Are you hungry? That’s the question asked by Ele.me, China’s biggest food delivery startup. The company, which until now has offered only a traditional B2C online-to-offline (O2O) food delivery service, has just announced that it plans to expand into B2B with an offering called Youcai.
Ele.me sees Youcai – which roughly means “have food” in Chinese – as being another link in the O2O food delivery chain. Youcai is a B2B platform that links food ingredient vendors with restaurants. The idea is that by leveraging all of the data Ele.me has on restaurants and delivery demand all over China, Youcai should be able to link ingredient sellers, logistics providers, and restaurants efficiently to ensure that everyone has the fresh meats and veggies they need to keep China’s masses fed. Youcai also aims to eliminate consumer concerns about food safety by making it easy for restaurants to get their ingredients from safe sources.
(Highlights by me)
The interesting aspect here is the data-driven approach. It is an interesting thought experiment wether this or something similarly data-driven might make sense for other food delivery startups such as Delivery Hero at one point in the future. Delivery Hero got a massive investment by Rocket Internet this year. The latter used this investment to create a ‘Global Online Takeaway Group’ out of its rather similar startups of the same category.
Ele.me is showing with Youcai what new options might open up to you if you manage to create a significant scale in one market. So it would not be surprising if Rocket Internet is paying close attention to how Youcai will be doing.
Youcai has just been officially announced but has been in operation as a successful private beta since July:
Since then, Xin says that Youcai has processed more than RMB 4 million (US$629,000) in transactions, and is now available in eight cities. That’s not too shabby for a product that hadn’t even been officially announced! And Ele.me is planning rapid expansion, with aims to have many of China’s large and medium-sized cities covered before the year ends.