From providing IT customer support at a major computing company, to coordinating the setup of the first DNA bank for the Nigerian military, Nigerian entrepreneur Biebele Somiari has had an eclectic career by any standard.
In 2014, she moved on to her next challenge, and one she feels particularly passionate about: “making hungry people happy by a click of the mouse”. Somiari co-founded her own startup, online food delivery platform Food-i-Like.
“The choice of what to eat and where to eat is driving the need for online food delivery. With high internet and mobile penetration, the rise in the adoption of smartphones and more disposable incomes, more people are finding online ordering more easy, time saving and convenient,” Somiari says.
“Besides making hungry people happy by a click of a mouse; the food space is interesting because it has one of the largest shares of wallets in terms of how much people spend on food, especially with the growing middle class in Nigeria,” she says.
Somiari says the startup answers growing consumer demand for a more convenient way of shopping for meals, while it also increases sales for merchants and allows them to focus solely on their food preparation.
While the startup is currently only active in Abuja, 80 per cent of users return to order again once they have tried the service. On this basis, Somiari believes Food-i-Like has the potential to scale across Nigeria, as well as planning for regional expansion.
In order to meet these plans, Somiari says building consumer trust is key. She says overcoming initial consumer skepticism involves an individualised approach to customer service; while payments and logistics also pose challenges to providing the best service.
“At first, most users were skeptical about the service. They are not sure their orders are well received, if the orders will be delivered to them in good condition and on time, or if the order will even come at all,” the co-founder says.
“To improve trust, we introduced processes to ensure each order received is confirmed, quality control measures are in place to ensure meals are prepared and packed properly and delivery is confirmed to the consumer. By meeting the unique need of each consumer, trust and a relationship is built.”
Regarding payments, currently all orders made on the platform are pay-on-delivery. Somiari says this is not a problem, as this also contributes to building consumer trust. Slowly, the startup is starting to introduce other payment options alongside cash payments – such as delivery staff being equipped with point of sale (PoS) terminals, and online payments.
Logistics, on the other hand, is a constantly evolving challenge, she says.
“Logistics is a major part of our service, hence very important to our operations. I will not say it poses a problem rather we have the challenge of ensuring logistics is constantly improved through having a network of delivery personnel and implementing technology solutions to manage the fleet,” Somiari says.
“We are currently testing different logistics applications to ascertain the best fit for our business.”
So what does the future hold for Food-i-Like?
“We want to be the go-to place for restaurant discovery, food ordering and delivery, by expanding into major cities in Nigeria, West Africa and the rest of Africa.”