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A Russian technology giant with ties to the Kremlin has launched an ultra-fast grocery delivery service in the UK in the latest challenge to British supermarkets and delivery firms.
Yandex, which is known as “Russia’s Google”, launched its Yango Deli app in London yesterday.
Yango Deli promises to deliver groceries to customers within 15 minutes with the capacity to reach 1.4m people in the capital. The company has opened four so-called “dark stores” in London to service demand.
Yandex, which is listed on the Nasdaq exchange and is valued at $27bn (£20bn), was founded in 1997 and has grown to become Russia’s biggest search engine. The company also provides ride-hailing services, email, a news app and food delivery in Russia.
Yandex is viewed as a key Russian asset, despite its US listing. In 2019, the Kremlin and Yandex agreed to a deal that increased President Vladimir Putin’s oversight of the company.
As part of the deal, the company agreed to set up a non-government organisation, the Public Interest Foundation, in November 2019 to assuage Kremlin fears over potential foreign influence. Russian MPs had sought to prevent overseas investors owning more than 20pc of Yandex, but agreed to withdraw the bill after securing concessions from the company.
The foundation was also given a golden share in Yandex and the ability to veto matters of national interest, such as a takeover or the transfer of personal data out of Russia. The organisation’s membership includes three Russian NGO chiefs and five Russian university representatives.
The group has the right to appoint Yandex board members, who include the chief executive of VTB Capital, an investment bank whose parent company is majority owned by the Russian state.
Yandex joins a flood of ultra-fast food delivery companies in Britain, promising to bring items to people’s doors in minutes to go toe-to-toe with supermarkets launching similar services.
Start-ups such as Zapp, Weezy and Jiffy have tried to seize market share. Others, including Dija and Fancy, have been acquired after raising millions of pounds in venture capital funding.