Greg Camacho, former Grab Philippines’ Head of Strategy for Deliveries, still vividly remembers the wee hours before March 16, 2020 when the entire Luzon was placed under total lockdown due to rising Covid cases in the country. The leadership team of Grab Philippines was on a call until about 3am deliberating if they should shut down the transport and delivery app.
“We didn't know what was going to happen,” Camacho recalls the uncertainty of the situation. “People weren't allowed to go out. We didn't even know if the delivery partners (riders) could go around.” Fifteen minutes before they ended the call, they made the drastic decision to shut down the app.
Then the next day, around 10AM, they started seeing the actual situation on the streets. Some people were still able to go around so they decided to reopen the app. “On that first day of the lockdown, our demand doubled,” says Camacho. Their supply, however, got cut in half because many of their delivery riders could not get inside Metro Manila. They were Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna, and Cavite residents.
Thus it was important to ensure the app’s reliability, which became Camacho’s task. “What do we do so that the eaters still get their order?” he thought to himself. “How do we make sure our delivery partners would have a sustainable means of living? How do we help keep the merchants open because a lot of merchants closed over the pandemic?” The app won’t survive without its riders and suppliers. He and his team had to think of ways to address the pressing issues.
One of the ideas that came out was the long-distance delivery concept. Normally, restaurants stick to a certain delivery radius. But with the new rule, merchants can take orders from farther places. “We talked to some of the merchants and anecdotally, some of them boosted their sales by 30%,” offers Camacho.
During the first year of the pandemic, the growth of food delivery businesses tripled, says the management exec, quoting a study conducted by Singapore-based venture builder and research firm Momentum Works. “Food delivery in Southeast Asia tripled. And it was crazy to be in the center of all of that… me and the team seeing how fast things were growing over the pandemic,” Camacho says.
‘Delivery is here to stay’
Post pandemic, however, growth in the delivery business has been at a “normalized rate,” observes Camacho, now Director for Deliveries, in charge of Grab Food, Grab Mart, and Grab Kitchen. “Now the message that we really want to get out is that delivery is here to stay. It isn’t just a pandemic business,” he says. “Delivery is now a staple in everyone's daily lives.”
But this meant adapting and evolving with the times. Now that dining in is back to being a big part of the business, it is important to not only have an online but also offline presence and integrate these two components.
One of the things Grab is experimenting with now, says Camacho, is the Scan to Order feature of the Grab app. To use it, simply go to a restaurant, scan the QR code with your phone’s Grab app, then you can place your order and pay using the app. “It’s working for Scout's Honor and right now we're doing it with Frankie’s,” he says.
Many of Grab’s customers are families. For the convenience of parents who’d want to pick up their orders coming from work, Grab has a self-pickup feature. “When you get to the restaurant, you skip the queue, you just go straight to the front of the counter, get your food and go home. That one is offline but online execution. So it's a way of integrating both,” he says.
The Find and Dine feature, on the other hand, is another online-offline feature that shows diners which restaurants or bars are near their location. Once they reach the restaurant, they could scan the QR code and order using the app. “We're trying to add reviews, ratings to help you make decisions,” Camacho says.
Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for 99.51% of all business establishments in the Philippines and employ about 63% of the country's workforce. “They play a vital role in the growth of Philippine economy,” says the Grab exec.
One way Grab is supporting MSMEs is by putting them in a special category on GrabFood called Indie Eats, where these up-and-coming merchants get the spotlight. “On the back end, we have a process for selecting which merchants to include,” he explains. “We support them with promos and visibility.”
On a personal note, Camacho says he cares about MSMEs because of the influence of his parents. “For my [businessman] dad, super important ang love for country. He believes that the way to help the country is thru jobs creation.”
Camacho’s mother, who has worked at the Philippine National Bank for 20 years, on the other hand, is caring and empathetic. “My parents taught us to always work hard and to always be kind to people, regardless of who they are. I think that's why I find myself gravitating towards helping MSMEs.”
The future of deliveries
Camacho, who earned his Management degree in Ateneo de Manila University and his MBA in Oxford University, initially started in investment banking. The reason he got interested in technology was its scalability. “When I joined Grab, I didn't know anything about food delivery. It wasn't really a thing then,” he says. “At the time, it was just McDo, Jollibee, and Pizza Hut doing it.” This is because of the sheer hugeness of investment needed to buy motorcycles and pay the monthly salaries of the riders.
Thus, it became Grab’s goal to democratize food delivery—make it available to smaller businesses and mom-and-pop shops. “When we were doing our earlier pitches, we thought, ‘Siguro cool sa future na pag tumingin ka sa labas, makikita mo puro mga delivery riders natin.’ Then fast forward now, I can never leave my house without seeing a Grab driver on the road. I would always see at least one delivery rider na may Grab bag.”
What’s next for deliveries? Camacho says it’s how they can make it possible for people to get whatever they want right away. In other words, quick commerce. “That's the concept of Grab Mart. So I think moving forward, that’s something we're going to put more focus on.”