Filippo Candrini has conquered Southeast Asia and its dynamic way of life.
As the Managing Director of HappyFresh Indonesia, he has witnessed the region’s first online grocery shopping service growth from its early days. Filippo tells Indonesia Expat the user-friendly shopping experience and tales of his journey far away from home.
Hi, Filippo! Tell us your story.
Hi, Indonesia Expat! I was born and raised in Modena, Italy. My hometown isn’t a tourist hotspot but its gastronomy and culinary traditions are well-known; think balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano cheese, and tortellini just to name a few. How about the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana from chef Massimo Bottura? You find them all there. Modena is not only food though, but most of Italy’s sports cars like Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini have also been engineered and produced there.
Coming from a provincial town with worldwide exposure gave me the right push to study languages and ultimately grow an avid interest in travelling and other cultures. Before attending university, I took a gap year where I travelled abroad. Since then, the passion for being “outside of my comfort zone”, as many would describe it, never abandoned me.
I worked in France and Denmark, where I took my MSc degree. The Danish winter climate didn’t really resonate with me, so I decided to enrol in a one-year MBA exchange program in Bangkok while working remotely for a Danish tech company. Witnessing the trends in digital and e-commerce in Southeast Asia firsthand, I decided to look for a job in the region and finally, I moved to Ho Chi Minh City to lead the country’s operations for a rising online food delivery company.
After about two years, I noticed HappyFresh was launching the first online grocery service in Southeast Asia, so I jumped at the opportunity to join the early team and build the business from the ground up. Food is something very special to me. I enjoy cooking and also having a good, homemade meal with family and friends. Food helps people to connect. Fast-tracking things a bit, I’m now married to my Indonesian wife, who is an amazing cook, and a father to a beautiful daughter.
How’s expat life in Indonesia?
I moved to Jakarta six years ago. Having lived in the region already, I didn’t find moving to Indonesia as difficult a challenge as it may be for newcomers. I’d already been vetted for spicy food – which I like – in Thailand and navigated and drove around crazy traffic in Vietnam.
Adjusting to a new lifestyle is necessary though; each city and country has its pros and cons and, in my opinion, there is none better than the other. To those expats who are full of resentment living abroad – not just in Indonesia but anywhere – I’d always advise them to try to commit to a certain period to adjust and see things from different perspectives, but then after that, make a clear decision: stay or leave, without regrets. Living in another country is an enriching experience that allows me to also rediscover and appreciate my own roots any time I have the chance to go back home.
How did HappyFresh initially come about?
The beginning of HappyFresh came out of necessity. Our co-founder and CTO Fajar Budiprasetyo had been involved in tech companies all his life and, one day, he realised that he could do much more than just push the cart at the supermarket while selecting the groceries for the family with his wife. He and the founding team envisioned a service that wouldn’t just liberate users of the most recurrent pain points with grocery shopping like parking lots, queueing, and heavy bags, but also provide added value that can’t be matched with an offline experience such as highlighting new products, showing customers products, relevant offers, cooking tips, and more.
Other services had started to appear in other geographies of the world, but there were no players in Southeast Asia back then. We pioneered online groceries and continuously commit to persisting developing a superior shopping experience for our customers in the name of convenience, ease of use, and quality by answering the needs of Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai consumers.
The pandemic has seen people gravitating towards e-grocery apps. How has HappyFresh been impacted?
Due to the pandemic, several customers’ habits have shifted from offline to online, people’s routines have changed, and companies, even traditional ones, have had to accelerate their path to digitalisation. As a company, we haven’t been immune to that. We’ve been remote working since March 2020 and our work culture and processes had to adapt.
This pandemic made online grocery shopping “mainstream”, enabling us to reach many new customers, as our business metrics spiked upwards and we worked extremely hard, especially during the lockdown and movement restrictions, to serve a fast-growing user base in the best possible way.
In the past year, we’ve not only increased our delivery offering capabilities but also adjusted our product and tech infrastructure roadmap to cater for a massive traffic spike and added features such as express delivery, chat, contactless delivery, a donation button to support health workers together with non-profit organisations, and added new digital payments like OVO and DANA wallets, and, most recently, digital bank transfers from local banks. We’ve expanded into new areas too, from Greater Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya to Bali, Malang, and Makassar in partnership both with national and local supermarkets.
What can shoppers find on HappyFresh?
