Being “always connected” is a core business mantra, but how that takes shape varies widely. Here’s how one startup turned connectivity into a competitive advantage.
For Toronto-based startup Hunger Hub, being always-connected is how they aim to disrupt the food delivery industry. We sat down with their Chief Technology Officer, Rohan Jayasekera, to learn more about his experience with business, technology and how Hunger Hub uses an always-connected approach to give them a competitive advantage.
1. When someone says “always-connected,” what does it mean to you and your business?
A. In terms of day-to-day operations, being connected is critical. Our customers are businesses that provide meals to their staff—think catering for offices but with more of an UberEats customer experience. The efficiency of our operation relies on connectivity; it’s our competitive advantage. Instead of single orders coming in and individual drivers going out to pick up and deliver, we streamline the whole process. Businesses of all sizes place orders for their employees in the morning from a variety of restaurants, then we deliver all over Toronto. Being able to know the status of each order and where it is in the delivery process requires reliable and continual communications.
2. What sort of connected devices does your company use?
A. Behind the scenes, we are connected every day by our smartphones and laptops. Hunger Hub is just 3-years old, so new challenges are coming up every day. We need to be in constant contact with each other to coordinate our responses. Being able to connect and collaborate on an ongoing basis without waiting until we can all get in the same room is critical. From a front-line delivery perspective, we also use cloud-based software to maintain ordering and coordinate dispatch.
3. What are some of the benefits of an always-connected workplace?
A. Honestly, I can't even imagine a workplace any other way. As the person responsible for all our technology, I need to be aware of any technical issues immediately so I can keep the rest of the team informed and operations running smoothly.
Also, our customers have grown to expect quick response times and the only way to provide this is to be connected. One of the main benefits of connectivity for our business is real-time communications between dispatch and our drivers. Although orders are handled by cloud-based software, unexpected factors like traffic conditions, delays at restaurants, or ingredient shortages are aspects of our business that we need a direct line of sight into. As a result of always being connected, we can provide a highly coordinated food delivery service with greater choice than our competitors. It’s efficient for us and cost- effective for the customer.
4. Has an always-connected approach resulted in any significant changes in your policies or process since launch?
Our business was made possible by technology and maintaining a constant connection. Delivering meals from multiple restaurants to companies all over the city with enough efficiency to keep costs down and provide the best customer experience was just not possible before.
For example, before we integrated our own software into our dispatch system, we notified drivers manually. As you can imagine this process lacked the efficiency we have today.
5. How is connectivity helping mitigate your operational risks?
We would be in big trouble if we were offline for very long, so backup is important. All our systems are cloud-based with redundant connections. This ensures we are prepared in an emergency and helps us mitigate any disruptions for our customers.
On a day-to-day basis, we are more likely to face a situation that requires several of us to connect and address a specific challenge like expanding menu options or meal coordination. The ability to get the right people on a call can make a difference in how we develop a solution that will work across the company. For this to run smoothly, reliable connectivity is critical.
6. How has the evolving trend toward being constantly connected changed how you, personally, have done business throughout your career?
I am unusual in that I have been online since long before the Internet became publicly available. Starting in high school, my first job was at a pioneering Canadian online services company that had its own global network. It was there that I learned the incredible power of being constantly connected. Very early on I participated in a joint project between their Toronto and Montreal offices. We did everything online, using email, instant messaging and chat exclusively. This early experience taught me the power of connectivity and has influenced many aspects of my career since then.
The ability to be always connected has laid the foundation for businesses like Hunger Hub to realize their competitive advantage within an industry. As technology continues to evolve, businesses that are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities stand to benefit the most.