest-growing cities, Asaba, unlike most other Nigerian food startups which begin operations from Lagos, the activity hub of Nigeria.
Founded by Nweze Ikechukwu Emeka and 5 young Nigerians in 2019, OliliFood was inspired by the problems they were facing. As developers, there was simply no time to constantly make meals as they were immersed in various programming gigs. This formed the light bulb moment, with an aim to convert their personal problems to mass value as they realized the recurring nature of this problem. Chukwuyenum Abanum, the current CTO, who had a similar idea was brought on board with the team he had already begun setting up. Slowly, the team started forming and so, the work began. The founders, who barely had capital, survived on hard work, dedication, and the little finance gained from gigs. In the beginning, they spread the Olilifood gospel through Whatsapp, marketing to friends and family. They also partnered with restaurants by going door to door, having meetings with owners personally. Officially, they launched operations on 20th February 2020 with just 2 riders and sales agents. Currently, they processed over 14,000+ Delivery, 3,400 users in Asaba alone.
We caught up with Nweze Ikechukwu Emeka, CEO of OliliFood, to let us into his insightful journey and what it means to build from the ground up.
- Describe the problem(s) your business is solving and what solution it presents?
Like myself, several others do not have enough time to constantly make meals or simply want a more convenient solution to be able to deploy their time more effectively. Restaurants also want greater exposure, as well as customer loyalty. OliliFood is solving these, creating a win-win situation for both customers and restaurants. We also eradicate time wastage, 3 – 4 clicks and you’re well on your way to receiving a meal and I think that’s incredible. Additionally, we give people access to a variety of food choices, opening up a wide range of restaurants to choose from. We also promote convenience by adopting a cashless payments policy with our in-built wallet system OliliWallet – you don’t need to withdraw or look for cash. Everything is done right there, from your phone. With over 3 mediums of funding OliliWallet.
- What is OliliFood’ unique value proposition that sets it apart from its competitors?
Firstly, we maintain a certain standard in logistics. Logistics has constantly been referred to as the bane of food delivery startups and we’re ensuring this is not the case. We’ve established a seamless communication process – from vendors to customers, from riders to customers. Additionally, we ensure the app is as flexible as possible – easy for users to navigate, fund wallet, and place orders. We also try as much as possible to keep in touch with our customers and solve their problems.
- As the CEO, what’s one challenge or setback you’ve faced & what did you learn from the experience?
At the start of this journey, there were several discouraging comments. “Why start with Asaba ?” “This state isn’t tech-friendly, start elsewhere” but it’s okay because it’s part of the process. We pushed through it and worked, HARD. We’ve come such a long way and that’s one of my greatest lessons. Do your research, believe, and keep going. Another great challenge was getting vendors to register on the platform initially, slowly it began to get easier. So when you want to chase a goal? Just start. When you start, it’ll align. Well, hopefully. Haha. Don’t be afraid to fail. Interestingly, OliliFood is my 4th startup.
- In just over a year, you’ve built the fastest growing food delivery startup in Asaba, why Asaba? What other markets are you looking at and why?
For starters, I live in Delta. Also, Asaba is one of the fastest-growing cities. I’ve found that for a lot of businesses, starting in a seemingly unfavorable environment when you understand the market leaves you with a much bigger potential to scale and scale quickly. Asaba is a unique market – demand for food delivery is present but a lot of people shy away from the idea. As someone said, “don’t miss out on something that could be great just because it could also be difficult”.
Currently, we’re looking to cover some tier 2 cities before the end of the year. Our next stop is the oil rich city of warri.
- How receptive has the market been – consumers and restaurants alike? Are you glad you chose to solve this problem?
It was definitely tough at the start, consumers and restaurants were hardly receptive. Trying to expose restaurants to all the value we offer while some were convinced we were trying to take their customers was hard. Luckily, that isn’t the case anymore. The value is clear as they gain visibility and customer loyalty. Currently, we have 90% of all top vendors and restaurants in Asaba on the OliliFood app. On the customer side, getting them to trust our wallets and payments system wasn’t as easy. However, as we continued, trust was built. I’m definitely glad I chose to solve this problem – adding value to entire states through something that was inspired by your own problem is a dream.
- What have you enjoyed most when you look back over the past year building the company?
I’ve enjoyed the growth process and the team dedication, whether it’s an emergency or a model we need to tweak late at night, the commitment is outstanding. For small startups, the power of enthusiastic teams can’t be overemphasized. I’ve also enjoyed the company’s growth. It’s insane thinking about all the roadblocks at the start and how far we’ve come. I almost gave up.
- What are the next steps and future plans for OliliFood?
Scaling, scaling, and some more scaling. We’ll also continue to further our digital transformation, meeting our users where they are and in the most convenient ways. We also have plans for funding but we’re not rushing that now. If we have aligned goals with investors, we bring them in. Otherwise, we scale at our pace.