Start@SG

New Lunch Kaki CEO wants to connect with hobbyists

Mr Ng Pangilinan aims to triple the number of users on the Lunch Kaki platform by the end of the year and is also exploring expansion opportunities in overseas markets, including Vietnam and Hong Kong.
Mr Ng Pangilinan aims to triple the number of users on the Lunch Kaki platform by the end of the year and is also exploring expansion opportunities in overseas markets, including Vietnam and Hong Kong.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Lunch Kaki's new CEO wants to connect those with common interests beyond food

Mr John Ng Pangilinan - the grandson of the late property tycoon Ng Teng Fong - is joining home-grown social networking platform Lunch Kaki as its chief executive and has plans to overhaul the business for growth.

Lunch Kaki, which aims to help people connect and socialise over lunch, will be renamed Kakis and be relaunched with a new interface next month.

Beyond linking up people over lunch, the platform will also be expanded to connect users interested in common activities or with similar hobbies.

"We don't want to just focus on lunch. We want to focus on interest groups and allow people to find kakis for yoga, fishing, gym, beer - whatever they want," Mr Ng Pangilinan told The Straits Times.

"Lunch Kaki is an extension of my interest in bringing foodies together," added the 37-year-old, who is also behind Makan Bus, a service that allows tourists to explore off-the-beaten-track eateries in Singapore.

MORE THAN JUST FOOD

We don't want to just focus on lunch. We want to focus on interest groups and allow people to find kakis for yoga, fishing, gym, beer - whatever they want.

MR JOHN NG PANGILINAN, on his plans for Lunch Kaki.

Lunch Kaki, launched in November 2014, now has more than 30,000 members across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The platform's co-founders - Mr Melvin Tan and Mr Huang Cheng Chuan - will remain involved but Mr Ng Pangilinan is coming in to help ramp up growth.

He aims to triple the number of users on the platform by the end of the year and is also exploring expansion opportunities in overseas markets, including Vietnam and Hong Kong.

"It's (the co-founders') first business, whereas I've done business my whole life. I would like to be taking a back seat but there's still some work to be done," said Mr Ng Pangilinan, who has invested an undisclosed sum in the company.

Separately, Mr Ng Pangilinan is working on a golf booking platform - also likely to be launched next month - which will allow golfers to book games in clubs across the region without having to pay hefty membership fees and surcharges.

He also recently became a partner at RHL Ventures, a venture fund set up by three children of prominent Asian businessmen.

"RHL is looking at bringing global companies to Asia - we're connected in Asia so that's where we can come in," said Mr Ng Pangilinan, whose grandfather built up Far East Organization and Sino Group.

RHL Ventures aims to raise US$100 million (S$141 million), according to Bloomberg, and has backed two start-ups since its debut last year - Singapore-based Perx and Sidestep, which is based in Los Angeles.

The fund also wants to invest locally, particularly in Series A funding rounds, added Mr Ng Pangilinan.

All of these endeavours have kept him "super, super busy".

"I'm probably in the same suit every day," he said with a chuckle.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Lunch meeting platform to expand reach to hobbyists'. Print Edition | Subscribe