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With the global coronavirus pandemic compelling people to stay in their homes, this has led to an amplification of the melancholia around restaurant-made dishes, especially on social media platforms like Instagram. This, in turn, has resulted in social media playing a significant role in guiding consumer purchases- according to Instagram's research in 2019, 130 million accounts tap on shopping posts to learn more about products every month. As such, it's only apt that brands jump to social media to become an inherent part of consumers' daily screen time, while also making the purchase journey as seamless and efficient as possible.
And this is where RadYes comes in- launched in January 2020, this Middle East social commerce platform wants to equip restaurants with tools to sell their dishes through their website and social media, including WhatsApp. Designed as a simple solution for restaurants to grow in the competitive market space without onerous commissions, RadYes is a fully integrated tool with multiple third-party partnerships for delivery, SMS, and payment gateways.
Leading the enterprise is CEO Mani Prakash, who started his career as a software engineer, which he deems it quite useful now considering his realm of work. "It taught me a lot about thinking on a granular level about products, the way they are built and how an end user experiences them," he notes. He transitioned to investment banking in the UK, followed by stints in Zomato and Americana, where he led key launches like online ordering and digital transformation. Prakash has seen the impact of the foodtech industry and how it's transforming consumption, and it's quite easy to see how this mindset aligns perfectly with RadYes' vision.
"RadYes, as a concept, was built from having intimate knowledge of how the foodtech industry has changed and helped restaurants, but also seeing just how much of a gap existed in the way restaurants were marketing themselves and sold their products," says Prakash. "There is a real need for brands to start adapting to the way customers are engaging and transacting with the brands they use." RadYes was the result of a market gap and market maturity level, Prakash notes.
Having seen the sides of both brands and aggregators, the RadYes team can attest on how convenience was a much-needed factor in the consumer's purchase journey. "Brands were pushing for more initiatives to stay connected with their customer base. However, they need the best-in-class tools, "aggregator-style' thinking, agile platforms, and techniques to do so. Market maturity is a natural evolution of the online commerce. Social and more importantly, conversational commerce is the next thing (in fact, it is the mainstream in the Eastern half of the world already). And the brands need sophisticated and relevant tools for this type of commerce."
According to Prakash, empowering merchants to take ownership of their brand is the main driver behind all new initiatives at RadYes. Choosing UAE as a starting entry point was a natural decision- besides being a center of innovation in the MENA region, Prakash says that the country offered a matured market fit as well. "Business potential or product market fit was seen very early," he says. "And with increasing market maturity, we are seeing exponential growth in signups and adoption."
Indeed, with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, restaurants faced government mandates to close or lessen dine-in options (with some even temporarily closing or shutting down as a result), and as such, RadYes presented F&B brands with an alternative revenue stream. The startup is, according to Prakash, currently in its hyper growth stage, given its timing in the market and the significant traction it has attained for itself.
"COVID-19 actually helped us test the traction of our brand and product very quickly. Due to the shift in the operating model from dine-in to delivery, we had to scale and learn at the speed of light." In under a year, the team built a "360-degree ecosystem," consisting of a seamless platform, backed by over 100 partners across payment gateways, SMS gateways, logistics and last-mile providers, point-of-sale systems, and several others.
The COVID-19 pandemic also defined a large part of the company's strategic approach. "It helped mature the market to a point where we're not educating customers on the importance of social commerce anymore; we're educating them on how to do it well, and at a profit," says Prakash. "It's often said that problems are opportunities, and that's the mindset here at RadYes. We had to learn to scale up very rapidly, which was a huge learning." Currently, the brand is serving over 3,000 businesses across the F&B, retail, e-commerce, beauty, and pharmaceuticals sectors.
As the markets open up, the startup is also building solutions for the new normal, like contactless dine-in products, and expanding in-house marketing services to keep up with the demand. "As the world learns to live with COVID-19, we need to make social and conversational commerce as easy to use as possible, and so we have built one of the most actionable analytics dashboards and marketing toolkit for our customers," he explains. "What stops brands from diving in headfirst into new marketing strategies is usually visibility into performance and ROI- we're taking that blind spot away."
