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New grocery delivery service sets itself apart with speed

Toronto service Urbery is in pilot mode with big expansion plans

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Waiting is for suckers. That’s part of the idea behind a new Toronto grocery delivery service called Urbery that gets food to customers’ doorsteps in less than three hours.

Currently in pilot mode, Urbery is largely aimed at Toronto’s downtown core, with plans to slowly expand to other parts of the city by later this year.

Founder and CEO Mudit Rawat started Urbery late last year, but he’s no newcomer to the grocery scene. His most recent role was at Sobeys’ corporate strategy group, where he analyzed grocery retail trends; he’s also worked in various business development and consulting roles.

In an interview with Canadian Grocer, Rawat revealed what inspired the idea for Urbery, what differentiates it and what he’s got in store for the service’s future.

What inspired the idea for Urbery?

The inspiration behind Urbery was my–and my friends’–needs to get [groceries] delivered to our doorsteps when I wanted them without having multiple restrictions and wait times. I never “planned” my grocery trips, and my needs were mostly, ‘Oh, I need bread, eggs and juice now. Can someone deliver it?’ And the answer was no.

I also did not like going to grocery stores without a car and carrying heavy bags [home]. More often than not, I would end up calling a cab from the grocery store to my home, which was an additional expense. I was also amazed by the rising power of social capital and knew the time was right to launch a service that not only allows customers to shop for groceries and have them delivered quickly, but also create an avenue for people who love grocery shopping and could now earn money while doing it.

We have had an overwhelming response and have found some amazing [employees, called “grocery gurus”] who are so passionate about food and love to help our customers eat better by always finding the freshest groceries available on store shelves.

How do Urbery’s shoppers decide where to buy groceries for your customers?

Right now we are not officially partnered with a grocery store. We are currently testing the model with two grocery chains and finding ways to optimize our supply chain even more. Our shoppers use these stores to do the majority of our pickups. In case our grocery gurus can’t find something–or if they don’t like the quality of a certain fresh item–that the customer wants in these stores, we use the closest big-box grocery chain in the customer’s neighbourhood to find that item.

The customer also has the option to tell us if they have a preferred store from which they will like us to shop. If a product is not available in any of the stores, our grocery gurus get in touch with the customer to see if they can substitute the product with a different product or if they want, they can get a full refund for that item.

What makes Urbery different from other grocery delivery services?

I think the grocery delivery service industry in Toronto, and in Canada, is evolving. We differentiate ourselves by providing customers the option to get groceries delivered within hours of them ordering, compared to groceries being delivered next day or in the evenings.

Even though we publicize our service right now as under three hours, the reality is we can even get orders to customers in under an hour-and-a-half of them placing them. We will be launching that service very soon!

Our groceries don’t sit in trucks the whole day and are purchased and delivered right away. It’s as though our customers were doing the shopping for themselves, but the only difference is, they are sitting at home and utilizing that time doing things they love.

Grocers like Loblaw have launched click-and-collect services. How will you compete?

Click and collect is a very interesting model and it will definitely see growth in the coming years. In that model, customers still need to drive to the store to pick up their groceries. Nielsen research shows 34% of millenials don’t intend on buying cars in the future. This is where Urbery comes in, covering the last mile in the grocery delivery space.

There is a lot more that is going to happen to our platform itself as we grow our business. We believe no one has cracked the user experience code of grocery shopping on your iPads/mobile devices. We are in the process of customizing our platform such that the platform learns about the users’ shopping habits and starts recommending products to them.

Our mobile app is a work-in-progress; it will customize itself such that it behaves differently based on who is using it. Imagine a time when the app learns that you normally consumes a 12-pack egg carton in a week and notifies you that eggs are on sale on the seventh day, or if you only buy gluten-free products they are always shown first.

How does your business model work? Does all your profit come from delivery fees?

We currently have two revenue streams: delivery fees and our own pricing. We are going to rollout a B2B platform later this year where retailers can onboard onto our platform instead of building their own home delivery channel and let us handle all their deliveries for them.

We will also work with CPG companies to promote products, and we plan to build a comprehensive ad platform which CPGs can use to promote coupons, tasting, strategic banner placement and promoted products, all on our website.

Who is your target customer?

Anyone who needs groceries delivered to their doorstep! We expect a lot of our demand to come from the millennials as well as seniors. We have big plans for later in the year to target the fast-growing ethnic population, too. In addition, we are currently working on an alcohol delivery component to our model which will increase our target demographic.

Later this year, customers will be able to get all the ingredients to cook a delicious meal along with their favourite wine all on our platform and have it delivered in under two hours of ordering it.

What are your goals with the pilot, and expanding the business?

One: optimize the delivery time further; we want to slowly move to two hours and then an under one-hour service. We are finding ways to optimize this during the pilot. Two: learning more about the capacity of [our] grocery gurus during their scheduled time slot. Three: tweak our platform so it becomes easier to use for our customers. Four: learn more about shopping behaviour and average order size

From an expansion standpoint we are looking to expand into three additional Toronto regions and are also exploring expansion into cities in Western Canada. The beauty of our model is we can expand to other regions very fast once we have a strong base; learning from the pilot is very critical here.

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