It’s happened to everyone: After a long day at work, it’s time to come home, relax, and prepare a nice meal.
But tonight, there is no time to cook.
Historically, typical outcomes have included browsing internet reviews, shouting at family members due to hunger, and falling asleep while eating ramen. Swiggy, an Indian start-up in the crowded online food delivery space, is working to eliminate such issues by getting to know you, and your dining habits, better.
Swiggy And The Machine: Why Is This Important?
Swiggy was founded in August 2014 by Sriharsha Majety, Nandan Reddy and Rahul Jaimini. While Swiggy began by partnering with a mere 25 restaurants , that number has since expanded to more than 35,000 .
However, this expansion has not come easy, as there are multiple competitors in India’s online food delivery market battling for customers and revenues. While Swiggy holds between 35-38% of the market, Zomato holds 25-30% , and other entrants including Areo (operated by Google), UberEATS, FoodPanda India, and Fresh Menu  are all looking for a piece of what is projected by Indian firm RedSeer Consulting to be an approximately $2.5B sector by 2021 .
In order to defend its existing market share and continue its growth, Swiggy has embraced machine learning. At the beginning of the ordering process, Swiggy provides a customized list of restaurants based on details derived from past orders and searches; these details include prices, types of food, and more . Upon ordering, more calculations are completed based on the restaurant’s cycle time, driver locations, and more in order to determine who will deliver the food, along with his or her ideal route . Machine learning leads to continued improvements for the algorithm, as “Swiggy generates terabytes of data every week and leverages this data” , and has likely given the company its edge over others. Without this assistance, the landscape would likely be quite different, with Swiggy possibly going out of business.
Process Improvements From Here On Out
What actions are being taken to further Swiggy’s growth and beat competitors? For one, it is utilizing machine learning to reduce throughput time and bring food to its customers even faster. Specifically, “Using technology to be more precise in predicting meal preparation times and to plan for delivery schedules accordingly is the top priority at Swiggy now.”  According to Majety, the company’s throughput time is currently 32-33 minutes; he added, “Can we shave that off by another 10 minutes is something we are asking now.”  In a slightly longer timeframe, Swiggy’s strategy appears to revolve around further enhancing its infrastructure and expanding into non-food delivery, internally or via acquisitions. Per Vivek Sunder, COO, “We invest in…stronger fleet, stronger technology operations, stronger restaurant connection, etc. We also use that to enter into and expand into new spaces. …[W]e…make capital investment and acquisition like we did with Scootsy a couple of months ago.”  Each of these tactics likely brings the company toward one ultimate goal: a more customer-centric algorithm, and in turn higher demand and market share versus competitors. By improving technology, the algorithm can probably be improved; the same can be said for attaining stronger restaurant connections, as Swiggy-originated orders can be prioritized and cycle time reduced. In addition, through expansion and acquisitions, Swiggy is very likely to obtain more customer data.
Additionally, I Wish You Would…
In order to adequately compete with Google, Uber, and others, Swiggy needs to differentiate itself. The best ways to do so are improving throughput time and lowering prices. In terms of operational efficiency, the company’s short- and medium-term tactics are on the right track. However, without knowing the current bottleneck with certainty, I would urge the company to focus on cycle times often as they increase restaurant efficiency. Traffic is notably terrible in India, and one anecdotal account has a 10 km trip out of Bengaluru taking 2 hours . As such, restaurants may not remain the problem. In terms of reducing prices, while this is likely difficult in the short-term, in the medium-term I would focus on reducing costs related to delivery executives. While there is currently a war for talent , acquisitions and insolvency as Swiggy expands should reduce demand for employees over time and as such lower wages.
Two primary questions remain in my mind with respect to Swiggy. First, will Swiggy’s algorithms be able to compete with those of Uber, which has been refining its machine learning capabilities for a longer time, albeit in different markets? Second, can the company outlast its competitors financially in such a crowded market, specifically Google and Uber should they decide to continue food delivery operations in India?
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 “Swiggy, Zomato, UberEats have almost doubled salaries of delivery executives,” July 26, 2018, Business Today, https://www.businesstoday.in/current/corporate/swiggy-zomato-ubereats-almost-doubled-salaries-delivery-executives/story/280686.html, accessed November 2018.