Entrepreneur’s Insights: Interview with Mr Isaac Tay, Co-Founder of honestbee

honestbee isaacTime flies and without you knowing, it is about time to say good bye to 2015. It is also time to get busy with Christmas shopping! But, how are you going to bash through swarm of shoppers during this festive season especially in a shopping place like supermarket?

That’s market’s need that honestbee is trying to fulfil. Our latest episode of Entrepreneur’s Insight, we interviewed Mr Isaac Tay, Co-Founder of honestbee.

 

 

  1. honestbee has been receiving a lot of media attention ever since the receipt of USD 15M funding. However, many people know the name but might not exactly know what honestbee is doing. Do you mind give a short description of the company?

We are the first on-demand, concierge grocery delivery service that is able to deliver to your doorstep on the same day, typically within the hour following your order. Our goal is to get you what you need, when you need it. In-store concierge shoppers trained by honestbee make sure the items in your shopping cart, including meat and produce, are carefully handpicked for you with freshness guaranteed.

 

  1. Technology sector is growing exponentially in Southeast Asia region. Rising affluence, rapid urbanization and population growth pose opportunities for e-commerce, m-commerce or these days, people call it “social commerce”. What’s your view on this?

Southeast Asia is not the only part of the world where the technology sector is experiencing growth. In this market though, we see that different parts of Southeast Asia are progressing at varying speeds and in multiple directions. That said, there are two constant areas of growth – mobile and online shopping – in the world of e-Commerce.

 

Logistics and payments are two important aspects of e-commerce. In Asia, however, different countries have different methods and systems. For us to succeed in Southeast Asia, local knowledge and partners are very important, and this is something technology cannot replace.

 

The opportunity as an Asian company headquartered in Singapore is that we are well-positioned to learn what works in the Western innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley, then tailor it to the local context with our understanding of the social fabrics of the various Southeast Asian countries honestbee is in.

 

  1. There are other online grocery shopping sites in the market? How is honestbee different from other online platforms?

We aim to bring convenience with the best service to our customers so that they can spend more time on what matters most to them. This includes bring fresh produce to them, as if they are shopping at the stores for themselves.

 

Ordering via honestbee is simple:

  • Enter your address and start shopping online at any of honestbee’s partner stores.
  • Choose a 1 hour delivery window to have your groceries delivered.
  • Once the order is placed, an expert honestbee concierge shopper immediately starts picking out your selected items. (Do note that like shopping on your own, some products may invariably be unavailable. Customers are able to choose similar replacement products when ordering, making it both interactive and intuitive to your needs. Additionally, your shopper will call you if necessary to ensure you get what you want.)

 

  1. What are the challenges or opportunities for honestbee in the next 3 years?

Recruiting the brightest young talent is a major challenge as we are competing with more established brands for their attention. However, with our recent funding announcement that we are backed by world-class Silicon Valley investors, this will change.

 

  1. What is the expansion plan for honestbee?

We intend to expand our business across Asia. We recently just launched in Hong Kong and will be extending our services to Taiwan and other parts of Asia.

 

  1. What is your view on IoT? Do you see any unexplored market in this space for honestbee to fulfill?

We are in the very early days of IoT, so there is definitely a lot of room for growth – not just for honestbee, but for the other brands as well. When the technology catches up and becomes more accessible, it will make our life better and more efficient be it at work or at home.

 

Our mission is to create happy homes with delightful services and flexible jobs. IoT, with its promise of better sensors and data, will definitely provide opportunities to create new services that can improve homes.

 

  1. Our Singapore readers could be interested on honestbee’s plan in Singapore. With the fresh injection of fund, do you plan to expand your workforce here?

Singapore is our headquarters – our founders are Singaporeans and all of the people in our senior leadership team are Singaporeans. This is something we’re proud of as we all want to put Singapore on the world map as a place with strong start-ups. With the funding, we will expand our business and workforce locally and in Asia. We plan to attract back the best engineering talent who have been working in the top companies in Silicon Valley; this will facilitate knowledge transfer.

 

  1. Hiring and talent retention are one of the challenges that startup faces. How did you manage such issue?  

We are very humbled by our low attrition rate here at honestbee. We are also proud to say that there is a strong bond and camaraderie between everyone, where we work hard and play hard.

 

We will also regularly organise get-togethers for our team to catch up and get to know each other better. Just recently, we had a family Halloween event where everyone was dressed to the nines. One of the teams even came in as zombies from The Walking Dead.

 

The most important thing is to understand the aspirations of all the members in my team. I’ve aimed to recruit motivated people with a shared vision, and have constantly ensure that the company’s goals are aligned with their individual’s aspirations.

 

Alignment is something I take very seriously, and within three months of joining a company, every member of my team has had at least three ‘health checks’ with me. During these sessions, the members of my team are unreservedly candid, and we have made countless improvements from the feedback.

 

For example, we noticed engineers were being interrupted with questions and it was hard to get into a rhythm of coding. We instituted no-speaking hours between 2pm-4pm on Tuesday and Thursday. This has also created the side effect where folks make better use of meetings.

 

  1. What advices will you give for our budding entrepreneurs or people who want to start a business? 

I would say, if you dare to dream, then go ahead to aim and build. Don’t waste time thinking too much about it or you will never start. Of course, it is also important to build strong and meaningful relationships. You’ll be surprised how powerful this is.

 

  1. It is said that every entrepreneur has their own set of checklist while evaluating a venture. As an entrepreneur, do you mind sharing with us yours?

For me, it’s two key points:

  • Will this improve people’s lives
  • Are there people willing to pay for this improvement to their lives

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