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Reyhoon Raises the Bar for Online Food Ordering
Sci & Tech

Reyhoon Raises the Bar for Online Food Ordering

The perpetual and ever-growing need to eat renders the food industry one of the safest and most profitable areas of investment.
"Skipping breakfast, eating food is something that has to be done at least twice a day, and doing it all by ourselves is time consuming," says Soheil Alavi, the CEO of Reyhoon—an online food delivery service.
"Food preparation, cooking and cleaning take up about an average of 2 hours and 8 minutes per day. That’s 64 hours (two and a half days) a month."
In the contemporary industrial age, not everybody has the time to commute and buy ingredients from grocery stores, cook and wash dishes. Thus, Alavi, 28, thought of addressing this issue by setting up Reyhoon (meaning basil in Persian) in Tehran.
In 2009, Alavi graduated from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto where he studied digital media arts and specialized in user interface design and user experience.  
Alavi has been part of two accelerator programs and three tech startups in China, Canada and the US in the past.
 
  Initial Idea
In 2014, Alavi's father had passed away and he headed back home.
"After two weeks in Iran, my flight back to Toronto was due but I couldn’t leave my family, so I postponed the flight."
To keep himself busy, Alavi started looking into Iran's startup ecosystem and encountered Avatech, a Tehran-based accelerator program that was about to accept its very first batch of startups. He was invited to join as a mentor to share his own experience with the young talents who wanted to bring their ideas to life.
"During this time, I had two challenges every day. What to eat for lunch and dinner, and how to order them. Since I had been living on my own for the past 10 years, using online food delivery services was very natural for me. In Iran, however, the solutions that came up in online searches were mostly disappointing in terms of quality, service and experience," he explains.
So he thought of solving this problem by creating an online food delivery service from ground up "with an aim to simplify online food ordering".
"I started on my own before getting others involved," he said.
Alavi said presenting a vision verbally and getting others on board are very difficult when there is nothing to present at the start.
Therefore, he set out to develop the concept and design the process. This included selecting a location, the restaurants and the food.
Afterwards, Alavi started looking for other team members who were as passionate as he was about the project.
Reyhoon is now a team of 35, consisting of a marketing team, business development team, mobile team, customer care and call center team.

  Challenges
It took Alavi some time before he managed to adjust to the working environment in Iran.
"Most people thought of startups as playful office spaces offering fun working environment like the image they have of major corporations such as Facebook and Google," he said.
"It took us about a year to build a team of creative people with flexible schedules who knew exactly what they were signing up for."
On the other hand, because of the lack of infrastructure, namely cloud services and subscription-based tools, the Reyhoon team had to build everything from scratch.
Being part of an accelerator, Alavi said, gave the business a head-start in "building a network, finding investors and gathering the early team".
Reyhoon is currently processing thousands of orders and transactions every day.
"The online food ordering service is a byproduct of a way of thought that aims to help people become more productive and efficient in life and business," he said.

  Competition and Edge
When Reyhoon started, Zoodfood was already active and over the years, other players such as Bodofood and Chilivery also arrived on the scene.
Despite this, Reyhoon managed to stay ahead of the pack because of its focus on speed and quality services. It won the award for outstanding online food delivery at the Iran Mobile App Festival held in Tehran in 2016.
Alavi believes that analogue phone orders continue to lead in Iran’s food ordering industry.
"That’s the thing competitors are actually vying for and superior user experience is the key to winning market share," he said.
Alavi believes that most competitors don’t have full control over the user experience, as their platforms are clones of foreign prototypes.
As a technology-driven company, Reyhoon's success depends on the speed with which it can implement its expansion plan on a sound technological platform.
Alavi asserted that the quicker Reyhoon can corner the market and proliferate into key business areas in Tehran, "it can be assured that it has captured a major share in its target market".
 
  Ramadan and Goals
Asked how the fasting month of Ramadan, which started on June 7, has affected the business, Alavi explained that a lot of changes had to be made. During the month of Ramadan, most restaurants in Iran are required by law to shut down from sunrise to sunset, and a majority of restaurants are prohibited from serving warm food during the period.
According to Alavi, Reyhoon's platform was modified to meet different hours and include diverse menus in Ramadan.
"The website has acquired more users during this time since a lot of users cannot fast and finding restaurants that are working is a challenge. Therefore, ordering online is a more viable solution."
The outfit has an application for Android devices and is looking to expand beyond Iran with the ultimate goal of creating a world-class startup "both in terms of the talent that works in Reyhoon and its technology and market share".
"A lot still needs to be done to develop the infrastructure and plenty of effort must be put into replacing traditional ordering methods," Alavi said.
The team also aims to expand services into other major cities such as Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Ahvaz.

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