Former Safeway and Target executive Anu Gupta is the COO of Jyve, a talent marketplace for retail jobs such as merchandising and order picking.
Welcome to the Breakroom, Anu. Jyve is a talent marketplace providing on-demand merchandising help for brands in retail stores, and it is now expanding to additional retail jobs such as e-commerce picking. What’s behind the expansion?
As we have worked closely with retailers over the years and continued to see the rise in e-commerce in the grocery industry, we saw a need for flexible in-store labor to handle picking and packing of these online orders. With e-commerce fulfillment, we are empowering retailers and grocers to easily take control of their online brand and experience.
What do you consider your top challenges and priorities?
Retailers are already doing a great job of creating new in-store and digital experiences, and as e-commerce rises, we are excited to support them as they become even stronger in this area. With digital-only players on retailers’ heels, the physical shelf needs to become as agile and malleable as the digital shelf. In the long term, our priority is to help retailers solve these problems.
Coming in with experience at Safeway and Target, what’s your sense of how retailers are viewing the gig economy as an alternative to the way they’ve always done things? What are their major concerns?
Retailers are looking to adapt in the same way that other industries have due to drastic changes caused by technology and consumer preference. Most retailers and grocers have been building their brands for decades, and in some cases over a century, and as such are incredibly aware of the need to adapt while maintaining the hard-won relationships they’ve built with customers. For most retailers, their primary concern is about how to continue to own their brand as they move into e-commerce, and many of them jumped into partnerships with companies such as Instacart without fully realizing what they were giving up.
As these retailers have begun to realize the repercussions of letting a third party own the entire e-commerce experience, they are looking for ways to take back ownership of that experience from end to end. By tapping into flexible, skilled labor—what we call the skill economy at Jyve—retailers can retain that control and brand experience they built for years knowing they can fulfill their new skilled labor needs.
Some supermarket jobs may be more suitable to gig out than others. Could there be a marketplace for, say, cashiers, that generally require more training? How wide is Jyve’s purview on this? Do you foresee a “tipping point” ahead?
Our “Jyvers” are part of the skill economy, meaning they can use their wide range of skills to perform a variety of roles in grocery stores, from pick-and-pack to stocking to demos and more, with the ability to learn and gain new skills and, as a result, more jobs. The gig economy is about being locked into one role and one role only; for example, a driver for Uber only drives.
In practice, this means that we absolutely see an opportunity for Jyvers to perform a wider variety of tasks in stores as they level up their skills through training, to fulfill the needs of our partners.
As for a tipping point, it’s already here. What remains to be seen is how the industry responds to it. Will they seek solutions that let them retain control over the customer experience or will they offload it? At Jyve, we’re building an alternative option to what’s been available before: allowing retailers and grocers to retain ownership of the customer experience, from order to delivery/pickup.
What’s in it for “Jyvers”? To a contract worker, what would you point out as the unique benefits of a Jyve gig vs. other gig options or even steady work in a retail store?
There are a few things that set Jyve part apart. First, at Jyve, people engage their full skill sets. We find people that are talented and connect them to work that they’re uniquely trained for and capable of doing. Most people can drive a car, but not everyone can walk into a supermarket and correctly handle inventory management and asset ordering.
Secondly, we’ve found a way to maximize a Jyver’s working hours and thus pay. Because we have relationships with both CPG brands and retailers, people fluidly find work at one or the other. Say you’re an Uber driver—you have to deal with downtime; Jyve minimizes downtime.
And finally, Jyve has job mobility. Jyvers can grow their skills through new trainings, have the ability to become Jyve Gurus to train new Jyvers, and furthermore, Jyve corporate employs many former in-store Jyvers. This is supremely unique in the industry and is something we’re quite proud of.
Who does the food shopping for your family, and where does it get done?
My husband and I do the shopping for our family at Whole Foods, Costco, Trader Joe’s and a local ethnic grocery.
What item on your food shopping list is least likely to be on someone else’s list?
Lipton Darjeeling Green Label Tea.
What was your first job?
Corporate banking as an intern at Deutsche Bank.
Best piece of business advice you’ve ever gotten?
“Believe in people. They are everything.” —Warren Hellman