From cleaning plates to featuring on Forbes – the fairy tale rise of a Bangladeshi American

Beginning as a teenager clearing tables and plates at an eatery, 30-year-old Bangladeshi American  Nabeel Alamgir has featured on a Forbes list running an online delivery service that saw revenues grow seven times higher in 2020 despite the killer Covid-19 pandemic

Sirshendu Panth Jul 21, 2021
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Bangladeshi American Nabeel Alamgir

Beginning as a teenager clearing tables and plates at an eatery, 30-year-old Bangladeshi American Nabeel Alamgir has featured on a Forbes list running an online delivery service that saw revenues grow seven times higher in 2020 despite the killer Covid-19 pandemic. The New York-based Nabeel has secured USD 20 million in venture capital funding for the online delivery service Lunchbox, which he began in 2019 months before the pandemic as a cheaper option to people’s growing reliance on third-party platforms such as Uber Eats and GrubHub, which charge up to 30 percent commission per delivery.

Unlike most marketplaces, which charge clients on a per-order basis, Lunchbox has a flat monthly fee per location for chain restaurants. “We help restaurants convert third-party sales, GrubHub sales, into first-party sales,” Nabeel explained.

Lunchbox clients include Bareburger, Clean Juice, Mexicue, Zaro’s Family Bakery, and Fuku. The focus is on chains that have between 10 and 100 restaurants, reported enterpreuner.com.

“It is not just about saving money—it’s also a question of increasing margins,” he said, adding that restaurants make around a USD 25 profit for every USD 100 a consumer spends on Lunchbox, compared to USD 5 when the sales are through a third-party platform.

Other than web and app design, Lunchbox also handles point-of-sale operations, online orders, marketing, loyalty programs, and data-crunching for restaurants.

Starting with a team of 10 in 2019, Lunchbox has expanded to a cohort of 160 employees and is on the lookout for more.

Over the next year, Lunchbox wants to extend the virtual storefront to grocers, liquor, and retail. The startup also has plans to go global next year.

In an effort to reach smaller businesses, Lunchbox has created CitizenGo, an app where people can order directly from ghost kitchens. Nabeel believes they have helped minority chefs broaden their customer base.

The app offers pickup options and Delivery is available in Los Angeles, Northern California, New York City and Chicago.

Nabeel, who was featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, moved to the US in 2005 at the age of 14.  He started to work as a busboy at Bareburger to support his family.

He worked his way up the corporate ladder to become Bareburger’s chief marketing officer. In the process, Nabeel received firsthand experience with third-party delivery companies, observing their "predatory" practices and getting the feeling that customers were being exploited.

In 2019, Lunchbox secured $2 million in seed capital, after being rejected by 72 investors. A year later, it raised USD 20 million.

The money was raised in a week, he added.

The techpreneur, however, lamented racism in the venture capital space in the US.

“As a brown person, I am not even considered a minority in tech,” he said, according to Dhaka Tribune.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, his company saw year-on-year revenues grow seven times higher in 2020.

“If you want to please everyone, then go be a doctor. If you can take feedback and have thick skin, then go ahead (and be an entrepreneur). That is what entrepreneurship needs,” Nabeel advised aspiring entrepreneurs.

(SAM)

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