5 Jun 23

‘War of the deliverers’ sweeps Emirates

What do you get when a handful of delivery companies compete for market share in a highly lucrative UAE market? A food fight. The war of the deliverers is being fought mainly between Talabat, the market leader, and Careem, its up-and-coming challenger. 

According to Statista, the restaurant sector in the UAE exceeded $7 billion in 2022. A fast-growing slice of that total arrived at end customers via food delivery services like Talabat, which had more than 70% of the market in early 2022, versus 12% for Deliveroo, 8% for Zomato and 4% for Careem Food, the food delivery service of the Careem ‘super app’, which started out as a ride-hailing provider.  

Dirhams for Delays

Intent on growing its share of the food delivery market, Careem recently launched a ‘Dirhams for Delays’ campaign. The super app said it would offer 1 dirham for every minute a food order was delayed beyond its scheduled arrival time, with a maximum of 10 dirham ($2.5) per order. Any money thus earned would be sent automatically to the customer’s Careem Pay wallet on the app. 

The campaign, launched in May and valid through early June, was criticised by competitors Talabat and Deliveroo, as well as by others on social media, for its implications for driver stress, safety and earnings. 

“Not safe”

Arabian Business quotes Tomaso Rodriguez, the CEO of Talabat, as disapproving of the campaign: “It is not safe and it is not something we believe in. Campaigns like this (…) just hurt the riders because they get more pressured to deliver faster. We will never incentivize faster delivery and put that on the riders.”

Anis Harb, Deliveroo’s General Manager for the Middle East, had a similar response: “We don’t believe it’s the right message. A marketing campaign that is centred around delays has implications in consumers’ minds, and maybe wider in the network.”

Careem has clarified that the consumer credits in its ‘Dirhams for Delays’ campaign would not come out of its drivers’ pay, and that its emphasis on timely deliveries would not endanger their safety.

Instead, Alex Golden, Careem’s General Manager of its Food service, hit back at Talabat: “Just a year ago, most of Talabat’s riders walked off the job in a dispute over bad working conditions and poor pay, (while) not a single Careem Captain stopped riding.”

Promises kept

Meanwhile, “our ‘Dirhams for Delays’ campaign is about promises made and promises kept, not speed. Careem Captains cannot see the ETAs we promise customers, and are not incentivised nor penalised in any way by delivery time. We’re not promising faster ETAs, we’re promising accuracy.”

“We’re confident in our ability to deliver on time because we never batch orders; each customer gets a dedicated Captain to deliver their food.” 

After ride-hailing, Careem Food is the largest service on the company’s ‘super app’. In just one year (i.e. since the figures cited above), its customer base and order volume in Dubai have more than doubled. Careem Food operates across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and offers its customers access to more than 17,000 restaurants in those markets. 

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Frank Jacobs