Even though the rapid delivery firm JOKR‘s first office opened in Mexico City in mid-March 2021, the company is a global effort. Co-founded by Ralf Wenzel, formerly of Delivery Hero and SoftBank, and German Peralta, CEO at JOKR in LatAm, former CCO at India’s Oyo in the region, the startup quickly scaled across Latin America (Lima, Bogotá, Guadalajara, Monterrey) and the U.S. and Europe.
Technology, legal, and product teams that can operate remotely are based in New York and Berlin, meant for global capabilities, and JOKR also has employees in Mexico City and Bogotá. Its on-demand retail delivery app is currently available in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, U.S, Austria, Poland, and now, Brazil, under the brand Daki.
Brazilian Rafael Vasto (founder and CEO at Daki) met Peralta when they both worked for the startup Oyo when it had operations in LatAm. Daki launched in January, roughly one month and a half before JOKR. As the two very young companies were doing the same thing, they agreed to do a merger, “joining forces to share knowledge, to strengthen the financial position, and basically to tackle very relevant markets at once under a global platform. So two companies that are developing this ecosystem together,” explained Vasto, in an interview with LABS.
Daki is JOKR’s brand in Brazil. The worldwide scale can be attributed to some of the most prominent venture capital firms backing the initiative: HV Capital, Tiger Global, SoftBank, and GGV Capital, which led the recently raised $170 million Series A for the startup. JOKR and Daki don’t disclose allocation information and stated that the round was meant for the JOKR group.
“If you think of LatAm, in a big sense Brazil is a very big country, in the same way, Mexico is. We have a very LatAm-driven thesis, and therefore it’s a big focus area for us,” says Vasto. Nevertheless, Colombia’s on-demand grocery delivery app Merqueo, which debuted in Brazil in July, plans to invest $20 million in the first 12 months to expand its network of dark stores in the country.
The battleground of the hour: Quick-delivery and how it all started
JOKR’s co-founders imagined a business in which users can get anything they want with very few clicks, getting it delivered to the user’s door within 15 minutes, and without issues of ordering something and getting something else (due to lack of inventory, for instance).
The name came up on a weekend when they put the title on a presentation for the new venture. “We want to be the genie in a bottle, to be that joker card, that something that is going to solve my problem right now, and we came up with Joker,” Peralta told LABS. “But life is too short for too many vowels, so we took one away.”
Vasto adds that Daki sounds like “from here” in Portuguese, which refers to a local thing. “The joker card in the form of local heroes, how we deliver, it’s a perfect mix,” he said.
As Netflix‘s recommendations vary depending on users’ likings, JOKR says it wants to be the most intuitive app for what people are looking for, regardless of where they are.
“I usually buy fruits and eggs in the morning, and that should be very easy for me to find in the app. I usually buy bottles of wine on Thursday or Friday nights, that also should be very easy for me to get,” says Peralta.
Beyond the data-driven technology, JOKR wants to differentiate itself with “hyperlocalized” warehouses, meaning that the inventory that it carries in each of the neighborhoods is particular to the people that buy there. If users are in Polanco (a neighborhood in Mexico City), they will have a different offering of users that are in Coyoacán (another Mexico City neighborhood).
“In Polanco, there is usually smaller packaging, more alcohol, more snacks, and in Coyoacán we find more fresh products, much more rice, and tortillas, and things for bigger families,” explains Peralta.
As Merqueo does for groceries, JOKR has real-time visibility of retail product inventory and controls the whole chain up to the delivery. That’s the main difference between JOKR and marketplaces such as Rappi, that act as a middleman between the shopper and the store.
Nico Berman, a partner at Kaszek that invests in JOKR, says that this type of customer experience quality is only achieved when the firm owns the whole chain (the marketplace and the fulfillment centers), as Amazon did for regular retail.
Berman believes that as the pandemic pushed digitization, LatAm now has a massive adoption of e-commerce, and as technology and recommendation engines evolve, it is easier to get products delivered any time rather than going to the proper store. “If you want to go to the supermarket, it is because you like to do window shopping from time to time, and it’s a way to take your kids out of home and do something else, but in my case, I would prefer going out to the park or other places.”
Asked if Latin American users would adopt grocery shopping through mobile commerce, he says that when Mercado Libre started in 1999 people didn’t use to buy online, they had to be educated. Today, people still have doubts about how the tomato will be chosen and delivered, if the egg would be broken by the time it gets to the consumer’s house, but he believes that as Mercado Libre made it, for groceries it will happen as well, and with a greater impact, due to recurrence.
“People are testing. You try it, you see that if you want eggs you have it in 15 minutes, if you like it and you make the next order. We see it as an evolution. But not all the time we will buy online, sometimes yes, we would go window shopping and see what’s there.”
Spreading wings throughout the continent
Daki is already available in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and is expanding in Brazil, and the same goes for JOKR in Spanish-speaking LAtAm’s cities.
In Latin America (Brazil included), Peralta says that JOKR serves a little bit below 6 million people that have access to at least one of its stores. He believes that the company will reach 12 million by the end of 2021. “The effort on marketing allows more people to get access to high-profile grocery shopping,” he says.
The so-called “high-profile grocery shopping” means that if users want to have food for breakfast, they can order and get it. And in the afternoon if they are craving for hamburgers, they just order the bread, and the meat, for instance, rather than thinking about the week’s shopping list when going to a grocery store.
“We are expanding to many countries. It’s huge, but at the same time, there’s one important component. This expansion is also for the small local hero, the small local producer that now has a channel to expand. We also see ourselves as enablers of this economy of local heroes, they can also expand through us,” added Berman.