Sequoia-backed UrbanPiper has set its sights on the Middle East
Bengaluru-based UrbanPiper is looking to tap into the booming online food delivery market in the Middle East with its one-stop restaurant management solution.
The boom in online food delivery services during the pandemic opened multiple opportunities for the food and beverage industry, especially in the GCC.
In a report on the impact of COVID-19 on the food industry in the UAE in 2020, payment service provider Network International highlighted that online transactions had increased in the country by more than 15% in May 2020 as compared to March of the same year, growing further by more than 30% in October.
Bengaluru-based B2B startupsaw this huge market opportunity and decided to explore the MENA market.
“We saw a huge market opportunity in the Middle East. In India, we have only two or three popular food aggregators. But there are about eight popular and on-demand food aggregators in the UAE and restaurants have a hard time maintaining orders from all these aggregators. That’s when we decided to expand our services in the region,” said Renjith Prahladan, Deputy General Manager of Middle East and North Africa, UrbanPiper.
With the backing of Zomato, Swiggy, and chains like Chai Point, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and more, UrbanPiper launched itself in the UAE in January 2021.
The startup first partnered with Kuwaiti Americana Group, one of the largest integrated Food companies in the MENA region. Today, it has partnerships with more than 5,000 food outlets and collaborated with more than 15 aggregators across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Egypt.
Founded in 2015 by Saurabh Gupta, Anirban Majumdar, and Manav Gupta, UrbanPiper was initially focused on helping restaurants transition to the digital world. Later, the company changed its business model to build a one-stop solution to manage orders, inventory, utility bills etc, and ease the business operations of restaurants.
In April 2022, UrbanPiper raised $24 million in Series B funding led by Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global, with participation from Swiggy, Zomato, and others.
Marketing in MENA
For UrbanPiper, MENA’s person-driven marketing strategy was both a scope and a challenge.
“People in the Middle East like to do business by meeting each other in person. When we first extended our operations with just a sales team, we realised that brands actually appreciate when someone meets them and gives them the assurance that their problems will be solved. We had to pivot our strategies from the ways we run operations in India, which is mostly remote,” Renjith says.
The team decided to adopt a hybrid approach to tap into the high-value market.
Today, UrbanPiper has a team of 250 people worldwide, of which 20 are operating from the UAE, including Renjith, who looks at the entire Middle East operations.
Arun Gopi, the Head of the Information Technology Department at Nando's UAE, is happy with the food company’s collaboration with UrbanPiper.
“[Earlier], we used to manually punch orders, so it took up a lot of time. We update our menus quite often, and UrbanPiper helps us push these updates to all aggregators.”
According to Infinium Global Research, the online food delivery market in the GCC is expected to reach $19.9 billion by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.38%.
UrbanPiper has three products - Hub, Meraki and Prime. The team is only offering Hub services in the MENA region at present. Hub is primarily an integration platform for restaurants to bring all online sales channels and aggregator partners like Talabat, Careem, Deliveroo, and Jahez on one platform.
It also had a partnership with Zomato until the foodtech company’s exit from the UAE in November 2022.
UrbanPiper is clear that it wants to firmly position itself in the region, but has decided not to introduce all products.
“We want to build an ecosystem for businesses, a universal supermarket. Food businesses can come and access different products that we or our partners offer. For instance, we have partnered with ChatFood, a Dubai-based fintech firm, for integrating their QR code ordering solution with Hub. At the end of the day, what matters is that a restaurant walks out with a solution for online operations,” Renjith says.
UrbanPiper, which competes with companies such as Deliverect, GrubTech, and Otter, charges around $69 per month per brand outlet in MENA. This is irrespective of whether the brand outlet is part of a cloud kitchen of multiple brands or has integration with x number of aggregators.
The team did not share details regarding pricing for aggregators.
Plans for the future
UrbanPiper has collaborated with 300 outlets in Saudi Arabia and aims to further improve its presence in the country. Other countries in focus include Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.
“In the last two quarters, we have consistently clocked a 20% growth rate in revenue from the region. We believe that it will only grow bigger as we expand further in Saudi Arabia,” Renjith says.
(Disclaimer: a previous version of the article mentioned the wrong competitors.)
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Edited by Teja Lele