Naisiadet Mason quit her job at the United Nations to start a food delivery business in Nairobi. Mama Meals on Wheels has become popular among Nairobi’s middle class and has grown to levels Naisiadet says she did not anticipate. How we made it in Africa’s Dinfin Mulupi found out more about the business.
How did you start Mama Meals on Wheels?
I am a public health specialist by profession and my area of focus is maternal health. I used to work with the United Nations and when my children were all grown up, I didn’t feel the need to continue doing the tours of duty. I decided to move back to Kenya. I love food and when I moved back here, I realised there was no one who could deliver food from all the restaurants in Nairobi. Only a few restaurant chains make deliveries but this is also limited to how close a customer is to their branches. I teamed up with a friend and we started Mama Meals on Wheels. We deliver groceries, booze and food from any restaurant of a customer’s choice. The business was inspired by my own need to get food deliveries. Restaurants can either list their menu on our website at a fee or sell the food to us at a 30% discount. Customers pay for the delivery depending on the cost of their orders and their location. This business is very well developed in the US and we are hoping to grow it here too.
Who is your target market?
We did a survey and found out that only 5% of Nairobi can afford our services. In high end estates, the population is scarce; people have cars, a chef and basically access to all types of cuisines such that they would not need our services. Middle income estates make [up] the majority of our customers. There is a bigger population here and they can afford our services. They are mostly working people who get home tired after a long day at work and being stuck in traffic and they don’t have a live-in house help. They want convenience and that is what we sell. We are focusing on this market. We get very busy between 11:00am and 2:00pm and in the evening from 6:00pm until 9:00pm. We started with two motorcycles and we have expanded to ten. We still can’t meet the demand during peak hours. We are growing at a faster rate than I had anticipated. It is almost difficult to keep up.
What do you attribute to the success of the business?
We focus a lot on good customer service. We try as much as possible to deliver in time and if we delay, we will apologise to the customer and give them a free delivery. We also use thermo bags to ensure the food is hot when it reaches the customer. This has distinguished us from anyone else who does deliveries. People also have expendable incomes. If you are in the food business, you will make money as long as you give good quality. Grocery deliveries are also a growth area and we are looking to expand our business in this segment.