ldner #225 | richa bhalla

There’s lots of bicycle delivery services in London but Pedals Delivery is out there doing things a little bit differently by engaging with the existing London cycle community and adding that personal touch to every single delivery. Richa Bhalla is the woman behind Pedals and she’s also our LDNER this week.

Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?

I live in Belsize Park. I moved there for easy access to open green spaces. Hampstead Heath is a stone’s throw away, along with Highgate and other really lovely parks. In addition there are some quaint little pubs, the clientele is slightly older which I also enjoy!

What inspired you to start Pedals Delivery?

I started off my career working in banking. I developed a pretty thick skin being in that environment and learnt a certain level of discipline, but it wasn’t giving me the skills I needed to start my own company, so I made the decision to move to Silicon Valley. I only had 2 years on my visa so I immersed myself in the environment and concentrated on building my network. During this time I learned a lot about the day to day running of a tech business and became accustomed to wearing many hats at work.

Back in London I set out to improve on a system I saw working quite well in San Francisco. I could get anything delivered straight to my door by bicycle. As a first step I started a flower delivery company called Petal & Cycle: on demand flowers in the city delivered by bicycle. My thought process being, if I could get flowers from A to B in one piece, I could pretty much deliver anything.

I learned a lot about the struggles from a customer perspective, namely high and fluctuating prices for deliveries but I also learnt a lot about the cyclists’s perspective. I started speaking to a lot of riders, from all walks of life and came to realize how disgruntled they were with the way things were currently being run in the delivery world. They are subject to mandatory shifts, paid really low wages and are required to only work for one company at a time oftentimes with a very unpredictable schedule. Lack of consideration for cyclists has led to substantial churn of riders at other delivery companies along with very low job satisfaction. All of these gripes were feeding into a cycle (excuse the pun) which leads to dissatisfied cyclists, unhappy deliveries and poor customer experience. I realised that there was something we could do here.

There are lots of delivery services available in London, what makes Pedals stand out? How do you see Pedals expanding over the next few years?

London is full of amazing products, and these producers work really hard on their unique and quirky brands. Delivery shouldn’t be an exception to this. It’s often the only human to human interaction a customer will have with the brand that they buy from and every part of the experience should be amazing. So we strive to make this exchange as pleasant as possible. We ask that all of the cyclists actually hand over to the person labeled on the package, even if it means not just leaving something at reception and requesting access to the recipients floor or office. Our cyclists know that saying something as small as “have a nice day” makes all the difference.

We are working with companies that I understand inside out after my own experience of trying to send out products in the city. I wanted the delivery to be just as personal and cheerful as the product I was sending. There was no service out there that I thought was a good enough fit and could offer me a consistent service and now I think we are able to provide the companies that we work with exactly that. We already work with some leading brands including Pip & Nut, Candy Kittens, Monmouth Coffee and Moju Drinks to name a few. By the end of this year we hope to be doing 1000 deliveries a month.

In the longer term, we’re aiming to build our capacity by letting cyclist commuters in the city become part of our delivery community. We are planning to run campaigns around workplaces to encourage workers to monetize their commute.

As well as delivering some very obvious and expected things to people, has there been anything that springs to mind that you didn’t expect to be asked to deliver?

I don’t think I realised quite how many people are prone to leaving their phone and laptop chargers all around the city! In addition to working with companies, individuals can also use our service and tend to come up with really unique ways to use the service. Another use case that I love is when someone can’t make a party or dinner so ends up sending the gift they were going to take anyway as a token of apology. We get really specific delivery instructions for cases such as these. Our cyclists are very used to hunting someone out at a restaurant given detailed facial descriptions! Having something hand delivered to your dinner table is bound to make a recipient smile, even if you’re missing the dinner!

Describe your perfect day in London.

My favourite way to discover London is by foot, and I’ve pretty much exhausted all urban hikes around the city now. I try to escape the city to some extent each weekend, so I’ll try and find a quiet spot that’s under and hour to travel to by train. These days I usually pack up a picnic and mosey over to a National Trust site. I became a member about a year ago and it gives me a ready made list of new places to go and visit. I have yet to be disappointed by a National Trust park or house. And they are very good at suggesting some amazing eateries within the vicinity if you want to grab dinner before you go home.