SINGAPORE - Hawkers, food delivery players and other stakeholders from the industry or community can weigh in on how hawkers can digitalise and boost business sustainability in a workgroup the Government plans to convene.
Discussions will focus on concerns hawkers face and ways that they may be incentivised to tap food delivery platforms. The workgroup will be chaired by the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.
Some of these concerns include the lack of tech savviness, the high commission rate of food delivery platforms, and the difficulties of managing both online and offline food orders at the same time, said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, on Tuesday (June 15).
She was speaking to reporters during a visit to Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre with Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Tan Kiat How.
Dr Khor said that around half of Singapore's 6,000-plus cooked food stallholders have already tapped food delivery platforms and online ordering services, with the support of the Government, industry players, and various community volunteers.
More than 1,300 hawkers have benefited from a $500 one-time funding from the National Environment Agency last year to help them tap food delivery platforms.
Among them, 500 of the hawkers were aged 60 and above, Dr Khor said.
She noted that one platform, WhyQ, which will participate in the workgroup, has employed captains located in hawker centres to coordinate and organise orders and food delivery. This can help less digitally savvy hawkers.
She noted that at Tiong Bahru Food Centre, about 60 of the 83 cooked food stalls are already on the WhyQ platform, while some of the remaining stalls have tapped other food delivery platforms.
Mr Tan said Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of food delivery, a trend which is likely to continue even beyond the pandemic, so more has to be done to support hawkers and widen their customer base.
He added that many hawkers are worried about the lasting effects of digitalisation on their current business model, an area which the workgroup aims to tackle.
More details on the launch of the workgroup will be announced at a later date.
WhyQ co-founder Rishabh Singhvi told The Straits Times that it now has 3,500 stall owners from 70 hawker centres on its platform - a doubling from pre-pandemic times.
He added that demand for hawker food deliveries have also increased by 25 per cent amid this period of heightened alert.
Acknowledging that profit margins for hawkers are thin, Mr Singhvi said WhyQ levies a commission fee on the end-consumer instead of the hawker, so that hawkers' earnings via the platform are the same as when they serve a walk-in customer.
Hawkers at the Tiong Bahru Food Centre told ST that being on the WhyQ platform has helped amid this period of low traffic.
Mr Tan Kim Leng, 52, the owner of a pork ribs prawn noodle stall, told ST that he receives around eight to 10 orders each day via WhyQ, which has been helpful in keeping the business going.
However, some drink stall owners lamented that their business has been hit, as more people now work from home and make their own coffee and tea.
A sugar cane juice seller, who declined to be named, told ST in Mandarin that competition among drink stalls can be quite high, especially as they are around 10 to 15 such stalls at the hawker centre.
However, he said that he and many other hawkers there were the original stall owners, so their rental costs were much lower compared with other hawkers subletting from the stall owners.
With the rental waivers amid this period of heightened alert, his business is therefore able to tide through this difficult period, he said.
The NEA has waived half of hawker stall rentals in May and June in NEA-managed hawker centres, aiding around 6,000 cooked food stallholders.
To support drink stalls, Mr Singhvi said that WhyQ has introduced bundles on its platform to encourage customers to purchase a drink along with their food.
The company is also working with the NEA and National Trades Union Congress to expand its outreach to more hawker centres and coffee shops islandwide.