by Robin Nierynck
Founder’s story: meet Nauman from foodpanda Pakistan
Nauman Sikandar Mirza is CEO of foodpanda Pakistan. Since founding his own company in 2011 from his father’s living room, he has become the head of one of the largest e-commerce companies in the country.
Why did you decide to found your own business?
My dream is to build great companies that provide an amazing experience to their customers, business partners and team. I’ve been a rebel ever since I can remember, challenging the status quo, and I wanted to change how things were done in organizations. Plus I hated wearing a tie to the office. I also wanted to build something in Pakistan, for Pakistan, to help my country get international recognition and portray a better image of the country.
How did you get started?
We started on 7th July, 2011 with an online food review platform called Food Connection Pakistan. We started from my father’s living room. We set up 4 tables and that was it. I did not have salaries to pay for the first month of operations, so we had to make money every month or we would go bust. In a year’s time we listed 3,000 vendors on our platform and reached 200,000 visitors per month.
“I wanted to build something in Pakistan,
Why food delivery?
After completing my MBA from Lancaster University, I had an opportunity to run one of the largest restaurants in England: Aakash. During that experience I discovered food delivery companies and I saw them enter the UK market and grow quickly. In Pakistan there are millions of customers and thousands of restaurants, but there was no platform that connected both. So I thought that given my experience in food and education in IT, I should pursue business in the online food space.
How did you convince investors of your concept?
By the time we’d been running for about 1,5 years, foodpanda had launched in Pakistan. We realized that since foodpanda was gaining momentum so we rebranded to an online food ordering platform, from FCPakistan to EatOye. We already had 200,000 visitors on the platform and a very strong relationship with the vendors.
In order to prove our platform’s worth to the investors we did a test: we changed the contact number on a few of the restaurant pages and routed them to my house landline. In one week we made reservations and order bookings for over 10,000 customers. This data validated of our model for investors.
What was the biggest challenge you faced, and how did you overcome it?
When I started the business in 2011, the challenge wasn’t running the business itself – that was easy. The biggest challenge was the ecosystem in which the business was operating. At the time Karachi, the city the company was based out of, was facing major disruptions due to strikes, electricity failures and administrative issues. This meant that the staff was not able to come to the office to work. It was our mission to develop something great for Pakistan, by Pakistan, which propelled us to fight against the odds and keep moving ahead.
“Now that we can tap into the knowledge base, expertise and financial muscle of Delivery Hero, we plan to revolutionize the ordering-in experience.”
What ‘ingredients’ would you say are needed to successfully start a business?
Foolishness and ignorance, with a passion to do something great.
When did you join Delivery Hero and how does it affect your business?
In 2015, EatOye merged with foodpanda. Foodpanda Pakistan was acquired by Delivery Hero in December 2016. Pakistan is a frontier market and foodpanda is one of the only few e-commerce companies in the country. Now that we can tap into the knowledge base, expertise and financial muscle of Delivery Hero, we plan to revolutionize the ordering-in experience. With the continued investments and long term vision, Delivery Hero is able to build a whole ecosystem in countries, enabling direct/indirect employment, more revenues for restaurants, greater growth for the team and more convenience for the customers.
What does being part of a global company like Delivery Hero look like?
Most of our knowledge sharing is done at APAC level. We have formed a very strong team that supports each other in best practice and knowledge sharing. We have multiple events around the year such a CEO summits, where we meet and collaborate on ideas with leadership teams from different countries.
I’d like to add that Delivery Hero is an excellent company, and I really mean that. Conscious effort has been made to build a great team out of Berlin; a team that’s very supportive of the local teams, down to earth and very transparent in their conduct.
What’s special about Pakistan’s food culture and people’s order behaviour?
Pakistan has some of the best food on offer. I don’t say this because I am a Pakistani – It’s because this is true. You can find more here.
From a food delivery perspective, it’s an evolving market where more and more customers are switching to ordering food every year. The most ordered item in Pakistan is pizza, followed by fast food and then Pakistani food.
Why is foodpanda Pakistan an amazing place to work?
I’ll let our employees answer that!
“Foodpanda Pakistan is not a place to work, we don’t work here. At foodpanda Pakistan we build, we create, we make a difference. The office is filled with diverse people from different walks of life, and all ideas are respected and validated. The culture is transparent, flexible and is filled with a buzz of activity and productivity.”
– HR team
“Foodpanda Pakistan is an amazing place to work for people who wish to move away from the 9 to 5 workday and take on a new challenge every day. Our organization gives ownership to each of our 300+ employees to come up with ideas that can the help the organization grow. Even the most junior employee can be a founder of a process.”
– Finance team
What do you consider your most important mission as CEO?
My mission as a CEO continuously evolves. When I started the company it was mostly about generating business and more business. Since foodpanda has become a bigger company, it’s my mission to get great people on board to manage each part of the business and make sure our processes are consistent and effective. However, at all times my mission as a CEO is governed by the overall goal to build something great for our customers, restaurants and internal teams.
When you look back in 20 years, what’s the thing that would make you most proud?
I would be really proud If I am able to become a good father, husband, son and a brother.