The lockdown of Manchester city centre in the wake of COVID-19 has turned into an opportunity for Alliance MBS student Mohammad Afridi to trial his on-demand delivery platform while also helping vulnerable people across the city.
The final year BSc Accounting student from India has spent the past couple of years researching and planning his peer to peer delivery platform DeliKart which aims to deliver any item across Manchester city centre direct to a customer’s door.
The idea first came to him when he once ran out of TV remote batteries on a cold, wintry evening in his flat and wondered why there wasn’t a home delivery service in the city centre for goods other than groceries and take-out food.
When the pandemic struck he quickly realised it was an opportunity to trial his business idea, strictly on a not-for-profit basis, by working with charities across the city to help deliver groceries to the elderly and those self-isolating so that they didn’t have to venture outside.
As he explains: “I had been researching the idea for a couple of years and had already built the website and a prototype of the basic app, so had the infrastructure I needed to see if it could work. I approached charities across the city including Human Relief Foundation, We Feel Good Club and FareShare which agreed to spread the word about our website and app and then let their volunteers act as couriers who could go out and buy the groceries and deliver them. I also enrolled student friends to help with making deliveries too.
“Because at the moment we are running it as not-for-profit we’ve deliberately not been taking any delivery fee from customers, although some people have still insisted on giving us a fee which we have simply been passing on to charity.
“At the end of the day this has not been about making money. Instead we’ve simply been using our model to help the people of Manchester during this difficult time. But it has been a testing ground for me to see if the model works, and I’ve been learning every day.”
Since the lockdown started in March DeliKart has now made more than 800 deliveries across the city centre, and Afridi sees huge potential in the future for a business like his which is typically built around making a profit via the delivery fee.
“Once I graduate this summer my plan is to apply for an entrepreneur visa which, if successful, will allow me to stay in the UK and launch the business with the team I have already put together, while I’ll then also look to secure external seed round investment to scale it up. I would like to thank my co-founder Mohammad Elsarraj and my tech team of Lewis and Nathan who have supported me and helped me in executing the plan.”
Afridi thinks in the future there will continue to be strong demand for the kind of service he is offering because the effects of this crisis are set to last for many years. “People will go out less for shopping and use apps and online services more and more to buy goods online and direct.”
He says the success of companies such as Postmates, a pioneer of on-demand delivery which now operates in thousands of US cities, shows the potential of the model. However Afridi stresses that the social mission of DeliKart will always remain important. “Our vision is to connect lives between strangers, where every member of the community can help each other, and that is something we have really seen during this crisis.”