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Don’t Sleep on Them: Here are food Tech Startups from Cambodia, Myanmar That you Should know About

Hailing from the frontier markets of Cambodia and Myanmar, these startups just began to help maximise their countries’ untapped potentials in tech-based food industry
When you think of Southeast Asia, would you think of food? Even if you’re not a foodie, these days technology has made food to be more than a necessity; it’s a content you follow and graze offline and online.

 

On top of that, Southeast Asian cuisine is something that we, Southeast Asian, can agree on as the region’s most prized possession.

That’s why it’s only natural when the region’s tech explosion resulting indirectly to many startups focussed on food starting to emerge. Food tech is on the rise, simply because everyone needs food to survive, and food has become more and more satisfying thanks to social media and technology.

Our first stop in this culinary tech tribute is in Cambodia and Myanmar, two countries that are in their nascent stage of establishing a startup economy but filled with a food culture that the tech world shouldn’t let pass by.
Cambodia

In a recent tech startup report by Capital Cambodia, the country is still deemed young for its startup scene to be able to compete at a regional stage. The report further stated that this is partly because of its “relatively small population and economy with a small local market”.

The report continues that Cambodia’s startup scene is on its way to leaning towards more diverse and digitally focused entrepreneurship, particularly in the tech industry because of the support that the private sector, nonprofit organisations, and the government have given.

For food tech, Cambodia has one consistent player that’s been backed multiple times and put the country on the regional map. Meal Temple Group.

Meal Temple

Meal Temple Group was founded in 2013, during the early days of Cambodia’s tech ecosystem. It boasts a local business model and operations that Founder of Meal Temple Group, Maxime Rosburger said has allowed it to beat Rocket Internet-based ventures in the past and other big players.

Last year in October, Meal Temple Group raised a six-figure round from private Australian and European investors. The amount was undisclosed.

In June, Meal Temple Group announced a strategic equity investment into Freshgora.com, an on-demand food and grocery delivery startup in Myanmar.

Recently in September, the group announces its entry to Bhutan via an investment in Thimphu-based DrukRide, an online bus ticket booking platform. Meal Temple will deploy its tech and operations locally through its food delivery unit DrukFood.

In the same month, it also launched the DriveUp app, its ride-hailing extension in Vientiane, Laos.
The group operates food delivery service Meal Temple and Grocery Delivery Asia

 

Grocery Delivery Asia

 

On its platform, Grocery Delivery Asia’s mission statement reads “to deliver the future of food in Cambodia and save time to our food lover community for the things that matter”.

It is, quite simply, a groceries and home essential product delivery service just like what the name giveaways. It allows a 7 day-a-week delivery in the customer’s chosen time slot and offers the same prices with the shop with more promotions.

It started with Meal Temple’s food delivery service before the group realised the need of having a certain marketplace to provide grocery in town as a gateway to the option of cooking rather than just ordering food from restaurants with Meal Temple.

Nham24

Nham24 is another app-based food ordering and delivery platform operating in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The company said that it was initially built because its founder wanted to enjoy coffee without going out into the crowded streets of Phnom Penh.

Long story short, Nham24 has grown to partner with over 400 restaurants, mostly in Phnom Penh, allowing web or mobile app orders for food and drink delivery from nearby restaurants. It offers payment options with cash upon delivery or using e-payment.

Compare to Meal Temple, Nham24 is just three years old. Right now, the company plans to accelerate its service by launching a grocery delivery service.

Nham24 was one of nine startups that showcased its business in Echelon’s Cambodia Pavilion, a roadshow part of e27’s annual Echelon Asia Summit back in June 2018. Echelon’s Cambodia Pavilion had the support of Cambodia Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the National Institute of Posts, Telecoms, and ICT, and Smart Axiata.

Delishop.Asia

 

Delishop.Asia describes its business as an online supermarket and grocery and other consumer goods delivery of Cambodians, clocking numbers of 8,000 products from more than 40 suppliers.

Just a few days ago, Phnom Penh Post reported that it has received an early-stage equity fresh capital from Phnom Penh-based venture capital firm Obor Capital Co Ltd. The deal also includes the acquisition of Delishop Asia’s secondary shares.

The next in the pipeline for the company helmed by founder and CEO Julien Nguyen is to use the funds to develop a more user-centric and scalable web portal, as well as Android and iOS apps, which are scheduled to be launched by the end of the year.

Obor Capital’s sister company, CamboTicket has also acquired a minority stake in the business. Together with Obor Capital, CamboTicket will provide strategic support to Delishop.Asia in key functional areas.

 

The company’s backer, Obor Capital, is one of the very few active seed-stage venture capital firms investing in Cambodia. In the past, the firm focusses on technology startups engaged in areas such as Online Travel and also in offline start-ups such as Water Management, Fertilizers.

Its chairman Christophe Forsinetti stated that the firm believes the food startup sector has strong potential and is ripe for disruption.

According to Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth, Cambodia’s digital economy remains at a nascent stage and will need at least 10 years to grow and aim for a technology-driven economy.

 

On October 8, the National Assembly approved the Kingdom’s draft law on e-commerce aiming to regulate the sector as well as boost confidence domestically and internationally. The draft, Phnom Penh Post said, will actively contribute to the development of the digital economy in Cambodia and embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As to how Cambodia would compete or at least be at the same level as other Southeast Asian countries in terms of tech achievements in startups, Obor Capital’s Managing Director Shivam Tripathi weighed in on the matter.