At HappyFresh, shoppers can find the full range of grocery products from a vast selection of renowned supermarkets, like Grand Lucky, Ranch Market, AEON, Hero, Lotte Mart, The FoodHall, Papaya, or the likes of Pepito and Tiara Gatzu in Bali, to name just a few. We also have a curated selection of stores specialising in fresh produce, meat and seafood, alcohol, cakes and bakeries, and more.
We digitised the content and update supermarkets products availability and prices daily; if a selected item isn’t there, our personal shoppers can contact customers for replacements via chat or call. You can also earn points on every order and redeem them on the next purchase with HappyFresh Rewards.
Run through the HappyFresh shopping experience.
The process is really simple: after downloading our app, or via mobile or desktop browser, users input their delivery address and can search for a specific product or select a supermarket to shop from. Deliveries can be scheduled as express (within the hour) or following an hourly slot basis from same-day until the next three days. Our service caters for weekly grocery needs but we want to be there also for those customers in need of groceries at the last minute.
After the order is completed, our personal shopper will receive all the order information, including shopping notes on an item level, in case the customer has particular needs – requesting to cut a chicken into pieces – and contact the customer only in case of any products being missing so they can suggest replacement options. Once ready, the order is packed and assigned to our rider partner who’ll deliver it to the customer, ensuring the groceries are in insulated delivery boxes.
Payment can be cash-on-delivery, with cards or wallets. Customers are charged only at the door, and for the right amount, in the cases of weighed items at supermarkets or product replacements.
What’s the personal shopper selection process like?
I’m happy you asked because we spend a lot of time and effort training our personal shoppers and riders. We run regular screening of applicants as well as behavioural tests and developed internal training programs with help of professionals in the F&B industry to improve picking selections for fresh produce, or deepen their knowledge on meat cuts, for instance. By the end of August, we expect to have everyone eligible to already be vaccinated.
Is it challenging with many e-grocery platforms around?
There are indeed plenty of options, but few are catering for the full weekly grocery order in one single delivery. For us, focus is very important and the whole HappyFresh team works in one direction: improving online grocery shopping journey for the users, making it convenient and safe, while reaching as many households in Indonesia as possible. We don’t aim at becoming a super-app, covering several customer needs, but to become super at providing the best online grocery experience in the market.
Nevertheless, I truly believe competition is a healthy thing. The pandemic has accelerated online shopping adoption, but the majority of transactions still happen offline, therefore plenty of opportunities lay ahead.
Have you come across any interesting comments?
During my first months, I was going through our customer feedback. On the same day and in the same store, I noticed two different customers, one saying that the papaya he received was too ripe and the other one saying that his papaya was not ripe enough. That day, it really struck me how complex and personal grocery shopping is. Clients had different plans; one wanted it consumed the same day, while the other was planning to consume it in a few days. Since then, we’ve introduced the “shopper notes” feature to minimise these cases.
Another time was when we received a message from a customer based in Australia who wanted to purchase groceries for his elderly parents in Jakarta, asking for help to process the order. It surprised me, so I followed the case closely. Her foreign card was declined and flagged as suspect fraud from our system, which turned out to be a false positive after verifying her credentials. We arranged the delivery for them and they were overjoyed.
You dive and play football for the Italian team in Jakarta. What are you doing to stay active?
I’ve started to use a training app to exercise at home a few times a week. Not playing sports has been a challenge for me during this period. It’s been more than a year since I played football due to the restrictions, which I fully understand and support as no risks should be taken in these precarious times, but I really look forward to the day when it will be safe to get out and play again. Anyways, even if the Italian team in Jakarta doesn’t play, the real Italian team recently won the UEFA European Cup, I can’t be happier than that!
You say “the next one” is your best diving spot, but if you could choose the most unforgettable diving spot in Indonesia, it would be?
The best dives I’ve had so far were in Komodo National Park. I love the diversity of dives you can have there, both in terms of difficulty and type, such as reef dive or drift one. Plenty of sites are on my bucket list, sooner or later they’ll be ticked off.
Mention a fun fact about yourself.
I’ve been married three times, but with the same woman! My wife Margaret is Indonesian and we wanted to have our “dream wedding” in Bali for both family and international guests while pleasing our families.
Her family wanted to hold a reception in Jakarta, and typically a wedding in Indonesia is a big event for hundreds of people. I also wanted to celebrate our day in my hometown with my closest friends and family that couldn’t travel to Indonesia. Now, don’t ask me when my wedding anniversary is, this may arouse controversy in the family *laughing*
How can our readers reach HappyFresh?
We also have a special treat for the readers of Indonesia Expat! On your first or next grocery order with HappyFresh, apply the voucher code INDONESIAEXPAT to enjoy free delivery.