Fetching the future: Idriss Al Rifai
Iriss Al Rifai – the CEO of Fetchr – recently raised US$41 million to help fund expansion plans, including the creation of the UAE’s first autonomous drone delivery service. Here, he talks the start-up scene, what makes logistics sexy, and what it means to win the right way...
For those who don’t know the company, what’s Fetchr?
We believe that the world doesn’t need an address. There are currently four billion people without a proper postal address, and with the rise of e-commerce that’s a potentially huge market of people who are unable to participate. So what we are trying to do is ensure we can deliver something to someone wherever they are.
We don’t think people need to be stuck in an address. We want you to be able to go to the beach, and because you have your phone with you – everyone takes their phones out with them – we have your location, and can make delivery as easy as possible.
How did you get started with the company?
I’m half French and half Iraqi. I came to the UAE seven years ago, and worked in consulting and e-commerce. I saw that online retail was on the rise everywhere, but that there were huge logistical problems to that model in emerging markets. So five years ago,I started Fetchr.
I remember on the first day we had six packages on a table, and we were wondering how we were going to make Fetchr a reality. Today, we are present in six countries, 30 cities and hiring around 100 people a week. It’s been a crazy ride.
It used to be that kids grew up wanting to be astronauts and pilots. Today, they all want to go work for Amazon and Uber, which are essentially logistics companies like Fetchr. How did moving something from A-to-B become such an exciting business to be in?
Honestly, I have no idea. I am not doing this because it’s a sexy industry to be in, I am doing it because it’s problem-solving. Ultimately, everyone wants everything to run smoothly all of the time.
They don’t want to have to worry about their food on time, or if they can get a taxi, or if they need to stay at home to wait for an unreliable delivery service for their package.
So in future, I will be here having a coffee, and a drone will come out of the sky and deliver my package?
That’s right. And while that may sound complicated, so is having to make 10 phone calls to have your goods delivered. Why do I need to stay at home for six hours to get a box delivered?
There is something wrong with that, and we want to make sure you can send and receive things everywhere.
What does winning the right way mean to you?
For me, the key thing is integrity. There are so many ways to win the wrong way in this market, so I think you need to be true to yourself, and true to your values.
For me, we have an idea of where we want the company to be, what our mission is. We’re not going to take shortcuts and try and win quickly by screwing other people over. That’s how you win the right way.
Esquire talked to Idriss Al Rifai as part of The Good Bartenders. The Chivas-run initiative asks local entrepreneurs to become a bartender for one night, and to talk about how they raised the bar for good business. For more information, please visit thegoodbartenders.com