New delivery kid on the block expands

  • 2001-06-28
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - As Riga becomes more and more cosmopolitan, the need for faster deliveries of parcels and documents is on the increase. One of the newcomers in this field is the family-run business City Express, established by Swedes Gunnar Agren and his wife Inese, who is the company's director.

The idea of their company is simple enough: make fast and reliable deliveries in the Riga area. Should it be necessary to transport something outside Riga, however, their prices are negotiable.

Right now, the company is using scooters to make deliveries efficiently. But Gunnar has bigger plans. "We are looking to expand. The business is growing," he said. "This is our second year, and already we have seen a growth of 15 percent to 20 percent per month."

The couple were inspired to start their package-delivering company when they were on vacation in Italy. After renting a scooter for a day they thought it would be ideal for the traffic in Riga, where gridlock is common.

"I must say that we first considered to go for a delivery service on four wheels, but I think we made the right decision when we decided to go with just two," Gunnar said. "A scooter may not be as fast as a car, but the drivers won't get caught up in traffic so much."

Currently, the "command center," as the couple calls their office, doubles as their apartment. Renovations for a separate office next door are underway. The phone is ringing constantly, and every now and then one of the scooter drivers steps in to take care of something.

All seven drivers wear easy-to-spot orange overalls with a lot of reflective material to keep them visible 24 hours a day. "It's impossible to miss them, and if they don't wear a helmet, they'll get a kick where it hurts," said Gunnar with a wink.

City Express is, Gunnar says, only reachable through phone calls or via the Internet. This is also how the "command center" communicates with its drivers. One short text message on the mobile phone and the driver will know where to go next. All drivers are Riga locals who know their way around town.

"We try to keep the business structure as simple as possible without letting the quality of our service suffer," Inese said.

Last year, City Express finished in the red, but this year they are operating in the black. The company has invested some of the welcome profit in a brand new motorcycle for really fast deliveries.

Gunnar told a story about one customer who, when she went to Riga Airport, discovered she had forgotten her passport. The woman had left it in the city center, about 15 kilometers away from the airport. This gave Gunnar a chance to check the effectiveness of the new company bike. The delivery was made in just seven minutes.

This is the future for City Express, according to Gunnar. "The next step is delivery solely with motorcycles. But it will be difficult to get the drivers off those scooters; they've grown so attached to them that many don't even use their own cars anymore."

Although 99 percent of the company's operations are in Riga, Inese said they have various partners they cooperate with for deliveries throughout Latvia and even the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, City Express takes full responsibility for every item delivered - mostly documents, chocolates, flowers, a champagne bottle here and there and packages up to 10 kilos. But it is possible to insure the small cargo for the fee of a percentage of its total value.

On average, City Express carries out some 50 deliveries per day, but last year the company reached an all-time high with more than 200 deliveries made in one day.

Since the company is growing, Gunnar and Inese feel they need to offer their clients more and better services. Today, the couple is working on setting up a VIP membership system for regular customers. This will give the small company's faithful customers favorable discounts and other benefits.