Thousands of office workers in Myanmar’s commercial hub will no longer need to bother about finding delicious food for their lunch thanks to Shwe Bite, a technology platform that aims to offer healthy home-cooked meals to busy workers at an affordable price.
Moe Htet, co-founder and chief executive of Shwe Bite, said in an interview that the firm aims to become the largest food-ordering marketplace in Myanmar over the next few years.
Having been named Startup of the Year (consumer & industrial) in Asean at the recent Asia Pacific ICT Alliance Awards 2018 held in China’s Guangzhou province last week, the firm currently delivers hygienic home-cooked foods made by housewives to office workers in Yangon. It plans to expand its services to Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw next year.
“Our aim is to empower women and home-makers by enabling them to earn more income without leaving their homes,” he said.
“Given that commodity prices go up from time to time, every household needs to make ends meet. So, housewives try to earn more income in order to cover expenses for their children and family wellbeing, but they cannot go to work. It is one of the main reasons why we created this tech-platform.”
Having served as an office worker in his younger days, Moe Htet knows well about the life of salaried men who do not have time and enough skills to cook their meals.
“Office workers are living among the hustle and bustle of the city. They are always in a rush to arrive at the office on time. Sometimes, they do not even have time for breakfast and usually have lunch at nearby street foods or restaurants, which is not good for health,” he said.
“In general, street foods are not hygienic and restaurant prices are too high for daily office lunch. So, imagine how office workers, including migrants, crave for yummy home-cooked foods.”
With this in mind, Moe Htet and two friends tried to create a tech platform that would benefit both home-makers and office workers. They managed to turn the problems into opportunities within a few months by launching the website and mobile application, which are easy to use for both Android and iPhone users earlier this year.
“Nearly 4,000 people have registered on our platform to enjoy our home-cooked food delivery services. We are now focusing on catering and canteen services, as we are getting more offers from event organisers,” he said.
“We provide door-to-door delivery and catering services so that the working population can take yummy and affordable home-cooked lunch boxes from their home or office. On the other hand, housewives can easily earn a sustainable income by working at home.”
During the interview, Moe Htet revealed his strategy for pricing. For street food, a lunch may cost an average of one US dollar (Bt33). For dining at a small restaurant, it may cost around $4 (Bt132). An average price of a Shwe Bite lunchbox is only $1.3 (Bt43).
“Our idea is ‘Food with Convenience’, which means customers can get hygienic lunchbox at their doorstep by just spending a little penny than street food,” he said.
He said the firm is targeting office workers in Yangon with the minimum income of $250 per month. A lunchbox includes one main dish, one vegetable, one side dish and rice. For every lunchbox sold, 55 per cent goes to home cooks, 10 per cent for packaging, 10 per cent for delivery and the remainder (25 per cent) for profit, he explained.
Currently, the company has been cooperating with nearly 20 home-makers who are able to cook a wide variety of food. Its menu offers more than 400 dishes including typical food of ethnic minorities.
“Our significant value proposition is diversity. Myanmar is a very diverse country with eight major ethnic groups and 135 national races. Most of them have their typical foods, which migrant workers will definitely miss at all times. So, we aim to bring them all in one platform,” he said.
“Another value is food safety – we do not use unhealthy oil for cooking. And we also care about the social impacts – we do not want to be the sole beneficiary, we want to share the benefits with our community by creating a shared prosperity and ultimately raising the country to the next level.”
The firm has delivered more than 21,000 lunch boxes so far, and is targeting to deliver an average of 600 lunch boxes per day in the coming months of its first year of commercial operations.
Provided that potential market size is very large owing to growing urban population, it expects to grow as many as 3,000 lunch boxes per day in the second year running, and afterwards aims for a fivefold growth, he said.