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Yalla Fel Sekka: All about urban intra-city logistics

Yalla Fel Sekka: All about urban intra-city logistics

ArabFinance: We chatted with Yasmin Abdel Karim and Khashayar Mahdavi, co-founders of Yalla Fel Sekka, on how the startup is disrupting the logistics scene with its instant delivery service and intra-city urban logistics. Spawned in the year 2020, YFS was able to accelerate its business in a short time, with big dreams that are yet to come, the co-founders tell us.

Would you introduce yourselves, highlight how your paths crossed and how did the idea of YFS first come about?

We met in Paris where one of us was working In finance while the other was working with the oil and gas company Schlumberger. We both have backgrounds in economics and we both come from the Middle East, so we have a lot in common.

We were discussing emerging markets in Egypt and Southeast Asia in general and the future of e-commerce. We looked at the Southeast Asian market, from Indonesia, to Iran, including India, Pakistan,and all of the countries that are similar to Egypt, in terms of population, infrastructure, and culture, and we realized the Egyptian market had no instant delivery service except for restaurants. 

What happened next? How did your journey begin in co-founding Yalla Fel Sekka?

While studying at the Kennedy School at Harvard, Yasmin pitched our start up idea to come back with investors for the first seed round. We raised the first investment from the Graduate Syndicate, a fund backed by Harvard. We then landed the American infrastructure fund I Squared Capital as well as Flybridge Ventures. In total we managed to raise $2.5 million in 2019. We later learned that it was the largest seed round in the region for a logistics company at that time.

In 2019, we did a beta launch to validate our technology and operations and then the pandemic hit early on in 2020, but it paradoxically helped us as instant delivery became a necessity. This turbocharged our launch.

What makes your services different and what’s the company’s market edge amid the new delivery apps being established?

We believe in three pillars. The first one is people; we have a great pool of talented people. This talent permeates into operational excellency, innovation and creativity. The second pillar is technology that enhances our operational excellency and productivity. And then speed is our third pillar which is an integral part of our operations and philosophy of doing business. 

When you order your groceries from a supermarket, you can get it the next day or in 4-5 hours. Now, people want their groceries quicker. In Egypt in the old days, the common culture was to simply have someone fetch the groceries from the convenience store. Now, the process is simply being digitised and replaced by services like InstaShop and other apps that need instant delivery providers. 

What differentiates us from others is that we also act as our customers’ partners; we are not just a simple delivery provider: we look at our clients operations, we advise them and tell them how they can improve their end customer user experience and how to improve their retention rates. Technology is critical as it identifies the highest density areas, peak times and availability of drivers. This input helps our customers to better organise their operations. It is as if our customers had an in-house logistics service! 

Today, shopping experiences are moving over to apps, a service that operates 24/7. You download the app, order and the purchased items are delivered to your doorstep. Groceries are now delivered within 15 minutes. How is this speed possible ? This is done through what is called a network of dark stores, which are warehouses that store all the products customers usually order and serve a radius of three to five kilometres maximum to be able to deliver in 10-20 minutes when orders come in through the apps. 

We just started managing these darkstores and we are aiming to launch this year around 20 of them in Cairo to cover the residential areas. 

Last month, you secured a funding round, which will be used for expansion. Can you elaborate on the experience along with these expansion plans? 

We raised usd 7 million in  our series A from our original investors but also from two new investors AD Disrupt which is an ADQ company as well as from the  El Kharafi Group. The Series A that we raised beginning of this year will be used to expand our operations across Egypt. We are currently operating in five cities: Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Monsoura, and Tanta. 

Can you share with us the company in numbers and shed light on the company's performance?

We handle around 10,000+ deliveries a day. We are around 35 employees. We have around 1,000 drivers actively working daily, while our pool of available drivers is around 3,000. Not all are actively managing orders because some are coming in for training, some are shadowing to learn , some are onboarding.

In March 2020, when we first launched, we were doing about 20 to 50 deliveries a day. Today, we are doing over 10,000 deliveries a day. That gives you an idea of the growth we experienced within the two years. Lockdown really boosted our growth. 

What are the sectors that you target?

The verticals and the sectors we are serving include groceries, pharma and e-commerce. Most of the supermarkets in Egypt work with us. We are talking about the international brands as well as the local ones. We are also covering the small-to-medium size  enterprises (SMEs).

Can you elaborate on the expansion plans? You have you already said that you're planning on increasing the dark stores. Do you plan on expanding further? And can you have like regional expansion plans?

We only started two years ago. We see our expansion mainly focused in Egypt for now , and the next step will be to penetrate the neighbouring countries. Egypt is a huge market, so we want to have our base here, and plug and play in different countries across the region once we have mastered our home turf. 

In terms of local expansion plans, in Egypt, you said that there is still room to grow. Would you like to elaborate on that?

We are working now in five cities. And we want to cover other cities across Egypt, we are eyeing Upper Egypt, we want to go to more cities in the Delta where there is strong demand. 


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