JD.com's South-east Asia chief to join S'pore cloud kitchen start-up

Last year, TiffinLabs said it plans to create a network of over 1,000 cloud kitchens across Asia, Europe and the US. PHOTO: TIFFINLABS/INSTAGRAM

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - JD.com's South-east Asia president has left the China e-commerce giant to join Singapore-based cloud kitchen start-up TiffinLabs.

Mr Soon Sze Meng, who had the role at JD.com for more than two years, will become chief executive at the company starting from Jan 1, the venture said in response to Bloomberg queries.

"With Sze Meng's deep experience in the e-commerce and digital economy sectors, we see a huge opportunity to scale our unique offering and evolve the food ecosystem to be fit for the digital economy," said TiffinLabs founder and chairman Kishin R. K.

Mr Kishin, a scion to a multi-billion dollar Singapore property empire, founded TiffinLabs in early 2019. He runs RB Capital, a privately owned property firm which together with his father Raj Kumar's Royal Group Holdings has more than a dozen office towers, malls and hotels in Singapore, including the 225-room InterContinental Robertson Quay.

TiffinLabs' current investors include KRK Capital, Phillip Private Equity, NewcrestImage and Hibiscus Fund (a partnership between RHL Ventures and KB Investment). The company plans to expand its portfolio of digital restaurant brands to food and beverage operators across markets globally, TiffinLabs said in the statement.

Last year, the company said it planned to create a network of more than 1,000 cloud kitchens across Asia, Europe and the United States.

Also known as dark or shared kitchens, cloud kitchens are centralised operations that can pump out an array of cuisines for established restaurants looking to broaden their delivery footprint, or for brands that exist nowhere else but behind an app. They have become a model for food delivery companies looking to sidestep the costs of running traditional restaurants with seating and waiters, and can be located in cheaper premises like business parks rather than high street storefronts.

In South-east Asia, online food delivery is expected to grow 36 per cent this year, topping US$12 billion (S$16.2 billion) in gross merchandise value, according to a report by Google, Temasek and Bain & Co published this month.

Correction note: This article has been updated to include Hibiscus Fund in the list of TiffinLabs' current investors.

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