What a New Yorker or a Londoner can do, a Rwandan can do. Well, that sounds overrated, but for many, ordering for, say, a fish smokie and a Pop Cola online, might seem to be a service only found in the West.
But in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, Hellofood, the German online food delivery marketplace, allows users to order food from over 50 local restaurants around Kigali city through the website or a mobile app.
The German online food delivery marketplace is a member of Africa Internet Holdings Company, of which MTN and Tigo – two of Rwanda’s three telecommunications companies – are also partners.
“Our first meal was delivered last October ”, says 28-year-old Duncan Muchangi, country manager for Hellofood.
Fulgence Muhawenimana is a white-collar professional in Kigali city. With simple clicks on his computer, his favorite delicacy is delivered in minutes.
“It is a good service. It saves my time,” says Muhawenimana, who started using the online food service last month. “All I need is food,” Muhawenimana adds.
Hellofood has a chain of cyclists in different zones around the city who deliver the food to customers. “I can deliver food to five or six people a day”, says Emmanuel Twagirimana, 25, one of the motorcyclists.
Paul Ntaganda, the General Manager of Bourbon Coffee, Rwanda’s luxurious coffee shop, is happy his customers cannot crave for his delicious offers anymore. “At least anyone who loves a Tramezzin from Bourbon Coffee restaurant can get it without coming to the restaurant,” he says.
“We deliver thousands of meals a week”, says Hellofood’s Muchangi. “We have learnt a lot, and we are very happy and comfortable with our service today”, he says.
And food is kept clean, says Muchangi. “The food is well packaged at the restaurant, and there is no contact with the rider”, he says.
Ordering is easy. Users visit hellofood.com, enter their location, then a list of restaurants pops up from which they select their favorite dish; a roast beef sandwich with caramelized onion,achicken sandwich, pan-fried fish with vegetables, a pizza or a local dish such as Ubugali, Sombe, and Matooke
It takes less than 30 minutes to deliver. “When I delay, I don’t charge delivery fees”, says Twagirimana.
Obviously the development has met some customer shocks. “The first problem we faced was…people were like ‘What? Does it exist here?’”, adds Muchangi.
The service has since received mixed reactions. Some like it, others don’t. 40-year-old Fidel is a banker. He regularly goes out for lunch. But he says even with his busy schedule, “I cannot use it.” “Even if the food is properly packaged, there is always a sense of suspicion.”
But that’s not his main reason he does not embrace the service. “At lunchtime, I also get time to do some exercise and meet up with friends.”
The service is however meeting some challenges. It is forbidden to bring food at work in many workplaces. Staffs are forced to go out and eat from restaurants or at home.
Meanwhile, Hellofood has operations in 50 countries around the world, eleven of them in Africa. The business has a competitive advantage in Rwanda. It is a dynamic and increasingly growing economy with a widening middle class.
But also, growing access to internet and smartphones is facilitating e-commerce. Mobile phone penetration is now 63% up from 53% in 24 months alone, among Rwanda’s eleven million people. Internet penetration has grown from 7.9% to 22% in two years.
And, indeed, the business will not be the only beneficiary. Already more than 20 people have gotten employment. Twagirimana has resigned his job and taken the delivery service offer. “I used to earn about $220 per month, but I now earn more than I used to”, says Twagirimana.