Mauro Cocchieri, a 27-year-old Italian executive of Germany’s Rocket Internet AG, is behind some of the most successful Internet ventures in the Philippines. His previous company sold millions of gadgets online and now, he heads another firm that wants Filipinos to order food through smartphone.
Cocchieri worked for five years as a journalist covering night life and fashion for Il Messaggero, one of the largest newspapers in Italy, before joining Rocket Internet which brought him to the Philippines to build the largest e-commerce platforms in the country.
The transition is easy, he says, thanks to the vibrant Filipino culture and hospitality. “My adaptation to Filipino culture is very easy and Filipinos are welcoming and I felt very part of this country from the very beginning,” Cocchieri, the co-founder and chief executive of foodpanda Philippines, says in an interview at a coffee shop in Makati City.
He says foodpanda came to the Philippines to tap the best restaurants and most loyal customers to give them the opportunity to order online and give them the best experience when ordering. It is one of the companies under Rocket Internet, which is considered one of the world’s largest e-commerce focused venture capital firms and startup incubators. Rocket Internet was founded in 2007 by the Samwer brothers. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. recently invested in Rocket Internet to expand its online presence in the Philippines.
Cocchieri says he is excited to be in the Philippines at this time. “From economic and financial point of view, the Philippines is one of the fastest growing countries in the world, definitely the fastest in Southeast Asia. It is a place where technology is very important. The Philippines is where facebook has the highest penetration at over 90 percent of Internet users. It is a very social market. Social media is very important here,” he says.
Cocchieri, who was born in Perugia, Italy in May 1987, studied at Bocconi University and had a brief stint at Banco Santander in Milan.
He was a co-founder of Dalani Home & Living, an online furniture store in Italy. He served as global venture development manager for Berlin-based Rocket Internet from November 2011 to May 2013. In the second half of 2013, Rocket Internet assigned him to the Philippines.
He was appointed managing director and chief operating officer of Lazada Philippines from May 2013 to August 2014. Lazada quickly became the biggest shopping website in the Philippines, with more than 1,000 workforce.
Cocchieri says he decided to transfer from Lazada to foodpanda in search of new challenges. He became a co-founder, chief executive and managing director of foodpanda Philippines in September 2014. In just a few months, foodpanda Philippines generated 1.5 million likes on facebook.
“In the beginning, Rocket Internet was very close to both Lazada and Zalora, which were both established in the Philippines back in 2012. After a few months, I came here to support the team building warehouse management systems and optimizing the operations for processes. That was my first contact in the Philippines,” Cocchieri says.
“In 2013, I joined lazada as managing director for operations and chief operating officer. I joined foodpanda mid-September 2014. Foodpanda started operations in June last year,” he says.
Asked why he left lazada, Cocchieri says “lazada is already big. Obviously, I wanted to challenge myself in something new and more innovative than before.” He says joining the foodpanda team is also aligned with his interests.
Love for food
“I am Italian and most Filipinos love food and foodpanda is a great opportunity for me to improve myself when it comes to food and learn more about food and give my experience in mobile commerce,” he says.
Cocchieri says while he loves to eat, he does not have much time to go to restaurants. “But I love to visit our partner restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants is Greenwich when it comes to pizza. I mostly order online, from foodpanda almost everyday because I love to save one hour of my time and just be at my desk and enjoy time with my friends and order from home or the office and avoid the hassle of going out and being stuck in traffic.”
Cocchieri describes foodpanda as the worldwide leading food ordering platform. “It is in fact a marketplace. We basically connect great restaurants and brands with hungry customers. The way we do it is very innovative. The difference between foodpanda and other food delivery or food ordering platforms is we basically ask the customers to give us their location before. We have an app that allows the customer to login and check in, including location, so they can see the closest restaurants that can deliver to these areas.”
