VENTURES AFRICA – Ever wondered who took the takeout order booklet from the fridge and did not put it back? Fret not. ordering fast-food at takeout’s just went mobile. In 2011, almost three out of four South African adults 16+ years (25.3 million) had personally bought from a fast food outlet in the past 4 weeks! This was up from an already high two thirds (20.6 million) in 2007.
South Africa alone has almost 50 million mobile users, and growing. Access to the web, faster bandwidth, access to information all justifying mobile solutions.
This increase trends with global growth that showed a total reach of 208-billion transactions in 2009, with global revenue expected to reach $240 billion by the end of 2014.
We chat to Alireza Sadeghi and Ismail Dhorat about their company and the use of technology that drives ChowHub.
VA: Welcome. Tell us more about the thinking behind ChowHub?
CH: Actually Ali & I met at a Startup Weekend Event, hosted by Microsoft. Initially we pitched an online ordering system for cupcakes & baked goodies. We were pulling long hours over the weekend to get the development done, and decided to call through to get some food delivered.
The experience was frustrating, trying to find a restaurant that delivered to us was nearly impossible, we searched on Google, found some numbers. Then we had to call, after being told by two restaurants that they do not deliver on weekends, one restaurant had us on hold for 5 minutes before they took our order, and finally when we did get our food, it was an1 ½ hours later, cold and they got the order wrong. We discussed it over the cold pizza, and realised there must be a better way to do it.
We started brainstorming around how we could make ordering takeaway as simple as possible, and started working on ChowHub
VA: When was the business started?
CH: We started working on it during December 2012 the first prototype was done over the Christmas holidays. In February 2013, we began working on ChowHub full time.
VA: Can you tell us a bit more about the development of the back-end software that drives the concept?
CH: The first prototype was written in Python, since I had experience with that language, but Ali had never programmed in python before so I thought myself Ruby, and we’re wrote the application in Ruby on Rails. In terms of the software, we can guarantee that an order is sent to the restaurant in under 30 seconds of it being placed online or via mobile. The process is entirely automated, once the restaurant confirms the order a notification is sent immediately to the customer that the restaurant has received their order and the expected time it will be available for pickup or go out for delivery.
VA: Starting this venture surely cannot be an easy feat. Any significant partners or investors that have helped to make the venture possible?
CH: Yes, we have had some awesome people who have helped us along the way. We are currently part of an accelerator called Seed Engine, who provide support and mentoring.
VA: Technology is certainly changing the way we live, react and almost make decisions for us. How do you see ChowHub impacting the market?
CH: Our goal is make sure customers are satisfied and have the best experience and that they can discover restaurants around them. For restaurants, we connect them with hungry people who want to be fed, and increase their sales.
VA: Do you have a technology partner or any access to technology assistance that enabled the company to go “live”?
CH: While our entire stack is built on open source software, we are part of the Microsoft Bizspark +programme. We have had meetings with them about developing a Windows 8 App, and have meetings setup with Blackberry regarding a Blackberry 10 & 7 app.
VA: So how is the market reacting to this mobile solution?
CH: It is not purely mobile, you can also order from your desktop. Right now we have the desktop & mobile websites, and we plan on releasing mobile apps for all major platforms.
VA: In 2011 61 percent of South Africans bought fast-food at least once a month. Is there a possibility that you have to break trends of the traditional fast-food eater, by changing to a mobile solution?
CH: Well, I think so. Almost everyone has had that moment, when they needed to call in to a restaurant, the only route was via Google for the number and then call in to the restaurant, then you have to repeat your details every time you call in, assuming the person can hear you clearly on the other end and you have a copy of the menu in front of you. What we offer is convenient, easy to use technology and available wherever you are, when we fully rolled-out of course.
VA: What’s ChowHubs’ reach at the moment?
CH: Right now we are focusing on a single area, it just makes it easier to roll out that way. We have launched in Sunninghill (Gauteng), and by next month we will be launching in other areas around Johannesburg
Gentlemen, thank you and all the best with expanding this innovative solution.