During the searing summer heat in the UAE, when many are loathe to step outside of the air conditioned comfort of their homes, Foodonclick.com is something of a life saver.
The site provides web users with access to a veritable buffet of food options at the click of their fingers, which are then delivered directly to their doorstep without ever having to pick up the phone. The service covers hundreds of the best-known restaurant brands across a variety of cuisines, without charging its users an extra dirham for the privilege.
Foodonclick.com now sees thousands of takeaway orders everyday and has set its sights on further expansion across the GCC.
The company was founded by Gokhan Akan, currently CFO, as Yemeksepeti.com in his native Turkey at the turn of the millennium alongside friends Nevzat Aydın, Melih Ödemiş and Cem Nüfusi.“I started up the business with two friends, all three of us were in university in Istanbul, and the idea was simple actually,” he recalls. “Food delivery is a very big market for Turkey and we thought that the internet had a lot of advantages over ordering via phone. We wanted to combine these, so we created a website.”
Any entrepreneur will tell you that a great idea and a successful business are two very different beasts, and so proved to be the case with Yemeksepeti.com. Akan believes that in 2000 the concept was perhaps a little ahead of its time, with the internet only just starting to emerge as a serious retail platform in developed markets like the US and Europe.
Soon after going live, however, the dot-com bubble burst, causing the NASDAQ stock exchange to plummet and confidence in the internet-based businesses worldwide to go through the floor.
“It wasn’t a great starting time, because it coincided with the NASDAQ crash. But I think apart from this the idea was a little bit ahead of its time,” Akan admits. “Also, the internet itself as an infrastructure wasn’t ready for it. Everyone used dial-up modems.”
During this period, Akan says that the company received orders just “five or six times a day” and relied on cash from friends and family to keep the fledging start-up on its feet. “At the beginning it was our own money, then we deployed all our own resources and it became friends’ and families’ money,” he adds. “There was not one point – there were many, many points. It’s tough – especially in the first five years, we had a lot of hardship.”
In 2002, Akan left Turkey to pursue a masters degree in finance at London Business School, a decision he says has improved his commercial aptitude when it comes to running Yemeksepeti.com.
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