'Uber of deliveries' takes off in thriving, crowded Manila

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2017 06:36 AM | Updated as of Sep 23 2017 04:28 PM

'Uber of deliveries' takes off in thriving, crowded Manila 1
A driver for app-based delivery service Transportify drives around Metro Manila. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Flower shop owner Diana Yap said she did not see her business take off until she gave up her own cars for an app-based delivery service that borrows from Uber's vehicle-sharing set-up.

With Transportify, Yap said she could adapt easily to seasonal demand, which peaks to as many as 300 daily deliveries of Ecuadorian roses during Valentines season and shrinks to as little as 30 in a month during lean periods.

The app is to delivery as Uber is to commuting where users can request cars, vans and trucks with just several taps on a mobile device. It is also available on desktop.

Demand is so brisk that Transportify hopes to break even by 2018 after just 2 years of operations. From an initial capital of $1 million, it now has 5,000 "partner" drivers from 450 when it started.

"Nagtry kami gumamit ng sariling kotse namin kaya lang ang gulo kasi ang daming deliveries," Yap, 25, told ABS-CBN News.

(We tried using our own cars but it was chaotic because there were too many deliveries.)

"But on top of savings, its really the hassle taken off our shoulders that we are grateful for," she said.

Transportify can deliver items as small as a USB thumb drive to as big as a 2-door refrigerator as long as it fits in the vehicles it deploys, the biggest of which is a closed van.

Delivery rates range from P250 to P2,100 for the first 3 kilometers with an additional charge for succeeding kilometers.

'Uber of deliveries' takes off in thriving, crowded Manila 2
Transportify co-country managers Paolo Bengson and Noel Abelardo speak to ABS-CBN News at their Ortigas Center headquarters. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

"Small and medium enterprises are our low-hanging fruits because they can't afford third party providers. They don't have money to buy their own vehicle," Noel Abelardo, Transportify's head of sales and marketing, told ABS-CBN News at the company's Ortigas center headquarters.

"Even if they have money to buy their own vehicle, they have to employ a driver to send items out. So it becomes very resource and asset heavy for them," he added.

Transportify is homegrown in Southeast Asia, with roots in Bangkok and Jakarta before its Manila foray. Another regional company, Grab, offers on-demand, app based delivery on top of its main ride-sharing service.

"Our technology is easy to understand, but a lot of the service depends on the driver. We try to teach the very basic delivery skills during training," Paolo Bengson, Transportify head of operations and service, told ABS-CBN News.

The company earns through commissions from roughly 750 daily deliveries, Bengson said.

Employing smaller vehicles like sedans and vans also makes deliveries faster, compared to trucks which cannot use small roads and are banned in certain areas during rush hour, Abelardo said.

The country's slow internet connection, however, makes it hard for customers to track deliveries. Transportify driver Laurence Villaroman blamed bad internet service for double bookings in the past.

"Masakit ang cancelled booking on the part of the customer kasi they have to pay 30 percent kapag nagpacancel," said Villamorman, a father of 2 and former Pizza Hut delivery man.

(Cancelled bookings are tough because customers have to pay 30 percent if they cancel.)

Transportify drivers also get locked out of the system for about 90 minutes when they fail to accept 4 delivery requests.

Abelardo said the company hired an in-house customer service team to address problems.

Transportify intends to expand to urban areas in the Visayas or Mindanao, he said.

"All the systems have been set up in other cities. It's just a matter of turning the switch on," Abelardo said.