Volunteers, bulk food orders among suggestions to get hawkers onto digital platforms

Among the top three reasons cited by hawkers for not adopting online platforms was that food items such as drinks, dessert and small ticket items were not suitable for delivery.
Among the top three reasons cited by hawkers for not adopting online platforms was that food items such as drinks, dessert and small ticket items were not suitable for delivery.ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - Younger hawkers or student volunteers helping older hawkers go digital, and tie-ups with organisations to make bulk meal orders were among some practical suggestions to help hawkers adopt online ordering platforms to complement their in-store business.

The suggestions emerged from the second round of discussions by the SG Together Alliance for Action (AfA) - Online Ordering for Hawkers on Thursday (July 29). Discussions centred around key topics like supporting hawkers to adopt online ordering services, as well as developing a sustainable model for them.

The 20-member work group was formed on June 17 to help hawkers impacted by the pandemic understand the benefits of going digital and to support them in using online ordering and delivery services.

It comprises members who represent the hawker community, as well as food ordering and delivery platform companies.

Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor and Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Tan Kiat How joined the discussion at Thursday’s AfA workshop.

Mr Tan said in a Facebook post on Thursday that AfA digital ambassadors have spoken to more than 90 per cent of hawkers. 

A third of them have adopted online ordering or online delivery, and about 14 per cent of the rest are interested or are considering seriously, which he said was “promising”. 

Among the top three reasons cited by hawkers for not adopting online platforms was that food items such as drinks, dessert and small-ticket items were not suitable for delivery, Mr Tan said.

The other reasons were insufficient manpower to cope with additional demand, and hawkers being unconvinced that food delivery platforms would drive greater demand. 

On the aims of the efforts to get hawkers online, Mr Tan said: “First, hawkers must find the model useful for them. Second, delivery platforms should find it commercially viable. Third, delivery riders must earn decent income. Importantly, it should also make sense for consumers.”

Dr Khor shared on Facebook that AfA members suggested building a support network of technology-savvy hawker representatives, hawkers associations or community volunteers to help hawkers, especially the older ones, adopt delivery services. 

It was also suggested that hawkers be given training opportunities in bite-sized modules in areas such as menu curation, managing online orders and marketing. 

Another idea was to give hawkers a free trial period to get used to online ordering and build up an online customer base. 

One suggestion to help more customers discover hawkers on online platforms was to encourage community collaborations to organise bulk meal purchases.

The discussion and ideas come as assistance for hawkers has been ramped up in recent weeks.

Last week the Ministry of Finance announced that stallholders at hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and NEA-appointed operators would receive a one-off $500 cash assistance as part of a relief package to tide them over the phase two (heightened alert) ban on dining in. 

Dr Khor stressed on Thursday: “Hawkers need to pivot to address the current challenges they are facing and to be well-placed to benefit in the long term too. Online food ordering will help to complement their in-store business.” 

She added that she encouraged members to test out some of the ideas as pilots in hawker centres without waiting for the full suite of recommendations by AfA.