Robinhood’s first anniversary: Lessons learned on the journey transitioning from an app for small players to a Thai super app
Marking its first anniversary, Bangkok-based small player food delivery application Robinhood has received a very warm response from restaurants and app users. The app is growing exponentially in every aspect, with the platform having over 2.3 million registered users, some 164,000 restaurants, and 26,000 riders. Robinhood is set to continue its determination to support local business operators in three non-food business sectors: An online travel agent (OTA) service covering accommodation reservations, air tickets, travel activities, and car rental and insurance; a grocery shopping service; and a non-food delivery service. Mr. Thana Thienachariya, Board Chairman, and Mr. Srihanath Lamsam, Managing Director at Robinhood operator Purple Ventures, recently revealed the app’s vision of becoming a regional player as a Thai super app by 2022.
Five memorable moments in establishing the Robinhood identity: Fall – Toddle – Crawl – Walk – Run
Looking at Robinhood as a small child since its launch on October 26, 2020 shows it passing through the development stages of toddling, falling, rising up, walking, and now running on its first anniversary. Khun Thana recaptured five moments of becoming the Robinhood of today.
1. Idea Moment: The Robinhood application is the brainchild of Mr. Arthid Nanthawithaya, SCB Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Committee. Mr. Arthid first conceived the idea when he ordered food via a food delivery app on April 16, 2020, during the first COVID-19 lockdown. He wanted to help business operators affected by the crisis, whereas support during that time was mostly through donations. Khun Thana recalled, “We couldn’t figure out how to compete with the apps developed by big international players available in the market back then, with our having only 150 million baht in the capital while others had billions.” Nevertheless, he decided to give a food delivery app a shot. This moment marked the birth of the Robinhood application.
2. Fail Test Moment: The plan was to launch the Robinhood application on September 1, 2020. Just before the planned launch, the CEO asked the app development team whether the app could handle up to 10,000 transactions a day. According to the team’s stress test, the answer was yes. But the CEO decided to make sure by running a simulation test with real orders and real deliveries. So, some 10,000 branch staff members were enlisted to place their orders via the app during peak hours between 11:00 am – 1:00 pm, resulting in an immediate app crash. “This made us realize that we were still amateurs, so we had to postpone the launch to October 26. We then continued to test the app with real orders until it was capable of handling 10,000 customers. This goal was soon met and on the revised launch date the app ran smoothly,” Khun Thana said.
3. Hail Mary & Fried Egg Moment: During the app’s early phase, there were some 5,000 orders a day. The number jumped to 20,000-30,000 orders by June 2021. A key turning point was the major lockdown starting around July 10-11, 2021. The CEO saw it as a critical moment to save F&B business operators hit severely by the lockdown. Apart from being a big-impact CSR campaign, it was an opportunity for exponential growth. The Robinhood app then offered a free delivery promotion, resulting in daily orders skyrocketing to 200,000. Despite a few system glitches during the start, in a span of 14 days, the team finally managed to expand the system’s capability to handle 10 times more orders. “The CEO saw that if we didn’t help business operators at that moment, then when? Moreover, the fried egg moment was when there was an order for a 5-baht fried egg for a 40-km distance. This showed us that the Robinhood app, developed from a wish to help people, had people who empathized with us. A nice thing about the Robinhood app is that all concerned parties – customers, eateries, and riders, supported us while the platform began to receive recognition.”
4. From Small to Medium Moment: Next was a test of the Robinhood app’s organic growth. After the promotion ended, would the number of daily orders drop to the 20,000-level that it had prior to the promotion? Happily, even after the promotion ended the number of orders remained at around 130,000-140,000 orders a day in August 2021. “Thanks to this moment, Robinhood has now become a medium-sized platform ranked No. 3 or No. 4 in Bangkok and vicinity, with some 2 million registered users and around 130,000-140,000 active users each day. This demonstrated steady growth and was the moment we began to walk more steadily.”
5. Spring ‘Board’ Moment: Viewing that progress, the CEO saw the Robinhood app’s potential as a solid customer base with high spending power and decided to grow it to a super app. “With capital granted by the Executive Committee, we will grow Robinhood to super app status in the next two years. We expect to be up and running by next year,” Khun Thana remarked.
Five lessons learned through Robinhood’s journey of falling-rising-learning
Khun Thana talked about what the team has learned over the past 365 days.
1. Robinhood Customer: Other than the food and beverage sector, the travel and hospitality service sector is the largest SME sector we wish to help. The purchasing power of Robinhood app users is very high. The majority of the app’s strong customer base are SCB credit card customers and the middle class in Bangkok and vicinity. This has led to an idea to further develop Robinhood as a super app offering more services, including a travel service, as we expect increased travel demand next year.
2. Platform of Kindness: There have always been supporters by our side because the Robinhood app started with the good intention of helping others. Restaurants, riders, and customers have always protected the Robinhood app because everyone feels our sincerity. Khun Thana noted, “Many customers use our app because they feel they can help riders and restaurants avoid gross profit (GP) charges. Apart from increased purchasing power, I think there’s an energy of doing good things in the background.”
3. It’s always fun to do the impossible: Having learned so many things, the team behind the Robinhood app is confident in making the impossible possible. The next goal of becoming a regional player may seem unlikely for a local platform, but it is entirely possible.
