Glovo: How a Spanish delivery firm is out to conquer the world

With an ambitious 27-year-old boss and a growing army of computer engineers, Spanish start-up Glovo is chasing international growth by expanding beyond food deliveries, despite criticism of the working conditions of its drivers.

Glovo: How a Spanish delivery firm is out to conquer the world

Four years ago Oscar Pierre quit his first job at Airbus, Europe's largest aerospace group, in Toulouse in southwestern France after just three months.    

Now the cofounder and CEO of Glovo, an app-based on demand courier service, manages 1,500 employees in 26 countries, half of them in his hometown Barcelona where the company has its headquarters.

“I was looking for another rhythm,” the slim former aeronautical engineer, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, told AFP, explaining he found the aeronautics industry “a bit slow”.

Glovo's CEO Oscar Pierre is just 27 years old. Photo. AFP

At the entrance to Glovo's headquarters there are several yellow backpacks used by the firm's 50,000 drivers to deliver restaurant meals by bicycle or motorcycle to people's homes in 288 cities around the world as well as diapers, medicine, flowers and other goods.

Because unlike its rivals Deliveroo and UberEats, Glovo does not just deliver food. “Order what you want,” the app tells its customers.   

Glovo is on track to rack up €250 million ($277 million) in sales this year, Pierre said, a 200 percent jump over 2018 when sales already recorded a 350 percent jump over the previous year.

Since it was founded in 2015 the company has raised €460 million from investors, and it recently achieved the status of a “unicorn” — a start-up valued over $1 billion.

“It makes you dizzy, it's a lot of pressure, but at the same time we make the most of it because we know that it is unique to live this,” said Pierre at Glovo's headquarters which features beanbags and table football for employees.

'Much bigger'

Glovo is already making money in Spain, Italy and Portugal and Pierre expects the company as a whole will be profitable “within 18 months”.    

The company's strategy involves focusing on areas where it faces less competition than in western Europe such as Latin America, Ukraine, Morocco and the Ivory Coast.

It wants to speed up delivery times using algorithms cooked up by hundreds of engineers and to do this Glovo plans to hire 300 new staff for its IT team in 2020.

“We have to choose a machine learning model that is able to estimate how long an order is gonna take to prepare and then only tell the courier to arrive at the location as quickly as possible, at the same time as when the order is ready to be picked up,” said Mustafa Sezgin, the head of the company's IT division.

Meal deliveries account for three-quarters of Glovo's revenues but “we like to think that food is the start of something much bigger” just like Amazon started by selling books, said Pierre.

Glovo already has seven so-called “dark supermarkets”, distribution centres stuffed with products which are not open to the public, where its drivers can pick up items and it plans to open 100 by 2021.

The goal is to ensure deliveries are carried out within 15 minutes.    

The Glovo app could soon be used to make restaurant reservations, buy movie tickets or hire home repair services.

Fake freelancers?

But these ambitious projects have been overshadowed in Spain by complaints over the working conditions of Glovo's drivers, who have staged several strikes.

They complain of pressure to make deliveries quickly and insufficient hours to earn a decent wage.

Twenty-one drivers have taken Glovo to court, accusing the company of treating them as “fake freelancers” instead of providing them with formal contracts that would require the firm pay social security contributions on their behalf.

The courts have ruled in favour of riders 11 times, and on the side of Glovo ten times.   

Spain's social security system has demanded the Glovo pay it hundreds of thousands of euros in arrears for hundreds of drivers.    

Pierre argues the question is not whether riders are “employees or freelancers”.

“It's a new paradigm” that needs “new regulations”, he said.    

Pierre said 60 percent of Glovo's drivers work part time and enjoy great “flexibility”.

To increase the drivers' earnings, Glovo is working to improve the app so that they can do three deliveries per hour, compared to two currently, he added.   

“With technology it's possible,” Pierre said.

By AFP's Emmanuelle Michel 

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Amancio Ortega’s daughter to take over as Zara and Inditex boss

Marta Ortega, daughter of Spain's wealthiest man, will take over as chairwoman of the world's biggest fashion retailer in a generational shift for the firm, Inditex announced on Tuesday.

Amancio Ortega's daughter to take over as Zara and Inditex boss
Photo taken in 2016 shows the founder and chairman of the Inditex fashion group Amancio Ortega (R) with his daughter Marta Ortega. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

She will replace Pablo Isla, who has been chairman since 2011, in April, the company said in a statement. He was deputy chairman between 2005 and 2011.

Ortega, 37, has been working for the company in different areas for the last 15 years, even working anonymously as a shop employee at one point to learn the ins and outs of the company.

She is the youngest daughter of Amancio Ortega, 85, who founded fast-fashion giant Zara with his ex-wife Rosalia in 1975 in Spain’s northwestern region of Galicia.

He remains the firm’s largest shareholder with a 59 percent stake and is one of the world’s richest men.

“I have lived and breathed this company since my childhood, and I have learned from all the great professionals I have worked with over the last 15 years,” Marta Ortega said in the statement.

“I have always said that I would dedicate my life to building upon my parents’ legacy, looking to the future but learning from the past,” she added.

Inditex, which operates nearly 7,000 stores worldwide, posted a net profit of almost 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion) during its first half of 2021, which runs between February and July.

The fashion group owns seven other brands in addition to Zara, including upmarket Massimo Dutti and teen label Stradivarius.

It is the world’s biggest fashion retailer, ahead of Swedish rival H&M.

Stocking shelves

Inditex thanked Isla, who is resigning, for his “leadership and vision” during his 17 years at the firm, saying the group had become “the leading company in its sector worldwide” under his watch.

It also hailed Marta Ortega, saying she “has led the strengthening of Zara’s brand image and fashion proposition, an area she will continue to oversee.”

She studied international business in London and carried out months-long stays in the departments of finance, accounting, sales analysis and design when she began working at Inditex.

Marta Ortega also briefly worked as an anonymous employee at the group’s shops in 2007, reportedly stocking shelves, to get a better understanding of how they operate.

Oscar Garcia Maceiras, who had become the company’s general counsel and secretary of the board in March, will become CEO “effective immediately”, Inditex said.

Her will replace Carlos Crespo, who took the post two years ago. Crespo will remain chief operating officer.