He says foodpanda made a revolution in the way people order food. He says the brand was named after panda, which is one of the symbols of Asian culture. “Filipinos love pandas. The second reason is because panda is always hungry. Our customers are also hungry like myself. We wanted to give a friendly name to our company, and thus the possibility to be remembered with our mascot. It is a friendly name. It makes you smile when you say it.”
In just a short time, foodpanda has made its presence felt in the food service industry. “At the moment, we have over 500 restaurant branches that have subscribed to foodpanda. Depending on the location, we would find among 50 to 100 restaurants delivering to your area. The reason is we are open to all cities in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao,” he says.
“In just six months, we have over 500 foodpanda restaurants. We have been growing very, very fast over the last three months,” he says.
Cocchieri confirms that foodpanda invests heavily in social media to strengthen brand awareness. “We are all over the place. When you open youtube or facebook, we invest heavily in online marketing and also in offline marketing when it comes to restaurant partnership. We strongly believe that more than half of our success comes from online. Our partner restaurants are also very active,” he says.
Among foodpanda’s partner restaurants are Greenwich, Chooks to Go, Pancake House, California Pizza Chicken, Gerry’s Grill, Kitaro and Mexicali.
Cocchieri says foodpanda became big because of its constant search for what customers like. “We ask our customers what kind of food they like, whey the want to see online, what they would like to order from us and we also adapt, based on our customer feedback. So we are very proactive,” he says.
He says foodpanda has a unique business model. “When it comes to global scale, we do not have any international competitors. We are in over 40 countries. We are a marketplace. We are a food ordering platform. So we don’t have a direct competitor. What happens is that in every local market, like in the Philippines, there are some logistic companies or delivery companies that happen to have a website and those are in the market,” he says.
“We are a different product. We don’t really have a competitor in the Philippines. There are other players that deliver food, but obviously we are a marketplace, we are a food ordering platform. We have our own app. We have our own website. We have partner restaurants that are more like success-oriented and marketing-oriented,” he says.
Foodpanda.ph has recently acquired City Delivery. Cocchieri says as of January 2015, foodpanda, which is based in Makati City, had 50 employees. “We are growing very fast. The main reason is our partner restaurants are growing very fast and our orders are growing very fast. In a few weeks, we are actually moving to a much bigger office with over 500 square meters.”
He says foodpanda is expanding in the Philippines, not only in terms of its core business, but also in terms of customer support. “We are going to start a couple of global projects in the Philippine market. One of them is related to customer experience. We are going to have a big global project on customer service for English speaking countries in the Philippines. Foodpanda is gonna give more jobs in the Philippines and will hire the best talents from best universities and best companies in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines. We strongly believe that when it comes to customer service and service level, the Philippines has no comparison anywhere in the world.”
“Filipino culture is really the best culture when it comes to service level. We want also to contribute on a global scale and we want to make foodpanda Philippines an international company. Our target is by the end of June, we are going to have over 100 employees,” he says.
He is also optimistic about the growth of food delivery industry in the country. “The food industry in the Philippines is growing like nowhere else. In 2014 from 2013, there was more than 100 percent increase in food delivery related to searches on Google. People are more than twice as interested as they used to be. There was a doubling in demand for food delivery,” he says.
“For 2015, we expect growth in the food delivery industry to be over 100 percent. That’s the main reason why we think the Philippines is the best country in the world when it comes to food delivery,” he says.
Cocchieri says economic growth and road traffic will contribute to this growth projection. “Traffic is a problem especially in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. The main reason why we see this growing is because we don’t see the traffic decreasing magically anytime soon. We see people becoming more and more busy in every company, and also the real estate and labor markets are exploding. We see people getting busier and wanting more time with their parents, more time with their children, more time for their friends and less time in traffic and less time to cook. That’s why we see over 100-percent growth in food delivery industry this year,” he says.
Cocchieri says he feels at home in the Philippines. “I am Italian. The Philippine and Italian cultures have a lot of similarities, not only because we are both Catholic countries but in general, emotion, food and family are very important in both our countries.”