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Cashless economy is at the door, says food delivery boss

Talabat managing director Tatiana Rahal previously worked on data analytics for Visa and Mazda Supplied
Talabat managing director Tatiana Rahal previously worked on data analytics for Visa and Mazda
  • Talabat boss Tatiana Rahal says online payments exceed 70%
  • Company’s tech hub has over 350 employees

A cashless economy in the UAE is no longer just an ambition, according to Tatiana Rahal, managing director of food delivery giant Talabat UAE.

“The future in the UAE is digital and we see cashless payments as the primary currency,” said Rahal, the company’s first MD who has previously worked on data analytics for brands including Visa and Mazda. “As a matter of fact, cashless already stands for the lion’s share of our transactions.”

More than 70 percent of Talabat payments are made online while last year the company introduced an option for vendors to accept cashless-only payments.

“Going cashless brings several advantages including convenience, financial transparency, traceability and safety,” Rahal said.

“With the UAE spearheading digital transformation in the region, we look forward to seeing new fintech trends emerge that could further optimise the sector and the way business is done.” 

Launched as a tech startup by young Kuwaiti entrepreneurs in 2004, Talabat now operates in nine markets in the region with its headquarters in the UAE.

Since 2016 it has been a subsidiary of Germany’s Delivery Hero and is the only online food delivery to operate across all seven emirates of the UAE. 

Rahal said that Talabat’s partners have more than doubled in the past year while customers are up by 30 percent annually to November. 

Many commentators expected food delivery firms to struggle once coronavirus pandemic restrictions were lifted. The recent increased cost of living and the pay disputes of delivery drivers could also be obstacles to growth. 

The food delivery firm operates in nine markets in the region with its HQ in the UAE. Picture: Supplied/Talabat

But Rahal said Talabat has seen “positive growth” in orders as the online habits adopted by people during lockdown periods “have become an integral part of their daily lives”. 

“While the pandemic presented threats and challenges worldwide, it gave organisations of all sizes the chance to rethink what they stand for,” Rahal said.

“Companies need to constantly innovate to maintain their competitive edge and customer loyalty, which can be challenging even for a market leader.”

With the emergence of rivals such as Deliveroo and Careem Now, the food delivery market is becoming more crowded but Rahal welcomes the competition. 

“We believe that competition is healthy as it continually pushes brands to innovate and provide customers and partners with the latest solutions using our platform,” she said.

“We have the biggest homegrown tech hub in our regional headquarters in Dubai with over 350 product and tech employees, allowing us to collectively explore, create and introduce advanced solutions that are set to change the way we order online, one idea at a time.”

Innovation has included Talabat’s expansion into quick commerce as a service, its delivery-only store management solution, and its cloud kitchen concept through a collaboration with Wings, an emerging AI and robotics startup. 

The Wings project, which will transport, store and handle orders from its 25 kitchen stalls to riders, will be launched in the UAE with plans to expand across the region. 

Sustainability is also important to Rahal. Talabat UAE joined the Dubai Can initiative as founding partners in 2022 with 20 water refill stations, contributing to a 45 percent reduction in single-use plastic bottles in six months while also partnering with Motoboy to pilot electric vehicles.

“We have ramped up our efforts to empower SMEs, which we believe contribute greatly to introducing new business concepts into the market,” Rahal said. 

She is also keen to empower more women to take leadership positions. The company has more than 42 percent of management positions occupied by women, higher than the global benchmark of 31 percent in 2021. 

“I am proud to live in a country that has actively championed gender equality as a national priority,” she said.

“An organisation’s culture plays an important role in encouraging women to reach their highest potential.

“Companies that allow a flexible working model and a culture that is more output driven rather than clocking-in hours, help working mothers have a better work-life balance. 

“Flexibility is vital, especially in higher positions, where we lose a lot of women due to the pressure they face when choosing between motherhood and work. 

“I believe in the importance of women supporting women. I try to always push the women I work with to push themselves to pursue what they want.”

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