With the rise of online grocery delivery services in Singapore, most of us would have thought that RedMart has won the war. Founded in 2011, RedMart was the first to venture into the online grocery delivery space, and has since grown into a multi-million dollar business, holding over 16,000 products in stock. It recently also explored an online to offline model with its own retrofitted lockers for easier delivery, as well as sponsored MasterChef Asia, an ongoing and much celebrated cooking reality show.
Personally, while we are happy customers of RedMart’s online groceries, one downside about their service is that you might not be able to enjoy same day delivery if you stay at the fringes of the city. While we acknowledge that deliveries need to be optimised for orders and routes, we were pleasantly surprised when we found that competitor HonestBee was able to deliver groceries to us when we called for it from Aloha Loyang in Pasir Ris. What impressed us even more was that the new startup managed to uphold their promise to deliver within one hour — something that isn’t possible yet with more established online grocery delivery sites.
That was when we knew that the online grocery delivery war in Singapore is far from over.
HonestBee And Its Explosive Growth
We first came across HonestBee in April this year, when the company was still in stealth mode. After a private Beta phase, it launched officially to the public in July 2015, and has since grown from a 3-man team into a 70-strong business. About half of the 70 full-timers are working on community and marketing, while the other half focus on making sure that new customers have a good experience with the website.
Unlike RedMart or FairPrice Online, HonestBee doesn’t actually own any inventory. What happens with HonestBee is that after you place your orders on the site for the groceries you want, the platform dispatches concierge shoppers to get the groceries. These groceries are then delivered to you within the hour. Currently, you can choose to get your groceries from FairPrice, GNC, Cold Storage, MMM! and even order mooncakes from Ritz Carlton, The Fullerton, or The Holiday Inn.
According to HonestBee’s head of marketing and communications Shane Chiang, HonestBee is seeing an upward inflection point now, though he declined to share more when we probed deeper. Currently, there are over 600 concierge shoppers with HonestBee, helping customers get their groceries everyday.
One thing about HonestBee which intrigued us is that the concierge shoppers and delivery guys make up two different units. When you place your orders online, the system sends a job notification out to selected concierge shoppers who are nearest to the grocery outlet. This is done through a mobile app. The concierge shopper who accepts the job then heads down to grab your items, and when he or she is done, another delivery guy picks up the items and delivers it to your doorstep. To ensure that the purchases are correct, the delivery guy and the shopper compare order numbers before sending the items to you.
From a financial point of view, HonestBee seems to be able to make it work: not only does it maintain the original prices of groceries, there is also no delivery fee for orders exceeding S$30 (or S$10 for first-time customers). On top of that, HonestBee is also able to pay up to S$14 per hour to concierge shoppers, many of whom are working with them part-time. This is possible because HonestBee has worked out a revenue sharing agreement with all its partner merchants — all of them gladly pay HonestBee for bringing in new customers. They also recently announced an official partnership with FairPrice NTUC, which enables customers to have FairPrice products delivered to them within the hour.
A Look Into How HonestBee Started
HonestBee is founded by Joel Sng, who previously founded LifeOpp with the mission to provide job opportunities to those who need them. While that didn’t work out because of the competitiveness of the market, Joel saw it fit to combine the mission of providing job opportunities with online grocery delivery, resulting in the birth of the HonestBee you see today. To end consumers like us, what we see is just the facade: a simple same day grocery delivery site. But to Joel and his team, HonestBee is more than that; it is providing income opportunities to their 600+ concierge shoppers, a mission statement that the team has held firm since the founding of the now defunct jobs site LifeOpp.
In its early days, the idea of HonestBee sounded too good to be true, even to its concierge shoppers: you get paid for shopping. But as the team spread the word about their business model, HonestBee has slowly become a legitimate platform for those who are looking for extra income.
Online War: This Is Just The Beginning
While HonestBee might have been slow in entering the online grocery war, Shane told us that judging from the traction the team is currently looking at, there are still a lot of opportunities in the space. To the team, what matters now is to ensure that for end customers, they get the groceries they need at the lowest price and the earliest possible time. For their concierge shoppers, the team is dedicated to ensuring that they continue to earn for shopping with HonestBee.