The Silicon Review
Standardise your ordering processes and reap the benefits of efficiency and productivity.
The Food and Beverage (F&B) industry has undergone huge changes over the last decade thanks to the increasing consumer demands and industry innovation. This multi-billion-dollar industry is fast-paced and excessively customer-driven, restrained by the global population. Driven by changing global trends, the challenges in the food and beverage industry are numerous. While the food and beverage players are experienced innovators, the industry itself is facing new consumers, food safety and regulatory challenges.
The challenges faced in F&B today are not new and at some level, are experienced by all players in the industry. Why do some survive, and why do some drop out after a few years? The issue may not be so much about the actual challenges faced in the industry today, but rather how quickly and flexibly businesses adapt to address these challenges. Issues such as the tighter manpower policies are leading to rising labour costs. Alongside high rentals and increasing food costs, there is a greater need for productivity in the F&B industry to increase profitability.
While restaurant owners juggle those issues, they too need to have a close watch on the changing preferences of consumers. It’s happening right in front of our eyes -demand for alternative diets such as organic, vegan, eco-friendly is on the rise. Hence restaurant owners need to constantly source for products to match changing customer preferences. F&B businesses must deal with a myriad of suppliers and distributors, even for small businesses. They face challenges in getting suitable deals, managing fluctuating prices and keeping up with terms and conditions. So how do they navigate the complexity of supply chain while running the back of the restaurant and front of the restaurant all at the same time? These are the challenges that the F&B industry faces that lead to 50% of restaurants closing down within the first 3 years.
To tackle these problems, in 2017, Zeemart was founded in Singapore. Zeemart is Singapore’s first B2B platform for the F&B industry, with a single-minded mission to enable businesses in making smarter purchasing decisions. The company’s platform connects F&B operators and suppliers through a mobile interface, making discovery, purchasing and communicating more powerful and easier than ever before.
The Inception of Zeemart
Neeraj Sundarajoo and Keith Tan had successfully sold their interactive agency Comwerks to WPP, the world’s largest marketing communications company in 2010. Having completed their earnout stage, they were looking to start a new business in the ‘product’ space, as opposed to their current ‘services’ one. Together with Steven Seet and Jerry Lim, they spent a year researching which industry/segment had the most opportunity for ‘digital disruption’, and a potential to scale globally.
The founders homed in on the Horeca industry, specifically the B2B portion where a startling statistic caught their attention – 50% of restaurants close within the first 3 years. Upon further investigation, they found that 30 – 35% of revenue goes to food costs. This prompted the Zeemart team to dig deeper and understand how the food supply chain worked, as well as sourcing and procuring.
The team discovered that a lot of the processes were very manual, opaque and offline which led to inefficiencies, wastage and high prices. Collectively, they then decided to create a solution to solve this problem.
Here Are Zeemart's Key Milestones
Officially started in Raj’s condo, Self-funded by founders
Launched MVP, moved into an office space at Block 75, JTC LaunchPad. Signed up first customer – Garang Grill. Exhibited at Tech in Asia Singapore, selected as one of the top three most ‘promising’ startups
Closed Angel Fundraising
Moved to larger office premises at McNair road
Team size expands to 30, spread across Biz Dev, Community Management, Marketing, Development, and Product teams
Relaunched new version of Zeemart. A total rebuild from scratch
Picked as top 30 global accelerating startups by Ernst & Young
Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) announces a collaboration with Zeemart to launch a nationwide programme ‘FNBGoDigital.sg’ to accelerate digitalisation of the F&B industry in Singapore
Zeemart surpasses the 1000 outlets mark
Challenges Addressed By the Company
The procurement process for F&B is extremely manual and time-consuming. A restaurant would typically have 15 – 30 suppliers. Each supplier will use different channels to receive orders such as WhatsApp, WeChat, SMS, email, fax, and phone calls. This leads to miscommunication and multiple back & forth chats between buyers and sellers.
As everything is manual, management does not have easy access to their spending data. Paper invoices are still commonly used, and this leads to a lag of information whereby they are unable to track and monitor costs accurately. Often, this can lead to overbuying and food wastage.
Marketing their products is still pretty much door-to-door and offline. Closing a customer still involves quite a bit of back and forth due to the lack of information about their creditworthiness. Late payments also plague the industry as the collection process is manual.
For larger suppliers receiving hundreds of orders daily, processing them can be extremely time consuming and tedious. As orders stream in from multiple channels, suppliers require a team of administrators to transfer them into their ERP software.
Standing Tall Among Competitors with a Firm Foundation
In the highly competitive, unforgiving battlefield of startups, having a great product and innovative thinking is the bare minimum to survive and compete. What differentiates Zeemart from the rest is its DNA –the company knows how to build businesses around strong principles of excellence, passion and hard work.