 

“Few companies are looking to actively invest in Cambodia and there are not many dedicated funds. But investors will come when you show them there is an opportunity for growth. Entrepreneurs should also avoid building and launching products that are not suitable for the Kingdom’s small market.

Developing a product or service that matches consumers needs opens more opportunities for investors to take notice of the new venture and make an investment,” Tripathi said in a startup report by Capital Cambodia, which explained why the food tech startups industry of the country remains in uniform: mostly food and grocery delivery.

Aside from the lack of investors, the challenges for the Kingdom still revolve around the lack of young tech talents with technical skills.

Myanmar

In an article by Tech Collective Asia, it’s stated that the Asian Development Bank estimates that Myanmar may rise to have the fastest growing GDP of all the ASEAN economies, at 8 percent in 2018.

 

Prospect ASEAN also shared that since opening the telecoms market in 2013, Myanmar has been experiencing leapfrogging digital advancements that are shaping the country’s social and economic landscapes.

The region is introduced to Phandeeyar, a startup accelerator that aims to change and develop the region by taking advantage of key global trends, the article from Tech Collective Asia stated. Established in 2014, Phandeeyar provides access to innovation labs, acting as a ground for training and investing in startups.

 

An article by Prospect ASEAN, written in collaboration with Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016, Myanmar Entrepreneur Thet Mon Aye, provides fresh insights on how the country can cultivate its best culture and marrying them with technology. Food in Myanmar, which is an intersection of China and India, has become traditions that digitalising it is unavoidable.

As highlighted by Htet Myet Oo, Founder of Rangoon Tea House, something called a ‘Mohingya Diplomacy’ -taken from the name of its national cuisine Mohingya, promotes the uniqueness of Myanmar as a golden land and eventually bringing the international communities closer to the locals. In place of timber, underground, and underwater resources, food is also a sustainable industry that can drive the economy with the creation of millions of jobs.

Here are the Burmese entrepreneurs focussing on food and technology.

Freshgora

Started less than a year ago, Yangon-based Freshgora offers food and grocery deliveries from restaurants and local markets in less than one hour through its fleet of drivers. It clocks more than 100 deliveries a day in the city.

Founded by Daniel Htut, the startup snagged an equity investment from Cambodia-based food delivery and logistics company Meal Temple Group in June

As per the deal, both companies said they plan yo address the market in Myanmar and expand operations nationally. In the long run, the companies will add more services and work together for an on-demand super app for frontier markets.

Myanmar Innovative Life Sciences (MILS)

 

The article on Prospect ASEAN further highlighted another food tech startup, this time a biotechnology one.

Myanmar Innovative Life Sciences (MILS) is a biotechnology company for food safety along the food chain vertically, the article said. With antimicrobial resistance becomes increasingly alarming to human patients, its effect on livestock animals are often still overlooked.

Also Read: Meet the 10 agritech, foodtech startups pitching for Future Food Asia’s US$100K grand prize

MILS was established in 2012 to address this. It produces probiotics for animal feed, resulting in probiotics meat that is analogous to organic vegetables.

MILS is supported by Danish Responsible Business Fund (RBF), a food safety laboratory that’s in the pipeline to provide safety and nutrition testing for midstream producers.

Shwe Bite

 

With the mission to empower women and housewives, food startup Shwe Bite delivers home-cooked meals to customers. This approach enables them to make extra income without leaving their homes, Echelon Cambodia Pavilion,

It also provides healthy home-cooked meals to busy workers at affordable prices.

Shwe Bite was one of seven startups selected into Phandeeyar Accelerator, a local innovation lab that focusses on the development of Myanmar’s tech ecosystem by investing in local technology startups, training new entrepreneurs, and building a pool of tech talent.

It was launched in 2018 by CEO Moe Htet and has Been dubbed as “the most awarded Myanmar startup of 2018”, picking up awards and fellowships as a Myanmar representative in Israel, China, Indonesia, Germany, and Singapore.

 

The Lost Tea Company

 

Using the power of the internet, The Lost Tea Company fully harnesses the tea culture and tradition in Myanmar to export it and immerse it in the British love of tea.
Founded by Harry Carr-Ellison, The Lost Tea Company helps to bring packaged Myanmar fermented tea salad and green tea from “the hills of Shan State to the UK”.

 

The company stated that it provides an ethical platform for the international sale of Shan teas. It aims to share its appreciation and garner “well-deserved attention” for Myanmar’s teas in the most sustainable way possible.

 

The Lost Tea Company’s tea is farmed in the hills of Pindaya, Shan State, where it works with small hold farmers who possess tea-growing knowledge, ensuring that the tea comes from a unique supplier that can ensure high-quality tea all year round. The MSG-free Myanmar fermented edible tea and green tea seeks to supply restaurants, delis, cafes, and individuals.

Myanmar’s food tech has a more diverse facet aside from just a meal delivery service. However, the country’s yet to see a level playing field for food tech startups aside from the obvious names like Shwe Bite.

 

Myanmar’s GDP growth is projected to be robust at 7.2 per cent for this year, which Prospect ASEAN pointed out to be the highest among ASEAN member states. This is not without any basis, as the country’s economy just warms up to enter the race, marked with a series of investments fairs and company registration made online aimed at attracting investors.

With that being said, the food startups sector in Myanmar immediately is out in the open. The ones that are in operation with promising numbers are primed for investments and innovations are still to come.

 

Source: The E27

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