Japan’s ‘Uber for logistics’ launches food delivery service in central Tokyo



See the original story in Japanese.

Tokyo-based startup Dely recently launched a food delivery service on a beta test basis, which allows food orders and deliveries to bem ade from select restaurants. Orders are made via mobile phone, but the service is currently only available in the central Tokyo.

In partnership with 30 restaurants, the service allows users to order a variety of cuisine ranging from Italian to Japanese to Turkish to Thai – all at your fingertips. Dely CEO Yusuke Horie explains what motivated him to start this business:

Typical food delivery services have a limited menu. We provide a variety of food so that we will overturn the fixed concept you have for food delivery services. We would like to make food service more available among the younger generation who merely order food deliveries.

Because young women are a key customer base, Dely also serves a healthy menu, such as acai bowl and vegetable salads.

Only cash payment is available now, but they plan to start accepting credit cards in the near future. To place an order a user enters an address to designate the delivery location, but this process will be improved in the next version, which will detect a user’s location via the GPS function of a mobile phone.

Enabling small restaurants to offer food delivery service

Restaurants don’t pay an initial setup fee or monthly fee to participate in Dely. However, they will need to pay a commission based on the amount of orders received though the platform. To start accepting orders, participating restaurants will need containers designed for food delivery. Horie highlighted the work involved in offering a typical food delivery service:

When a restaurant starts a delivery service, they have many things to do, such as train delivery staff and buy motorcycles. They will need sufficient revenue to invest in the start of a delivery service, so only big chain restaurants offer it. We want to provide more opportunities to small restaurants.

Giving flexible scheduling options for delivery staff

As soon as an order is placed, a Dely staff member picks it up at the restaurant and delivers it by motorcycle to a home or office. Similarly to drivers using the Uber taxi app, Dely delivery staff are not fulltime workers, but they make themselves available to make deliveries at any time. Horie said he wants to evolve the Japanese distribution market with Dely:

Our delivery staff can take a delivery job at their convenience. We pay them 400 yen (approximately $4) for a delivery. We are developing a mobile app for delivery staff, allowing them to pick up delivery requests at their nearby location.

We don’t want to limit our service in food delivery but enhance it to many other businesses. The number of truck drivers dropped from 920,000 (in 2006) to 860,000 (in 2008) in Japan, while logistics needs are increasing due to the fast growing e-commerce business. We want to prevent the Japanese logistics business from collapsing.

We’ve seen startups like Postmates (San Francisco) and WunWun (New York City) doing a similar business in this space. It will be interesting to see how they can disrupt Japan’s highly regulated logistics market with the Uber-like business concept.