As social commerce and conversational commerce continue to rise, RadYes wants to make it lucrative for brands to leverage these trends. "RadYes is a brand's own social and conversational commerce layer. It helps brands to add a new and trackable dimension to their marketing activities: revenue." Using RadYes' services, brands can set up their own online stores across any digital platform (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.), and run a host of advertising solutions directed towards revenue generation. "What's more, they are able to deliver the orders, run post-order analytics, work with marketing experts, and build an agile marketing funnel, as they need. We are able to deliver this experience to our clients without having them to build expensive software, run multiple integrations with third-parties, or even having to pay commissions."
Its business model is pretty straightforward: RadYes has a subscription fee of US$27 per outlet. Merchants then have the option to upgrade and avail of custom marketing support tools and services. "The thought is to ensure we remain a light investment for the merchants, so that they can continue to build their sales through the platform." At the same time, the team at RadYes are committed to their clients' brand empowerment and success. "Our transparent pricing, product roadmap, zeal to resolve any issues are all focused on this every day, and from every angle. We are here to solve a problem- and we are doing everything and more to that end."
It's also easy to see the company's commerciality, as Prakash notes, "The market has been waiting for ways to help them capitalize on their own brand value, rather than remain in the clutches of the aggregators. We have seen a lot of adoption coming from unlikely places- pure dine-in brands have adopted the delivery model with RadYes comfortably." The company has also received interest from entities in retail, e-commerce, and pharma as well. "Clearly, there is a need gap that we are able to fulfill."
And so far, the startup has been accumulating positive feedback. Merchants find the platform's distinctive offerings beneficial. Alaa Sayed, Deputy General Manager of Jollibee UAE, says, "We chose RadYes primarily because it is a user-friendly, unified, and has data-driven in-house touchpoints. They also served as our delivery consultant to reach our target market, and we're glad to have them onboard." Others utilized the platform's end-to-end capabilities to the restaurant's advantage, with Punam Jajodia, owner of NKD Pizza UAE noting, "Our brand's social presence has grown multifold with RadYes, along with our reliance on the channel to engage hungry customers directly. We received end-to-end support from marketing our product, to fulfilling the orders, which was a pleasant surprise. The RadYes UI is intuitive, and the fee is consistent, leaving room for us to grow without any hidden costs or commissions." Other customers include Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, TGI Fridays, and Mama'esh, among others.
As brands grapple with the new reality of the post COVID-19 world, I asked the CEO's thoughts on what trends he feels would accelerate in 2021. Besides social and conversational shopping, he lists a focus on the return to performance marketing, as well as a rise on direct customer engagement with brands, and an increased focus on branding as businesses learn to rely on themselves for sales. Looking back on 2020, he reflects on RadYes' milestones: "If I were to give you a snapshot, I would say that in under a year, we built one of the best social and conversational commerce platforms, built a complete ecosystem with more than 100 integrated, and gained the confidence of around 3,000 outlets across F&B, retail, beauty and pharma sector."
With such a steady headway on its first year (which was a feat, considering it was fraught with the repercussions of the pandemic), it's exciting to see the brand's thirst for more growth."2021 is a big year for us in terms of expansion," Prakash reveals. "Apart from the usual goals of hitting new markets and segments, our overarching goal this year is to become a social Shopify."
Related: Chat Commerce Platform Zbooni Enables Businesses To Sell Products Over Mobile Apps
"TREP TALK ME:
Mani Prakash, CEO, RadYes
What would be your advice to entrepreneurs entering the market in the post-COVID-19 era?
1. Leap of faith "Believing that what you're building has value is paramount. If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will."
2. Don't go alone "Find the best guys for the job- especially at the foundational level. Entrepreneurship is not a battle to be fought alone."
3. Adapt "The world will keep changing, as 2020 has taught us. Don't get married to one way of doing things- as the world changes, so must you."
4. Customer obsession "If the customer wants to use your product, the brands will too. Whoever is your end customer, get obsessed with finding out what they want and then finding a way to provide that. The rest will follow."
5. Don't be afraid to go big "We live in a super competitive world, now more than ever. This is not the time to play it safe. Take calculated and educated bets, go big. Now is the time."
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