As published by: Esquire
The next step in the evolution of e-commerce is so-called “q-commerce.” It’s not enough that customers don’t have to go out when they want to purchase (almost) anything as they can just make a few taps on their laptops or phones; they want their orders to arrive in their home as fast as possible.
In the “old days” (like two or three years ago), “fast” meant over the next three or five days. But today, that’s not going to cut it. When customers place an order online, they want it delivered pronto, and there has been no shortage of startups that are, well, delivering on that promise. Q stands for "quick," and in this case, that means deliveries in 30 minutes or even less.
In the case of local q-commerce startup DART, the promise is down to 15 minutes. That’s way less time—not to mention money—than it takes you to drive down or take a tricycle or jeepney to the local grocery or supermarket, get what you need, line up at the checkout counter, pay for your stuff, and go back home.
DART co-founders Tommy Campos and Harm-Julian Schumacher
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, the order should come within 10 minutes,” says Harm-Julian Schumacher, co-founder and CEO of DART, which went live in late June 2022. “Ninety-five percent of the time, it should come within 15 minutes. If we go a bit above, we give the delivery fee back.”
The delivery fee for an order through the DART app is P49, which, from a consumer’s point of view, isn’t bad, considering how much we’ll spend when we go pick up what we need from the supermarket ourselves. This is precisely the pain point that q-commerce companies like DART are trying to address.
“In DART, we believe that the stuff you want you should be able to get instantly,” Schumacher tells Esquire Philippines. “We cover your weekly grocery needs. Things like drinks and snacks, instant cravings, beer, if you need eggs, fruits and vegetables, olive oil. We serve these instant needs, and we do it very fast. And we fulfill it ourselves. We don’t go through (a third-party app like) Grab. We have our own app.
“You just go there, you type your address, you choose your order, and what you order is exactly what you get,” he adds.
Forbes valued the global q-commerce market at $25 billion in 2021 and expects it to grow to around $72 billion by 2025. A sliver of a slice of that pie is not insignificant and that’s exactly what startups like DART are hoping to capture.
Gorillas to DART
Schumacher is no stranger to this aspect of the e-commerce industry. Before moving to Manila he was the deputy general manager for the German market of Gorillas, which is that country’s leading rapid grocery delivery company.
“This is actually the model that we are building here (in Manila),” he says. “We want to satisfy instant needs and get it delivered in 10 or 15 minutes.”
Before Gorillas, Schumacher had stints in companies within the startup ecosystem, including Rocket Internet in Europe, as well as on the venture capital and private equity side, with companies like TruVenturo and Bain & Company.
Ultimately, Schumacher decided to bring the q-commerce concept to the Philippines. His connection is his co-founder Tommy Campos, who has also worked in various startups before deciding to move back to the Philippines, as well as with Tommy’s cousin Paulo Campos, who is, of course, managing director of venture studio and early-stage fund Kaya Founders. Schumacher also connected with serial entrepreneur and Kaya Founders advisor Constantin Robertz, who Schumacher has known for over a decade.
All of that plus market conditions in the Philippines led the German national to Manila to bring DART to life.
“It’s a super attractive market,” he says about his current home country. “There’s a mix of population and good income levels. It’s a very attractive market for this model and we felt we could (replicate) the 15-minute grocery delivery service here.”
Schumacher moved to Manila in January 2022 and got to work building the team and infrastructure of DART. The startup was able to secure an undisclosed amount in initial funding from Kaya Founders, Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc., and several other angel investors from the U.S. and Europe.
How DART works
Q-commerce companies are able to drastically cut the time it takes to deliver orders to customers through “dark stores” or neighborhood warehouses or fulfillment centers where stock keeping units (SKUs) are stored. In DART’s case, the service is initially available to residents of Makati and Mandaluyong, where its two existing dark stores are located.
When an order is received through the app, workers quickly sort through the shelves and gather the items. This step takes no more than two minutes, after which the order is handed over to the driver, who then rushes to the delivery address. Customers can choose to pay for their orders within the app or hand the driver cash on delivery.
“We have a live inventory,” Schumacher says, which means items on the app reflect available items on the shelves. “We own the inventory, which allows us to lower the prices. We don’t have convenience fees.” DART also has a partnership with Robinsons, which allows the company access to the supermarket giant’s stocks and supply chain.
To be sure, there are other players in the grocery delivery space, but Schumacher says DART is one of the first in the nascent q-commerce space here in the Philippines.
Tommy Campos, Stanley Co (managing director of Robinsons Supermarket), Robina Gokongwei-Pe (president and CEO of RRHI), Harm-Julian Schumacher
Plans for expansion
“There are a few grocery startups but (they) have different models,” he says. “Some of them, like Metromart or Grab, order through partners. We are the first movers (in q-commerce). There is so far no big (player) in this space.”
DART currently has less than 20 full-time employees—developers, engineers, marketing, HR, finance, operations associates, and riders. A big component of the success of q-commerce startups like DART is its dark stores, which the company is renting. There are essential requirements for these fulfillment centers: at least 100 to 200 square meters, and accessible from a rider’s perspective. That means they have to be on the ground floor and must have enough space to store all the merchandise.
Schumacher says there are already plans for expansion in specific areas and cities in Metro Manila, including BGC in Taguig, Ortigas, Greenhills and other parts of Quezon City and Manila.
DART is initially available to residents of Makati and Mandaluyong. Find out more about the app here.