Foodpanda recently announced 24-hour food delivery options from May 2018 onwards in tandem with its 6th anniversary. Last year, the on-demand food delivery service made its leap from orange to pink, stripping off the old towards a new phase despite the growing pains of expansion that are still felt today.

Here to share foodpanda Malaysia’s recipe for navigating these choppy waters is managing director Sayantan Das, a tech-enthusiast and E-commerce entrepreneur who’s made it his mission to “paint the town pink”.

1/6A fresh look for a fresh outlook 

After a pervasive rebranding exercise that exchanged foodpanda’s famous orange to pink in 2017, it’s tempting to imagine the aesthetic change was the result of some whim on the part of the management. Do the higher-ups at foodpanda or its parent company The Delivery Hero Group have a soft spot for this bashful colour?

Managing director of foodpanda Malaysia, Sayantan Das has a different, more calculated explanation to offer.

“Our sister brand foodora in Europe has pink as their key brand colour. We wanted to synergize the brand across the world, bringing what they had to the Asia Pacific region,” Sayantan says.

“A lot of data backed the rebranding: exit polls suggested we would get better conversion rates and engagement if we did a facelift. So we rebranded all our assets and here we are, painting the town pink.”  

Another benefit of using pink? It works well with the reflective materials used on those foodpanda bags that riders take to the streets. And customers love the new look – even casting some aspersions on the old.

“Orange was tiring – someone once told me that our orange foodpanda colour looked like ‘hospital orange’. I still don’t know what that means.” Sayantan adds.

Going back to your roots

Running a successful food-delivery service is not without its share of brouhaha. Competition is tough – so is adhering to the standards of excellence demanded by various stakeholders.

Customer complaints fuelled by hunger-induced emotions can blow up at any given day. That said, it’s hard to stay chipper when faced with these and other daily challenges. On the tougher days, Sayantan and his team revisit why the brand came to be in the first place.

“What motivates us is the fact that we’re creating a difference. E-commerce marketplaces  – whether dealing in food delivery, transportation, finding accomodation – they’re born out of necessity. 

“We’ve delivered food to patients in hospitals, to pregnant mothers, to sick people who can’t step out of their houses. In those moments, foodpanda was there for them. Delivering food to bring about a positive change in our customers’ lives is what keeps us going and it’s something we live by.” 

The strength of the people behind the tech

Sayantan joined foodpanda a little over a year ago. Before that, he founded a startup which didn’t quite achieve what he had intended for it.

“Some key lessons I learned from my previous startup: it’s difficult to attract and retain top talent in a market like Malaysia, so once you get these top people on your team, it’s all about grooming their talent and leveraging on it as best you can. 

“At the end of the day, I know there are people out there who are way smarter than me, and that’s visible in our team as well.”     

Tackling the talk on social media

All that’s left to do when the negative publicity starts piling up: recognise a pattern in the feedback and address it as quickly as possible.    

“More often than not, [these comments are] about delayed deliveries. That goes down to improving our operational efficiency.

“Logistics is the backbone of our business; efficient operations and timely deliveries are crucial, right? One of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make so far would be reorganising and restructuring our entire operations team from the top down. 

“It was tough, but you have to stick by your decisions. Even so, we do sometimes fall short of the standards that customers expect – especially due to weather-related causes like when it’s raining.

“Sometimes, we’re just stretched. We don’t have speedboats to deliver on water, at least not yet.” Sayantan quips. 

Keep moving forward

From foodpanda Malaysia’s perspective, there’s no time like the present to jump into the burgeoning markets in East Malaysia – the food-delivery service will soon put down roots in Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Perak, Melaka and Johor Bahru.

“One of the things I’m most surprised about is that we don’t see more of a demand for local cuisine, like nasi lemak. I’m interested to see what happens once we expand into places like Ipoh, Melaka and Kota Kinabalu – Ipoh especially, since it’s considered a local food haven.” Sayantan says.

Leading with transparency

“I believe in radical transparency and a very open work culture. It helps to provide constructive criticism when someone in the team makes a mistake – that’s what I do with my team and that’s what I expect them to do with me,” says Sayantan.

“I actually enjoy mini-discussions and little debates with the team about decisions that we have to undertake, the type of leadership style I like is two-way and conversational. That way, I keep on learning.”

Amidst a rapidly unfolding plan of business expansion and a continuous drive to optimise internal operations, Sayantan isn’t ready to lose momentum any time soon.

“Foodpanda is a market leader. To remain a market leader you have to set the highest of standards and you can’t drop the ball on them. Yes, it’s tough being in a market leading position, because other players know who or what they’re chasing, but for us, it’s the sky.”

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