Glovo’s Oscar Pierre plans to succeed in Nigeria despite its unique gig work challenges

Dennis Da-ala Mirilla
This is how Glovo's Oscar Pierre plans to build its Nigerian business
Glovo CEO, Oscar Pierre

Glovo started as a small delivery service in Barcelona and has been expanding, opening outposts worldwide since its inception in 2015. Some of these outposts, like its Morocco operation, have become very attractive to investors, contributing significantly to the business’s success.

Oscar Pierre, Glovo’s CEO, says that the company would focus on profitability over the next 12 months.

In any other line of business, this would be as consequential, but companies that focus solely on delivery anchored on gig work, like Glovo or Uber, are not mainly known for their profits as attractive and rampant as they have become in recent years,

Yet, Pierre sees great potential, especially in developing countries like Nigeria.

“Glovo’s strategy has always been to go and find markets in the world where the delivery industry is still not developed and go and develop it with a great product,” he said during his recent trip to Lagos to monitor Glovo’s operations in the country and scout for potential investment opportunities.

“I think that Nigeria is one of the clearest examples in the world. It’s a large economy, growing and the levers are still not yet developed,”.

Even though the company has only been here a few years, its impact on the food delivery industry is large. Across Lagos are fleets of Glovo delivery partners, riders of motorcycles and bicycles hanging outside fast food chains like Chicken Republic and The Place. For Pierre, this is a sign of a bright future for the company in Nigeria.

“One day I’m pretty sure that Nigeria will be our biggest country in the world. I don’t think we are going to fail in Nigeria. We have cracked the value proposition for the users. We have all the ingredients to grow,” he said.

He adds that his conviction in the company’s future in Nigeria is unwavering because the telltale signs that have propelled its operations in Morocco, Romania and Italy are building up in Nigeria. The product, he says, is affordable, and there is a thirst for it.

“I think we’re building products that are quite affordable. We’ve partnered with all the food chains. With people with more purchasing power, it becomes something that is more functional. For others, it’s something for special events. That is what we see everywhere in the world,” he said.

This is how Glovo's Oscar Pierre plans to build its Nigerian business

Already the company has rolled out two Glovo Bargains warehouses in Nigeria, its supermarket service where it ships groceries, from Beef Brisket to bottles of Gordon’s Dry Gin, to customers who order directly from its website.

Read also: Looking for better days: The real stories of Lagos dispatch riders

Glovo is not in a hurry to make profits from the Nigerian business.

“We are still very far in this market to optimise for profitability. We will be very focused on growing sustainably. It’s very early days still, and we will keep growing for years,” the CEO said.

Pierre also said that there are “no plans in the short term to expand” more than the there cities (Lagos, Ibadan and Abuja) that it currently is in Nigeria. “In Nigeria, we don’t see much rush to expand.”

A few years ago, it raised €450 million in a Series F round to build the business further. But also to invest in other startups. He says ten per cent of the funds set aside for investment will go to startups outside of Europe, including Nigeria.

The startup world has built a culture that compels young founders to pursue funding rounds at times more than building sustainable businesses. There are countless cautionary tales of founders and investors who ignored their businesses and pursued bizarre relationships with wealthy investors. Case in point, the now famous WeWork founder, Adam Neumann and the investor and CEO of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son.

What does he think of investors and investment? Do these relationships even matter?

“It does,” he said. “Because no matter what, a successful startup will have a lot of bad moments and really difficult situations. That is usually how you’ll do the reference check of a good investor. You go to the founder that failed and had a very difficult situation with that investor, and you ask, ‘How was that person?’

That’s how I do reference checks. Because as an investor, if the company is doing super well, you’re making a ton of money; everybody is nice. But you need to make sure everyone is nice when they are not making money,” he added.

Glovo’s and the challenges of the gig economy

Even though Glovo and its partnership with riders have gone on mostly smoothly in Nigeria, the partnerships have been a source of concern in some other parts. In 2021, riders went on strike demanding improved working conditions and higher pay. The company was also fined $78 million for labour breaches in Spain.

“We are conscious of that this is one of the areas where the reality has gone further than the regulation. And in most of the countries where we operate, we are operating with freelancers. So it usually doesn’t offer enough rights and benefits to the couriers,” Pierre said.

Last year, it launched The Couriers Pledge in Ghana, including road safety initiatives, e-learning free platform access with hundreds of courses, increased insurance coverage, and fair earnings for its riders.

In Nigeria, it has none of those. But Pierre said that the company is working on better insurance, better leave, and minimum earnings per hour guarantees for riders in the country.

But Glovo will still need to look for ways to navigate erratic policies in the country, like the infamous okada ban in 2020 that briefly led the motorcycle delivery business to a sudden halt.

This is how Glovo's Oscar Pierre plans to build its Nigerian business

“In our opinion, it didn’t make a lot of common sense but we adapted,” Pierre said of the okada ban.

There have been some other companies also in the gig economy where their strategies were to break the rules, be aggressive, focus on the platform and grow. But we try to collaborate with local entities and authorities from day one because we know that we are having an impact on society,” he said.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!

Register for Technext Coinference 2023, the Largest blockchain and DeFi Gathering in Africa.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!