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Interview

Turkey delivery startup Getir makes its way to Europe and Asia

Quick last-mile grocery shipment with own stocks to be copied overseas

Getir pioneered fast deliveries of ice cream, chips and other cravings to customers in Turkey. (Photo courtesy of the company)

ISTANBUL -- A Turkish delivery startup is going international, having launched its last-mile grocery service in Europe as it prepares to take on Asia and global competitors like Instacart and Deliveroo.

Getir, which operates in 21 Turkish cities -- including the commercial hub of Istanbul, the capital of Ankara and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir -- in January launched its first overseas operation in central London, where it has five fulfillment centers.

"We are going to expand further, into the suburbs, and reach 25 [fulfillment] centers in the coming months and later to other cities in the U.K.," founder and CEO Nazim Salur told Nikkei Asia.

He also said the startup plans to expand to two more European cities by June. News reports say Paris and Amsterdam are next for Getir. It is also preparing to ring Asian doorbells.

Getir is paying for its expansion with cash raised in a Series B funding round that brought it $128 million from Turkish, American and Brazilian investors at a valuation of $850 million or so.

It has also been backed by Welsh billionaire Michael Moritz through his personal vehicle, Crankstart Investments.

Getir, meaning "bring" in Turkish and established in 2015, pioneered the 10-minute delivery of ice cream, chips and other daily cravings in Turkey. Its business model is to mark up supermarket prices by around 10% and add a delivery fee to orders.

There are rivals from overseas such as U.S. startup Instacart, Amazon-backed Deliveroo of the U.K. and goPuff in the U.S. These giant startups pledge to deliver in time frames ranging from an "average 30 minutes" to "as little as 2 hours," according to their websites.

"Thirty minutes is fast," Salur said, "but 10 minutes is now."

Those 10-minute deliveries are the startup's strength, which it manages with a fleet of motorbikes controlled by the company. And beyond delivery, the Turkish startup procures goods in bulk and stocks them in fulfillment centers close to consumers, so it can reduce the risk of running out of stock.

"We are a tech company acting like a retail company," Salur said. "Otherwise no investor would value a company delivering groceries on motorbikes this much."

"We are a tech company acting like a retail company," Getir CEO Nazim Salur says. (Photo courtesy of company)

The Getir app has been downloaded close to 15 million times, and the startup has 3.5 million active users. "The coronavirus pandemic has enlarged our customer base to the over-40 age group, who buy more daily basic needs, including cleaning materials, fruits and vegetables," Salur said.

Artificial intelligence is another weapon. Salur emphasized that "with the AI technology we built, our 1,500 SKUs (stock-keeping units) are always the right assortment for the country, city or neighborhood that we operate in."

An SKU is a distinct type of product.

Salur says the business model works best in "densely populated crowded cities with chaotic traffic where people have no time for shopping." It is considering copying that model for the Asian market as well as Europe.

According to Salur, Getir may start operations in Asia as early as July.

"We will seek local partners in Asia because I am not familiar with the Asian business culture, which is different from the one in the West," Salur said.

Can that model work even in countries like Japan with a wide range of convenience store networks in big cities? Salur answered, "People's laziness is a business opportunity" because Getir's services could let customers not have to go out for grocery shopping.

"We will definitely enter Japan at some point," he said, "and succeed."

However, Getir's expansion plans do not include China, where delivery services are already engaged in cutthroat competition.

Salur said, "Getir will seek further fundraising for further international expansion" and showed confidence that the company will reach unicorn status, a term for startups that exceed a valuation of a billion dollars. Salur is planning a Series C funding round to fuel Getir's global expansion drive within this year.

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