Entrepreneur

This M’sian Duo Is Taking On A "Failed" Business Model, And They're Armed With Only RM1,000

Whether you’re tired or just don’t have the time, most of us can admit that it’s far easier to order takeout nowadays rather than cook.

But there may be an alternative, as meal kit delivery services like Chef’ Up aim to bring back the art of home cooking by delivering all you need right to your doorstep.

Following in the footsteps of startups before him, Kumar, co-founder of Chef’ Up, serves us his resolve to survive where others have seemingly failed.

Taste Like Mom’s

Founded in December 2018 and starting operations in February 2019, Chef’ Up’s origins stem from Kumar’s childhood memories of his mom’s homecooked meals, something most of us can relate to.

But with the prevalence of food delivery services today or ‘Fancy Food Deliveries’ as he calls them, Kumar feels that Malaysian are forgetting the culture of cooking.

“Food delivery which started off as a convenience in one’s life has become a daily routine for many. Even at my workplace, I find the majority having food deliveries or take-outs for lunch/dinner, and when asked, almost all give the same reason. No time to cook,” Kumar said.

Image Credit: Chef’ Up

Chef’ Up aims at doing away with the hassle of getting ingredients, storing left-overs and deciding what to cook, by delivering ready-to-be-made meal kits straight to you.

A Recipe For Disaster?

Chef’ Up is following in the footsteps of many similar startups like Urban Stove and Fooddit, which have come and gone since their founding in 2015.

OhMyGrocer, who are still around, started with B2C delivery but has since pivoted to supplying to businesses instead.

In fact, there was another startup in 2015 with a similar name, Chef Up, and we asked Kumar if he was affiliated with them.

“To be honest, this is the first time I heard about these guys. I was aware of other meal kits that started in Malaysia, which had almost the same name like Chef’d, but never came across this team before. It’s a surprise for me for not knowing someone with the same name has done this before,” he said.

Despite the failures of previous meal kit delivery services, Kumar remains undeterred.

Image Credit: Chef’ Up Facebook

“We are aware of these meal kits that didn’t do well in Malaysia in the past. Before starting our business, I went through most of their websites and tried to gather as much information as I can,” he said.

Kumar doesn’t plan on making the same mistakes, though he also believes that perhaps it was too early for these types of services to thrive back then.

“Back in 2015, there weren’t many people placing orders for food online and the online platform was not used much among Malaysians. As such, there wasn’t much need for a meal-kit company back then. Hence, these companies faced extinction,” he explained.

With that, Kumar thinks that now is the best time for meal kits in Malaysia. With proper marketing and communication with customers, he believes that Chef’ Up can see this through, rekindling Malaysia’s cooking culture.

Image Credit: Chef’ Up

“I’m not sure if you’re going to trust me in this, but I started Chef’ Up with the capital of RM1,000 only, and from then only broke even for first few months, but now we’re slowly starting to see a small profit margin as the number of customers has increased,” Kumar shared.

In a span of 10 months, Chef’ Up has served more than 100 individual customers and has recently delivered their 140th box.

Two-Man Prep Crew

For a startup that aims to help people with no experience cook homecooked meals, it may be surprising to know that Kumar and co-founder, Janisa, have little culinary experience themselves.

While Kumar has always dreamt of becoming a chef as a child, often helping out his mother in the kitchen, he was encouraged to take up IT instead by his parents.

Similarly inexperienced, Janisa, Chef’ Up’s Marketing Lead has been in the marketing line for years and is actually a Creative Developer by profession.

Image Credit: Chef’ Up Facebook

“If you’re wondering who does the operation, it’s actually the two of us who does the packing and we outsource our deliveries,” Kumar reveals.

“Choosing people’s favourite dish to be on the menu has always been the most challenging thing in this business, that we’re slowly mastering the art of human psychology towards food.”

Chef’ Up currently features Asian and Western dishes on its menu, and it even has vegetarian and vegan dishes. The average price per pax is RM20.

A Fresh Start

Chef’ Up takes their orders from Facebook and Instagram, one day before delivery, and only delivers within the Klang Valley from 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM.

Ingredients are also bought one day before delivery to ensure products stay fresh when it reaches their customers.

Currently, they get their ingredients from hypermarkets and bulk suppliers, but they have plans to directly source from farmers.

“I always believe that the freshest ingredients can only be obtained from direct farmers and the best way to repay them is by doing direct business with them without a third party,” Kumar said.

Image Credit: Chef’ Up

Chef’ Up also has big plans for the future and would like to get an investor on board so they can take themselves to the next level. These plans include:

  • Monthly subscription plans for customers,
  • Pursuing other business models other than B2C,
  • Supplying cooking competitions and culinary classes, and
  • Bringing on board celebrity chefs and incorporating their recipes.

“It took us some time to convey our idea and raise awareness to people out there because not many people are aware of what a meal kit means,” Kumar shared.

“Ultimately our goal and dream is to bring out the best chef that lies in everyone.”

  • You can read more of what we wrote on F&B here.

Featured Image Credit: Chef’ Up

 

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