4. Olympic Standard: With businesses worldwide having a presence in Thailand, a key lesson learned for business operators is that local standards are no longer the minimum requirement for your product, service, or platform development. When others are Olympic players, you cannot compete against them with SEA Game standards. “For everything we do, we always aim for Olympic standards. Our mindset, our tests, our practices, and the customer experience must all meet Olympic standards.
5. Underdog Way: In setting a goal for product and service development to Olympic standards for an underdog in terms of funding, team, and scale, an important thing is to do it differently. Khun Thana provided an example, “You need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. For example, others charge GP fees, but we don’t. And we avoid areas already dominated by other players. This is how we fight as an underdog to survive.”
“With the five lessons and the five moments, Robinhood aspires to be a Thai platform in a battlefield full of international platforms. We are ready to grow along with Thai society and compete as a Thai platform in the regional arena.” Khun Thana said.
Robinhood’s memorable numbers in the first year
On its first anniversary, Robinhood has exponentially grown in every aspect. What are some statistics to remember? Mr. Srihanath Lamsam, Purple Ventures Managing Director, revealed the top five figures from its data house. The top five selling items are 1) Noodles, 2) Bubble milk tea, 3) Pad Krapao, 4) Salmon and 5) Coffee. The top five areas by the number of orders are 1) Chatuchak, 2) Huay Khwang, 3) Bang Kapi, 4) Lat Prao, and 5) Saima. The top five sellers are 1) All About Eat, 2) Hear Hai, 3) Nong Rim Khlong, 4) Ob Aroi Town in Town, and 5) Gu Salmon.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Robinhood has played a role in helping Thais weather hardships together. Thanks to impressive moments from the free delivery campaign, the number of orders has jumped by 7-8 times, along with positive social media buzz about job opportunities for riders who connect restaurants and customers through food delivery. It has also created an ecosystem of mutual support, with restaurants providing riders with seating and drinks while they wait for orders to be processed. Riders in turn helping restaurants prepare orders. And some customers have even ordered extra food for riders. Khun Srihanath noted that the free delivery campaign began with an initial intention to help people during the COVID-19 lockdown, but it turned out that Robinhood grew exponentially in just four weeks. Growth numbers following the campaign went from 8,000 to 26,000 riders, from 100,000 to 160,000 eateries, from 1.2 million to 2.1 million customers, and from 20,000 to 150,000 orders a day.
Robinhood’s statistics over the past year reflect its growth from its first step until now. Daily orders have skyrocketed by 750%, with 2.3 million users, some 3.3 billion baht in sales, 26,000 riders, 160,000 eateries, and some 10,000 service hours. The total delivery distance is equivalent to 172 trips between the earth and the moon. The heaviest order weight was 10 kilograms of Khiriwong mangosteens, and the top user in terms of order quantity placed 2,440 orders.
Robinhood’s next step
As for the next step, Khun Srihanath noted that Robinhood will continue its aspiration to help local business operators with a wider range of services. Beyond food delivery service, the platform is set to expand to three new non-food businesses. First, acting as an online travel agent (OTA) with bookings for hotels, air tickets, travel activities, car rentals, and travel insurance as an option for SMEs to save costs on OTA commissions and fees. Second, a grocery shopping service to connect business operators to Robinhood customers with purchasing power and ready to shop for quality products. Third, an on-demand express parcel delivery service to cater to the fast-growing e-commerce sector.
A strategy paving the way to becoming a Thai super app
Every app player wants to become a super app. What is Robinhood’s strategy for its next step to achieve that position in this game? Khun Srihanath stated that in 2022 Robinhood will expand its availability to other provinces, starting with three popular travel destinations: Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Chon Buri. These three pilot provinces were chosen based on their potential and high demand for food delivery services. In parallel, there will be quality enhancement of eateries and riders, customer experience enhancement with more features matching their needs, and merchant support for customer-caring eateries. Furthermore, Robinhood is set to benefit from synergy with SCBX companies such as Auto X, Card X, Data X, SCB Tech X in terms of customer acquisition and data leveraging for developing lending opportunities and other financial products and services, advertising, and promotional campaigns for the maximum benefit of merchants and customers. In the pipeline is a fund-raising plan to boost the platform’s capabilities and service development, paving its way to fully becoming a “Thai super app” ready for competition as a regional player.
In conclusion, over the past 365 days, Robinhood has reached a milestone, proving its potential and goodwill in creating an ecosystem that is particularly beneficial for small players, allowing them to compete freely in online business on a level playing field without the pain of GP charges. Income has been distributed to smaller eateries and riders have received fair wages. As for the next step, Robinhood will pursue its aspiration to support Thai business operators, to enhance the platform to better respond to the new generations’ lifestyles and bring them new experiences in more dimensions, and to expand to non-food sectors – travel, grocery shopping, and on-demand express parcel delivery services, all with the goal of becoming a “Thai super app” ready for competition as a regional player by 2022.
Source: Press conference on the Robinhood app’s first anniversary and its path to becoming a super app by Mr. Thana Thienachariya, Board Chairman and Mr. Srihanath Lamsam, Managing Director at Purple Ventures, the operator of Robinhood on October 26, 2021.