As Malaysians hunkered down to life transformed by Covid-19 in March, a surprise turn of events punctured the gloom of lockdown and Shen Ong learnt an invaluable lesson: When an opportunity presents itself, move as quickly as humanly possible.
Ong is managing director of on-demand same-day delivery platform Lalamove Malaysia. The company suddenly had to step up to the plate as people rushed to shop for food and groceries online and needed to have their orders brought to their doorstep.
Delivery requests rose 200% in the months after the Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented and there was a scramble to meet them, Ong says. “We had to get more drivers and made lots of changes fast, like moving people from different teams to help with onboarding, and prioritising certain functions to fulfil orders.”
Demand for grocery delivery exploded because prepping meals for the family and getting the ingredients were concerns of those stuck at home. Empty restaurants haemorrhaging money saw a lifeline in services such as Lalamove: They had to get food to consumers forced to stay away. There was also a jump in general deliveries, which make up 30% to 40% of the company’s business, as government agencies reached out to those who needed supplies.
The quirky coincidence wrought by the pandemic is that, as orders spiked, many people lost their jobs. Becoming riders and drivers was one quick way to earn some money. Ride-hailing drivers, too, moved to food as employees began working from home and the number of passengers dwindled.
Getting 500 to 1,000 new drivers overnight solved Lalamove’s supply problem but presented another: They had to be trained online and taught the whole delivery process. There was paperwork to process and checks to make sure documents were in order.
Looking back on that frantic period, Ong says it took time to figure out a strategy and there were things they could have done better with demand and account management. There were hiccups: Sometimes, instructions were given but not relayed. By and large, people were helpful in making things as smooth as possible for the team. “It helped that the government was working to give us the information we needed to ensure our riders and drivers had permission to be on the roads.”
One of the benefits of being a start-up is there is no red tape, he says. “The regional teams and our HQ give us quite a bit of autonomy when it comes to decision-making. Basically, we decide on what we think is best, then, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do it now’. Because we are allowed to do that, we can see results very quickly.
“I don’t think anything could have prepared anyone for Covid-19. Honestly, as a company in this industry, we were in a most fortunate position. It was a good stretch for us — we still had things to do.”
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