“We’ve seen an increase in pharmacy and groceries”: Interview with Glovo’s co-founder Sacha

It’s been well documented in the news that restaurants, cafes and bars have had to close in the wake of coronavirus. That said, on-demand delivery apps like Glovo have offered a glimmer of hope for local establishments, allowing them to still serve some of their regular customers and reclaim a sliver of their usual business.

It’s also been assumed that delivery apps are seeing an upsurge in deliveries, but is that just hearsay? And how are they taking care of their frontline staff and customers at this time?

To get a hold on the situation, we grabbed a moment with co-founder of Glovo, Sacha Michaud. We talked about how there’s actually been a decrease in deliveries globally but an increase in certain markets, that they’re offering free pharmacy deliveries in Spain and Portugal, and are now working on serving the most vulnerable members of society.

Thank you for joining us Sacha! We are looking forward to hearing from your experience as co-founder of Glovo.

To get started, let’s begin with the obvious. As more people are self-isolating due to the current pandemic, home-deliveries are on the rise. The way things are going at the moment for the business, can we even say there is a boom, instead of a crisis? Do you have any numbers to share?

For those countries hit the hardest by the COVID-19 virus, there has been a huge uptake in demand for our services. We’ve seen an increase in categories such as pharmacy and groceries, and during this difficult period it’s vital that every single person has access to food and medicine. That’s why in Spain we’ve removed the delivery fee for pharmaceutical orders.

We saw a decrease in orders globally in the wake of the outbreak. In some key markets, such as Spain and Italy, we saw an estimated 50% drop in orders as most of our partners — 90% of which are independent restaurants and businesses — went offline. However, within the next few weeks we expect the business to start climbing back to pre-COVID levels.

We saw that some services have been made free in certain areas, like pharmacy product delivery in Spain. Are there any other special benefits available for users at this time, across all of Europe?

In Spain, we saw there had been a 60% growth in pharmaceutical orders during the first week of confinement. Having looked at this, we wanted to remove any barriers to accessing medicine during this crisis, so we made all pharmacy deliveries free.

We also did the same in Portugal and we are trying to offer reduced delivery fees in other countries such as Italy.

To keep your riders safe and healthy, you’ve brought in new ‘contact-free’ drop-offs. How does this work? Do you provide riders with training on how to pick-up safely, as well as equipment like masks/gloves/gel? 

From a business perspective, in the wake of this pandemic, we had to move very quickly to adapt our operations. The safety of our couriers and customers will always be our top priority and there were many changes we needed to make to keep people safe.

We were one of the first delivery companies to implement no contact drop-offs — which allows our customers to choose where they’d like couriers to leave their orders — and this helps limit the direct contact between both parties, ensuring safer delivery.

Also, while the difficulties in obtaining personal protective equipment have been well documented in the media, we recognise our couriers are on the frontline of this crisis and that we need to protect them. So far, we have provided around 133,000 masks, 71,000 pairs of gloves and 2,500 litres of hand sanitiser gel worldwide to our couriers.

On the other side of the coin, thinking of customer safety, how do you manage signing for delivery? Do you have any measures to ensure deliveries are ‘clean’?

Aside from the safety measures we’ve taken regarding our couriers and customers, we’ve also been providing regular hygiene updates to partners and have provided them with recommendations such as disinfecting delivery bags, placing them on designated, sanitised surfaces and handling them by the sides when handing to couriers.

Often innovations can come when we are pushed into unfamiliar situations. Have you found any new business opportunities that you hadn’t thought of before?

Our main goal is to offer our services to help people, especially the elderly, vulnerable and most at-risk members of society, during this very difficult period.

Glovo was recently declared Spain’s first unicorn. What are your plans for growth in 2020 – any exciting projects in the pipeline?

Our projections for this year, like almost every other business, has been completely changed by this crisis. We will now focus our tech capabilities on our core business, developing solutions that can help our users, partners and couriers navigate city living in the coming months.

Do you have any advice for founders out there in Europe, on how to stay afloat during this time?

It is a challenging moment for all founders due to the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 virus. I would recommend all companies work as hard as they can to deal with the situation, reduce costs where they can and be as efficient and as effective as possible. It’s a very, very difficult time and a lot of businesses are having to take tough decisions to survive.