Having had enough of being over-charged for poor quality durians, dealing with dishonest durian vendors, and eating in hot and unhygienic conditions, durian lover Jay Lee founded Kungfu Durian with a mission to provide quality durians, at reasonable and transparent prices, in a comfortable ambience.
However, as the COVID-19 situation escalated in 2020, stricter health measures and necessary norms like social distancing and staying at home threatened Singaporean’s enjoyment of the year’s durian season.
Kungfu Durian’s response was to focus all its resources on its e-Commerce platform and delivery services. According to Lee, these had existed before but only accounted for around 10% of total sales. With the current situation, website orders and delivery now account for 90% of the business’ sales.
Running their own e-commerce platform
Kungfu Durian’s website and e-commerce platform was developed pre-COVID, in partnership with Firstcom Solutions. Even before the pandemic, EHL Insights reports that there has been growth in the online food delivery sector which reaped the benefits of more widespread digitalisation and a greater abundance of delivery apps.
In line with this trend, Singaporean’s adoption of online food delivery has also grown: in early 2020, Deliveroo reported that orders on its platform saw more than 50% growth year-on-year, with a fast increasing number of orders during the late night and breakfast time slots.
The platform also reported an increase in demand for seasonal items, having up to 50 durian vendors available during the season.
Realising that many of their competitors were going digital and taking their presence online, the business understood that they could no longer rely solely on community support to secure market space and customer attention. They worked with Firstcom Solutions to create a website that would express their brand personality and build an e-commerce platform that would meet their business needs.
As described by Firstcom Solutions, one key challenge was stock management, which would be complicated by adding the online sales channel. Moreover, the seasonal nature of durians also means they come in sporadic chunks, with no clear indication of how many arrive on a particular day.
Thus, the platform had to be robust enough to handle a large influx of customers, flexible enough to handle the unpredictability of durian stocks, and easy to integrate with their offline operations. The final platform was designed to be as user friendly and easily accessible to the site administrator as possible, making it easy to manage and allowing the users to take charge of their own website.
This platform was developed with support from Enterprise Singapore’s Productivity Solutions Grant, which supports companies keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes.
Initially the online store was only one of three sales channels, the other two being the physical store and third party food couriers. However, with the onset of COVID-19, these e-commerce measures took centre stage in Kungfu Durian’s business operations as Singapore introduced strict, but necessary, measures against dining out and gathering in public in order to curb the spread of the virus.
According to Lee, Kungfu Durian had partnered with other food delivery platforms before. However, the commissions proved to be high and took away a substantial part of the profits. Although they are currently able to provide delivery on their own terms, manpower remains an issue.
While there is a website support team under IMBA Solutions, a Firstcom subsidiary, many other necessary duties are carried out in-house. “Everyone in the company is multitasking, manning online orders, coordinating orders and deliveries and preparing orders,” says Lee.
Managing orders and deliveries is no mean feat, as the durians received, being natural fruits, will inevitably be of variable quality. As a result, says Lee, they need to be de-husked to know if the quality is up to their standards to be delivered to their customers.
“Sometimes, due to the weather, the quality of durians does not meet our expectations and we have to reject them on the spot. This causes us to not being able to fulfil our customers’ orders,” he adds.
The stringent quality control adds to the manpower issues, as customers have to be updated on their orders, for example, if shipments are late, or if the quality of the fruits means that changes to the order must be made.
Despite the challenges, Lee sees innovation in e-commerce platforms as part of the future for the F&B industry in the post-COVID-19 environment. For Kungfu Durian itself, he predicts that 70% of sales may come from the online channels: this is compared to 90% during the circuit breaker and a mere 10% before COVID-19.
Moving forward, he emphasises that keeping customers constantly updated on their orders and maintaining strong after-sales service remain important as well. However, there will always be a place for physical stores and face to face business, as, according to Lee, “it is the human touch, the ‘heart-ware’, that can never be replaced by online sales.”