How foodpanda has Become Singapore’s Delivery Hero

Lawrence Wen, CEO of foodpanda, uses leadership skills and customer-centric business acumen learned at BCG to drive innovation and success in the food and grocery delivery market in Singapore.

Please tell us about your journey to become the CEO of foodpanda Singapore. How has your diverse experience across industries and geographies inspired and contributed to your current role?

My journey to becoming foodpanda Singapore’s CEO has been one full of interesting and diverse experiences. Influences from my childhood as well as many career “experiments” were all part of shaping my journey.

My father was a taxi driver for 30 years. In the last five years, he switched to driving with a ride-hailing platform. The switch gave him both more flexibility in his schedule as well as a marked increase in his earnings due to the steady stream of customers sourced from the platform. Seeing firsthand how my father benefited from gig work opened my mind to how technology can transform the way people work and live.

Another big influence (and lifelong passion) of mine is food. From founding and operating a fine dining restaurant in Shanghai for six years to joining Pizza Hut in Australia to rejuvenate the business, I’ve always been passionate about providing quality food to as many people as possible. The different roles I’ve taken on within the F&B (Food & Beverage) industry have given me varied perspectives, such as understanding the operational and regulatory challenges that restaurants face. I also learned how to make tough decisions that are necessary to sustain a business in the fast-paced world of F&B.

Witnessing the rise of delivery platforms and seeing opportunities in that sector, I joined Grab in Indonesia, where I learned how to run a technology-driven food delivery business in a hyper-competitive market.

Now at foodpanda Singapore, my current role combines both my personal and professional interests. I’m excited to continue building on the success that the company has enjoyed in the last decade, and to make foodpanda the platform of choice for all things food and groceries.

How has your exposure to different cultures and regions influenced your leadership and management style, especially in the diverse business landscape of Singapore?

As a child, I would spend every summer holiday travelling from Australia to different parts of Asia to visit my mother, who was the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. I would sit in on her boardroom meetings and learn how to communicate with senior executives from backgrounds different to my own. Those skills I picked up early in life have remained helpful in sharpening the way that I interact with key stakeholders as well as the many teams and employees I’ve worked with from all walks of life.

My time at Boston Consulting Group was also pivotal in my development as a leader. From day 1, BCG gave me the opportunity to design and execute projects across a wide range of industries in high-growth Asian markets. I was able to deep-dive into the multifaceted complexities of Western and Asian management styles, which are heavily influenced by their cultures and histories, and I was able to develop my own unique leadership philosophies from there.

As a leader, I believe in being approachable and meeting people where they are. I am of the view that people are a company’s best asset and am committed to taking the time to understand each team. I have regular scheduled lunches (delivered by foodpanda, of course) with different internal teams to get to know them and what they’re working on as well as connects with merchants and delivery partners. I also encourage my management team at foodpanda to interact and collaborate so that we can all create an environment where managers are always seen as approachable.

How do you see the future of the food delivery industry evolving, and how is foodpanda positioned to stay ahead of these changes?

The food delivery industry has seen significant growth in Singapore over the past decade, alongside e-commerce and customers’ insatiable desire for on-demand delivery. When the pandemic hit, it accelerated the reliance that customers have on on-demand delivery, and customer preference shifted to favoring convenience in the form of speed and variety. Now, post-pandemic, we notice that customers are increasingly expecting brands to offer great experiences both online and offline.

To meet these demands, we have built upon our services by:

  • extending our pick-up service from only food to our online retail marketplace foodpanda shops, and also for our cloud grocery store pandamart;
  • enhancing the value customers can get out of our subscription program, pandapro;
  • engaging in strategic partnerships, such as with ride-hailing company TADA, to offer cross platform perks; and
  • making dine-in available for all foodpanda users, offering exclusive discounts when they eat at partnering restaurants.

In the dynamic and competitive food delivery industry, building strong customer relationships is crucial. How do you foster a customer-centric culture within foodpanda and ensure that customer satisfaction remains a top priority?

We are constantly working on improving our platform, such as implementing a tailored customer experience where they will be able to see customized deals, suggested restaurants, and more based on their specific behaviors on the platform. Before rollout, all features are extensively tested, and customer feedback is taken very seriously. We also work closely with our restaurant, merchant, and delivery partners to ensure a smooth and enjoyable customer experience when placing orders on our platform.

In addition to good deals, customers—especially the younger generation—prefer to purchase from brands which align with their values. As a result, we find that customers are more discerning with their spending: they want convenience at an affordable price, from a brand they like and trust.

That’s why, beyond improvements on our platform, we also want to foster strong relationships by engaging customers in more meaningful ways. This is important, as while customers do value the convenience that on-demand delivery brings, they are also more prudent with their spending given inflationary pressures. Beyond just relying on pushing out deals and discounts, we need to enhance our customers’ emotional connection with the brand in order to foster stickiness to the platform.

To do so, we unveiled our brand ambassador, Pau-Pau, in 2022. The pink panda is the embodiment of our brand values and provides us with a way to distinguish ourselves from our competitors and gives us new ways to have deeper engagements with our customers. Since Pau-Pau’s debut, customers have responded extremely positively to him, especially when it comes to merchandise. As a result, our brand love, top-of-mind awareness, and brand preference have increased.

Please share a memorable achievement or milestone during your tenure as the CEO of foodpanda Singapore.

We’ve achieved quite a few milestones since I joined, such as launching our regional headquarters in Singapore, rolling out new services for customers, and signing strategic partnerships to enhance our offerings. There’s more coming up in the pipeline for the rest of the year, including some big bets on groceries and loyalty that I’m very excited about.

The milestone I’m particularly proud of was that we were able to decisively make tough decisions and improvements to the business to help foodpanda and our parent company, Delivery Hero, move toward profitability as a group - a milestone that I’m happy to share we are on track to achieve.