Hi there, it’s Brady again.
Tech and business reporting is unnecessarily steeped in war and battle metaphors. We get it—entrepreneurs recruit their troops, pack war chests, blitzscale. They navigate regulatory minefields, drop bombshells, and there are battlefronts where they can lose ground. But when an actual military veteran likened the business of delivering groceries to running a military campaign, it caught my eye.
The person who said operating in this space means one’s “barrage must be unrelenting, reactions must be fast” was Liang Changlin, the founder and CEO of Dingdong Maicai, one of two Chinese online grocers that filed for IPOs in New York.
Dingdong and MissFresh burn through a whole lot of cash; together, the two companies racked up USD 750 million in net losses last year. They operate in a space where sustained business means squeezing out existing retailers, putting pressure on not only big-box supermarkets but also neighborhood grocers who have long been part of their communities.
This feels like a rerun of the rise of ride providers like Uber and Didi. Are companies like Dingdong and MissFresh disruptive? Certainly yes. Do they facilitate convenience? For some urbanites, surely so. Are they truly innovative? You be the judge.
There’s plenty more to unpack here, like why MissFresh and Dingdong chose to go public in New York instead of Shanghai or Hong Kong, a regulatory crackdown, and these companies’ prospects of switching from red ink to black. But here’s how I feel: platforms like these will never replace the banter I share with the grocers and butchers whose shops and stalls I visit whenever I need to restock my kitchen.