Retro Delivery

Delivery Platforms
  • Food delivery has gotten into some controversy lately with revelations of sky high merchant fees.
  • To give merchants a helping hand, SF and NYC are capping fees, opening up platforms (eg allow merchants some access to customer data, allowing customers to contact the merchant direct) and outlawing predatory practices.
  • Platforms probably started off as a gentrified service but the pandemic has made them a public utility. Hence the difference between what platforms do and what society needs.
  • But are big platforms the only delivery model? Not at all. In certain locales, grocery and food delivery were running successfully decades ago.

Retro Delivery
  • Decades back, merchants (grocer, sundry retailer, food hawker) operated on a hyperlocal basis.
  • They were embedded within a neighbourhood or community.
  • They knew their customers by name, their preferences and sometimes even offered credit.
  • Merchants hired a runner (or were the runner themselves), usually a youngster, a school dropout, who would go around on a bicycle canvassing orders and making deliveries.
  • School was tough then, dropouts enter the labour force early. Pay was low but the economy was freer, diversified and decentralised, so there was a sense of upward mobility for the diligent & resourceful.
  • In summary, an alternative to big, impersonal, high-tech platforms is nimble, personal, hyperlocal services.