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Kantwait keeps growing

Thanks to the delivery business Kantwait, the precious time that gets guzzled up going grocery shopping or fetching food from restaurants can be spared for other, more important activities (such as catching up on the entire last season of Breaking Bad).

So do yourself a favor, lay back, relax, and let the great guys at Kantwait do the work of grocery shopping or picking up take-out for you.

After a break over the winter to renovate the website, the local startup Kantwait is now back and running in its second semester since its launch late last year, with a totally new and improved website and even bigger ambitions for the future.

For those that have heard of Kantwait but still aren’t sure what it is, it was founded by University of Illinois graduate student Lei Jin and his co-founders Fangbo Tao, Aaron Dai, and He Huang. Kantwait is an online delivery service that utilizes the public bus system to deliver goods to customers at specific times along shuttle routes.

Having met on an entrepreneurial trip last year, Jin and Tai became friends while Jin had the very basic idea of creating a local business. It was not until one fateful day when he was traveling across campus on an MTD shuttle bus that the inspiration for a business finally hit him.

On that bus, a man placed a package on a bus seat and got off. A few stops later, the intended recipient of the package got on the bus, looked for the package, grabbed it and left. This exchange gave Jin the notion that public transportation could be a highly efficient way to deliver, especially to the many students and residents of Champaign-Urbana who depend on almost two-hour bus rides to get groceries from grocery chains such as Target or Walmart.

Jin then approached his friend Tao with his concept, and, utilizing his adept programming skills, Tao built a prototype website. Later, Tao brought along Dai to refine and improve the site, and Kantwait was officially born.

Deliveries along the route cost only .99, while door deliveries are $5.99. Ordering through the website is no more difficult than it is to order through major delivery companies. Dai explained that all a customer must do is click on whatever restaurant or grocery store they want to order from, scroll through the listings of food, click what food they want to add it to their cart, and then proceed to checkout.

Kantwait handles the rest. A fax with your order is then sent to the restaurant or grocery store, showing that they have a purchase order from Kantwait and then they prepare the order. The receipt order displays the time of store pickup and a Kantwait driver will arrive sharply on time to pick up the order and then bring it to the customer.

And in cases in which the brand of item the customer is looking for is unavailable, customers can click a box and get a close substitute for that item, such as a different brand of water than name brand you originally intended on getting.

Currently, Kantwait users can order from Walmart, Target, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Far East Grocery Store, Dairy Queen, and Golden Harbor, with items such as fresh fruits and vegetables to fast food sandwiches all available to order. Pricing is similar to those in stores and in many cases, even less pricy.

They believe what sets them apart from other delivery corporations is that they make local business a top priority.

“Other delivery companies like Fed Ex deliver products purchased on Amazon or other sites and it usually takes two or three days for a customer to get them,” Jin explained. “We have a separate, independent delivery system just for this city.”

Tao added, “Local, brick and mortar stores suffer from businesses like Amazon and Ebay, where more people are buying products from, and not localizing their purchases. With Kantwait, we want people to be able to order online and receive their orders the very same day.”

Jin explained that with these same-day deliveries, customers could avoid the hassle of returning a product online by instead returning it to the local store it was purchased from the same day the product was received.

Additionally, Jin believes that their delivery system is much more efficient than most.

“To be honest, there are no limits with the bus system,” Jin explained, “In a typical delivery system, in a hour, three deliveries might be made, but through our system, that utilizes bus stops, many people can be at a stop and delivered to all at once.”

Their new website, which launched Monday, January 27th, features a brand new layout, and items are now more accessible than ever. Additionally, several glitches have been repaired, making their new website even more user-friendly.

Tao hopes to add even newer features to their site such as a “suggested item” feature that would allow users to slip the process of searching for each item they want individually. For example, if a customer were buying milk, suggested items such as cereal or cookies, would appear on the screen, and all the customer would have to do is add them to their cart.

Additionally, they are looking to add a “recipe” feature that would allow users to click a recipe, and then add the ingredients to their carts all in one sweep of the mouse. In the works are also plans to create coupons and loyalty points for their site’s users.

For now, Kantwait only delivers to customers within the 61801 and 61820 area codes. And while students are more dependent on their service mostly due to their nonexistent access to their personal vehicles, Jin hopes to expand his reach to all Champaign-Urbana residents.

Tao added that he wants to not only expand their reach, but also what Kantwait can provide, from cosmetics to dietary supplements, making it similar to Amazon in that it offers almost anything a customer is looking to purchase.

As for Kantwait’s future, the co-founders have high hopes to develop Kantwait fronts in nearby campus cities and eventually nationwide.

The co-founders, all hailing from China, wish to seek the proverbial American Dream and they believe focusing on their business, Kantwait, is the way to do it.

They know they won’t achieve that dream without making great efforts, but with their focus, and their huge dedication and passion for their business, there is no doubt that they are well on their way to attaining that goal.

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