The company has an experienced founding team with deep domain knowledge across both F&B and product development. Two of its co-founders ran an interactive digital agency for 15 years building solutions and marketing campaigns for global clients such as Unilever, P&G, Starbucks, and Adidas. The other two co-founders are industry veterans, previously holding senior management positions in the Horeca space.
Furthermore, all four co-founders have run successful companies built on strong foundations. This experience is crucial in growing a start-up quickly, with the appetite to take on calculated risks while navigating through obstacles. Attracting, grooming, and retaining human talent are essential ingredients in making a successful start-up. Zeemart is able to leverage on the rich networks of the co-founders, as well as their stellar track record, to scale quickly.
Zeemart: One-Stop Platform for All Purchasing Needs
Zeemart is available via web or mobile app interface.
Buyers can place orders for all their suppliers via Zeemart’s platform. For larger operations, they can configure different user accounts for staff; set buying limits, and create approval workflows. Buyers can track the delivery schedule of orders, as well as view reports of order expenses in real time.
Additionally, when orders are received, Buyers can upload photos of the invoices to be digitised and recorded on Zeemart. All data can be exported to popular accounting software such as Quickbooks and Xero. Zeemart also sends weekly reports to Buyers tracking their spending behaviour as well as notifications on price changes.
Suppliers can setup their product catalogues on Zeemart, as well as buyer-specific details such as pricing, minimum order quantity (MOQ), minimum order value (MOV), delivery fees, and delivery schedules. Further, Suppliers can view all order information through the web panel interface, and export them to their ERP manually or automatically via APIs. Suppliers can also track inventory levels and set par values for their catalogue. This can be pulled from their WMS.
Bright Future on the Horizon
Zeemart is positioned as part of the new wave of ‘internet mobile enabled’ platforms that have entered the traditional, established markets. Like how Uber, Deliveroo & Mobike have brought greater convenience and accessibility to their respective fields, Zeemart is seen in a similar light. It leverages data and technology to help bring greater efficiencies, cost savings and increased optimisation of resources to benefit both sides of the market. Large F&B chains have started using Zeemart, and are reaping the benefits of increased productivity, efficiency, and transparency.
The company is looking at helping to “connect more dots” for its Buyers and Suppliers to further optimise their procurement process and order fulfilment process respectively. This will involve Zeemart connecting to more of their data sets, for e.g. POS data to better correlate sales and costs data. Another interesting area is credit financing. The company is currently working with banks and financial institutions to explore SMB lending services on Zeemart.
Illustration of Success: Clientele Testimonies
“Being able to use one system to place all my orders makes things very organised for us. With Zeemart, I now have clear visibility of my costs in real-time. Also, I can always count on Zeemart’s support team for anything I may need!” - Ryan Chuang, Chef, Artizan Concepts Int’l (Greenwood Fish Market).
“9 years as a chef, Zeemart is the first mobile platform I use to place orders with suppliers. Compared to the days of writing down orders and making phone calls or fax to suppliers, Zeemart is a lot more efficient and less time-consuming.” - Wayne Loo, Head Chef, Hans Im Gluck Burgergrill.
“Zeemart has helped me with the ordering process for my outlets and allows me to keep track of my purchasing expenses. The web app is user intuitive & the support team is very responsive whenever my team has a question.” - Elson Lee, Co-owner, The Daily Cut and Munchachos.
The Masterminds behind the Venture
Steven Seet, Chairman: Steven brings a wealth of over 27 years of senior management experience, chiefly in the realm of B2B Media & Marketing. As Group CEO of Singex, he led the restructuring and geographical expansion of the group in China, Qatar and the UK. More recently, Steven served as the Chairman of Comwerks, one of Singapore’s top digital agencies.
Jerry Lim, Deputy Chairman: Jerry is a hospitality and food service industry leader, with an illustrious 30-year track record. He helped establish two major brands catering to the needs of this industry, Mondecasa and Innov, and leads Alma Contract and Novox Inc. He was also a three-term Chairman of the Singapore Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers and Suppliers.
Neeraj Sundarajoo, CEO: Acknowledged as one of Singapore’s top digital agency leaders, Raj started Comwerks in 2002 together with Keith and helped some of the world’s leading brands develop and roll-out integrated digital strategies in the region. After Comwerks was acquired by WPP in 2010, Raj continued as CEO until stepping down from his role in 2016 to fully devote himself to Zeemart.
Keith Tan, Chief Product Officer: Keith comes with over 15 years of experience in designing and building digital solutions and advertising campaigns for global brands such as Starbucks, Adidas and Unilever. He co-founded Comwerks in 2002 as a fresh university graduate, building it to become one of Singapore’s top digital agencies that was later sold to WPP in 2010.