Gorillas, Zapp, Getir: the unsustainable business model of races delivered in ten minutes

We are beginning to see them in certain large cities, flocks of colorful scooters and armies of delivery men with corresponding logos. In the back of any convenience store or “dark store” faceless, urban warehouse intended for deliveries only, they wait patiently for their smartphone to start flashing and ringing, indicating an errand to be completed.

A race to be carried out, always, urgently. Because these scooters, these self-employed, exploited, poorly paid, last ersatz dated from the Uber era, are linked to the German Gorillas or Flink, to Zapp, Frichti, Flink or the Turkish Getir, to name but a few.

These small firms that we no longer count are “quick commerce” or “q-commerce” start-ups that promise you the delivery of groceries in ten minutes, pointer in hand, at your doorstep. They are surfing on an exceptional period, marked by the pandemic and confinements, which have given online businesses and delivery activities a dramatic boost.

The entrepreneurs who created them are not the only ones who believe in the glorious future of these almost instantaneous deliveries: as the British Wired notes, Gorillas is already a “unicorn”, a start-up valued at more of a billion dollars, which still intends to raise significant funds and not stop there.

In front? It’s the same: the shallot race is on, investors are pouring crazy sums into these young structures. On the exhausted bodies of flushed workers and disrupted businesses, only the strongest will survive.

Like Uber, Lyft or WeWork before them and faced with the old distribution giants, these frogs must reach the size of an ox as quickly as possible, the critical size and the notoriety necessary to impose their mark in the minds and their application in the habits. “Move fast and break things” in English, make omelettes by breaking eggs: the old Silicon Valley slogan has, despite the dantesque debacles it has caused, still a bright future ahead of it.

The Law of the Bigger, the Faster

Breakage, there will be, and breakage, there is already. To conquer hearts and market shares, and as was or still is sometimes the case for the big brothers Uber or Lyft, Gorillas & co. burn their cash without counting, subsidize consumers, multiply promotions and non-existent or even negative margins. According to the German Manager Magazine, taken over by Wired, each of the orders honored is for the moment at a loss.

Time pressure, infernal paces, dependence on algorithms with sibylline functioning, no need to specify that here as elsewhere, the relationship to labor and workers is generally socially destructive.

Gorillas has already had to deal with continental social unrest and the blocking of a Berlin warehouse following the disputed dismissal of several delivery workers. His boss Kağan Sümer did not shine with his social diplomacy, the Berlin Senate decided to get involved and the convicts of fast delivery organized collectivelycarrying out various punching actions.

Some insiders anonymous, interviewed by Wired, are not kind to the firm which, moreover, has already had to deal with a very annoying leak of personal data.

It’s a “empty shell”, explains one of them, who specifies that the inventory tools on which it bases its activity are, to say the least, precarious. A “card castle”describes another, predicting that “it’s only a matter of time before it collapses”.

Why then, the unfortunate past failures already known, these potentially disabling pitfalls made public, do investors continue to offer mountains of cash to these young shoots with an uncertain future? Because the market is promising, of course.

According to figures from Statista, it will thus weigh more than 1,500 billion euros in 2021. According to a report by McKinsey, its online side has grown by 55% in 2020 and the trend should continue to strengthen. Perhaps these financiers, as Wired notes, are also looking further east, to China in particular.

There, this phase of tough competition between young entrants to the market is now over. Two first champions, Dingdong Maicai and Missfresh, have already been crowned by juicy IPOs, effectively placing their competitors in a shadow from which they will find it difficult to extract themselves.

Leave a Comment