Welcome to yet another installment of PAYFORT’s entrepreneur of the month series. Each month we look to highlight one of the region’s up and coming businesses and the entrepreneurs that are behind the business. They share some insight on the Arab marketplace, the skills that helped them succeed, and how they were able to make their vision come true.
This week we’re chatting with John Tsioris, the founder & CEO of InstaShop, to learn what it takes to grow an idea into the leading grocery shopping app in the GCC.
John holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering as well as a MScBA in General Management. After completing his degree, he led Philips CL’s global competitive intelligence efforts for 2 years and worked to set up their marketing Intelligence department for the Middle East & Turkey Lighting sector. John also has extensive experience in the global start-up world, having founded a voice social mobile application prior to InstaShop.
John has some incredible insight regarding the region and the mobile app space so be sure to check out our full interview below:
What was the inspiration for InstaShop?
InstaShop as an idea was with me for a while. Being a busy young professional and working long hours, I felt the need for a reliable on-demand grocery delivery service that could free up some time and let me do the things I enjoy.
I used to order basic items from the local grocery store by calling them, but most times the experience was bad. Wrong items being delivered was routine and worse sometimes the order simply never arrived.
This gap between the service I expected and reality triggered the idea for InstaShop. I realized there was plenty of space to uplift the service level with the use of technology.
What problem are you solving?
InstaShop is all about rapid grocery delivery. We started in June 2015, and with lots of hard work, we’ve created a product that has resonated in the lives of our users. The simple and friendly user-experience allows customers to get their groceries with the almost no hassle.
As they checkout customers have the option to pay with cash or credit card, increasing the flexibility of our service. Some other useful features of the app are the ‘re-ordering’ or ‘favourites’ options that minimize the time required to place repeated orders. The whole process can be completed in a few clicks.
We’ve designed the company around the question “how do we get your order at your doorstep with the right products and on time?”. It sounds so simple, but there are a million things that can go wrong between the order and the delivery. Our job at Instashop is to shield the customer from those problems and make the process appear seamless.
How does it work?
With InstaShop users can shop everything they need, from fresh groceries to household products from a nearby supermarket directly through their mobile app and enjoy a delivery of 30 to 60 minutes depending on location.
The application is designed with a focus on convenience and ease of use. Once downloaded, users can add their address then simply tap and start choosing their favourite products. Finally, when it’s time to check out they just pick their payment method and the order is delivered to the customer’s location in under an hour.
Who is your target market?
Our customers are modern urban citizens of Dubai who lead a busy lifestyle and who value their free time too much to spend it waiting in supermarket lines or dealing with miscommunication issues during phone orders.
They are tech savvy and prefer using apps over the traditional web. They know that time is precious and would rather spend it on more productive and rewarding experiences than wasting it away in the narrow aisles of the local grocery store.
InstaShop is rapidly expanding its coverage and opening to more and more consumers. When we first started, we only covered the Dubai Marina, now we serve over 80 areas, have completed several thousand orders and maintain a very high retention rate of 75%.
What differentiates you from other competitors in the region?
The on-demand grocery delivery market is still developing in the region and competition hasn’t reached a critical point yet. When we entered the industry, there were already a few players, but we had a chance to study the market and make sure our proposed solution would provide the service in an even better way.
Since we launched similar companies have emerged so we do have some direct competitors, but what makes a difference and sets us apart from other applications is our ability to execute. We stand firmly behind what we promise and evolve based on their needs. We keep an eye on how the market moves but we are always focused on our customers and improve our service based on their feedback.
How much time did it take you from ideation to launching it in the market?
InstaShop was introduced as a minimum viable product, we didn’t even have a functional application when we landed our first supermarket partnership. Within a month we developed a simple, easy to use app that let users place an instant order.
Since then time the application interface has changed a lot. Additional features and functionalities have been added, such as the ability to schedule weekly orders, pay online, and viewing the status of a current order plus many more.
Today we have over 150,000 active users, fulfilled thousands of orders, and have user retention comparable to when we launched. We are constantly working hard on growing these numbers, while at the same time being focused on customer satisfaction.
Are there any obstacles that are impacting InstaShop?
Operating a start-up is full of challenges, it’s hard to pick only one. Operating in a rather traditional industry that has been very resistant to change is one that jumps to mind.
Start-ups are usually characterized by innovation and fast pace, and most of the things we do are for the first time and require multiple iterations. Overlaying this fast-paced business onto the slower world of retail grocery has been a challenge.
What role has social media played in growing your business?
Social media has played a major role in our business, it’s laid the foundation for users to switch from the physical to the online one. Facebook has proven to be our strongest tool in terms of reaching the local community, spreading the news and informing residents of our service.
What sort of support and feedback are you looking for from the community?
As mentioned above the most valuable factor in our journey so far has been the user feedback. We heavily rely on the opinion of our users to improve the app experience and the overall ordering process, it’s how we identify possible issues and opportunities. customer feedback is what sets our priorities as customer satisfaction is our goal.
What advice would you give to new start-ups in the region?
I didn’t start to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams until I was 28 years old and I am grateful of the years I spent working with my previous employer. I learnt so many things that I still use every day at InstaShop.
With all that said, looking back to my younger self, I would tell him “Start today” and “Don’t Wait”. You need to let go of the fear of failing and refuse to settle for the current comfortable phase you’re in.
There is no better experience than the one gained by trying to make your start up fly, learning how a whole industry works, and building an incredible team. The “now mentality” is how InstaShop came to life, as it was first introduced as a minimum viable product. It was an experiment that fortunately yielded positive results. We immediately landed our first partnerships and loyal users because we acted ‘now’. It proved to us that it was worth spending more time and committing the resources to grow it into a dynamic young company.
Interested in learning more about InstaShop? Or maybe have a particular question for John? Make sure you leave a comment below or even better reach out to John on LinkedIn. And if you’re looking for more great entrepreneur stories be sure to check out last month’s post here.