COVID-19 has reshaped our lives in many ways and given rise to a plethora of services tailored to these newborn needs. Waysia, an Asian grocery delivery platform, is one such startup that retooled in response to the pandemic.
Previously known as Alorsfaim, Waysia started in Paris four years ago as a platform delivering from Asian restaurants and supermarkets to customers. When the pandemic hit, its users began to panic-buy and quickly emptied retailer supplies.
The mismatch between demand and supply inspired Waysia to open its own warehouse and start procuring directly from suppliers, like farms specializing in Asian produce in the Netherlands, France and Spain.
"The pandemic showed that the need for ethnic groceries was really underserved in Europe," said Yejun Fan, founder and CEO of Waysia. A handful of startups are already delivering Asian takeout across Europe, but online grocery targeting the demographic is still relatively rare, reckoned the founder, who worked in finance before becoming a serial entrepreneur.
The grocery pivot gave Waysia's revenues a boost and recently helped it land a series Pre-A round of nearly €10 million. The round was led by Banyan Pacific Capital, with iFly.vc, Cathay Innovation and Goodwater Capital participating.
Goodwater and iFly.vc are also investors in Weee!, the counterpart of Waysia in North America with backing from prominent investors like Tiger Global, Blackstone, DST Global and SoftBank.
The most notable investors from Waysia's new financing round are Dastore, a digital retail fund started by Daphni and Carrefour, and Convivialité Ventures, the venture capital arm of the French wine and spirits company Pernod Ricard, an indication of the French giants' interest in ethnic minority consumers.
Running an online grocery store may incur greater upfront costs than a food delivery service, but the upside is greater control over supply and a healthier margin.
Waysia's average basket size is often more than €70 as consumers tend to shop weekly for ethnic food. That means the platform can spend less on deliveries compared to more mainstream services sending small orders more frequently.
Like many players in the e-grocery space, Waysia is prioritizing user growth before figuring out profitability, said Fan. As of July, its order volume had tripled the number from a year before.
Pumped with fresh capital, Waysia plans to enter the U.K. market soon. With a team of 50 employees, it's already delivering Asian groceries to 16 cities across France, Belgium and Luxembourg.