Transforming Myanmar’s food industry via digital solutions

In response to the growing cash flow in Myanmar’s food and beverage industry, Code2LAB Pte Ltd, a local technology company, has brought two innovative solutions to the market to help digitise the nation’s restaurant industry, according to Min Zeya Phyo, the firm’s founder and chief executive.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation, he said the firm would focus on establishing a digital ecosystem for Myanmar’s restaurant industry in the first phase of its commercial operations.

“Everybody loves food, so it is like the centrepiece of everything. We expect the industry to grow further as the economy grows. So, we are trying to bring restaurants and customers together,” he said.

“Our aim is to get all things connected in a fully-integrated ecosystem. We believe we can make it happen, but it may take time because the industry has yet to reach the mature stage. We are waiting for the market to fully develop.”

Established in October 2012, Code2LAB initially started as a software development company for offshore development. It later refocussed on product development in response to a growing demand for business solutions in Myanmar.

In March 2013, the firm launched SmartSales, a restaurant management system with tablet-based point-of-sales (POS). With that product, Code2LAB emerged as the winner for Startups Season 2 organised by Singapore’s Channel News Asia.

“We are the first to introduce this kind of digital solution in Myanmar. Many international and local franchises are now using it to save costs and time, improve efficiency and ensure convenience,” he said.

To date, more than 200 restaurants including big names like BreadTalk, Shwe Palin, FoodStreat, Mont Zay Tain and Happy Noodles are using Code2LAB’s solution. The firm expects to grow its customer base to more than 350 restaurants by the end of this year. The solution includes the development of PayMal, a cashless payment service for food courts that was introduced in January 2017 – another first of its kind in Myanmar.

The firm also introduced another key produc, DoeMal, which later emerged as the No 1 foodie platform in Myanmar. Available to restaurants through a web platform or through a mobile application, DoeMal connects restaurants with potential customers by enabling the users to make a reservation and order online while also providing information about several restaurants.

“For restaurant owners, it is a platform we provide them to engage with consumers. We bring in our cross-disciplinary experiences to deliver successful and innovative business solutions, and DoeMal is one of them,” he said.

The platform currently has more than 40,000 active users, and sales transactions have enjoyed steady growth over the past several months. The executive expects the user base to grow to half a million users, and the transaction rate to grow at least 15 per cent by the end of this year.

“Currently, the POS business [SmartSales] is our main revenue generator because it is a B2B [business to business] solution. But, we also foresee a bright outlook for the mass market [DoeMal], which is growing over time,” he said.

“Next year, we expect the number of restaurants using our management system to grow to 1,000 and the [food order] transactions to grow to seven-digits in US-dollar terms. We are now restructuring our business model to achieve our target.”

In November 2016, the firm raised its first round of seed funding worth US$500,000 (Bt15.88 million) from Japan’s Globalway Inc to further capture the market and product development. Code2LAB now has nearly 40 staff on its team, and was valued at $1.7 million last year. Active discussions with four local and foreign investors are underway for funding-raising to expand its business in other cities.

Code2LAB has partnered with Huawei Technologies Co to utilise the Chinese giant’s Cloud service since last year in order to save data and ensure restaurant owners see real-time updates of their businesses.

Min Zeya Phyo also takes pride in saying that the firm plays a critical role in the digital transformation of Myanmar’s restaurant industry by making efforts to change the behaviour of restaurant owners and customers, and to encourage the use of cashless payment solutions for convenience and personal hygiene.

On the challenges, the executive said, “It usually takes at least three to six months for a restaurant to grow. And the competition is tough, given that we have around five key competitors in this market.

“Our strength is that we are not diversified. Instead, we mainly focus on a single industry and provide excellent after-sale service. This has set us apart from our main rivals.”

According to the executive, the growth of Myanmar’s food industry would largely depend on the development of cashless payment solutions, as it will improve efficiency and convenience. To this end, Code2LAB is now holding discussions with leading private banks about cashless payment solutions.

“We are helping our clients solve many parts of their HR [human resource] issues so that they can become replicable businesses,” he said.

Source: The Nation

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