Aziz Idris & Syazwani Haji Rosli
In Brunei Darussalam, the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) is an essential component of the Brunei Vision 2035, which envisages a dynamic and sustainable economy with a per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) that is among the top players in the world.
Although this sector has been hit hard since the COVID-19 pandemic began making headlines around the world, there has also been a growing trend towards delivery services via e-commerce platforms.
As people had to remain indoors to reduce exposure to the novel coronavirus and all dining-in at restaurants prohibited, the demand for online food delivery picked
Food delivery service providers suddenly faced with mounting calls from restaurants looking for platforms that could assist them in meeting orders.
One example is food delivery application GoMamam, which saw a spike in the number of daily orders. Since its launch in February, the app has attracted almost 11,000 users and over 25 eateries.
Norhakimah binti Madali, owner of an eatery that serves chicken wings , said her business was greatly affected by the safety measures.
“We realised that we needed come up with a backup plan and be prepared in adapting to the new reality quickly,” she said.
“We immediately pivoted exclusively to takeaways and deliveries only when suspension for regular dine-ins was announced.
“We were forced to double our efforts to survive the storm.”
Among the challenges her business encountered due to COVID-19, Norhakimah added, was a surge in the price of ingredients and the limited supply of chicken wings.
As a result, she found herself between a rock and a hard place, opting for suppliers that charged at higher rate to keep her business running. By Ramadhan, her business was in the red.
“However, my team and I knew that we needed to get back on our feet. So we churned out offers, such as free delivery, to attract more customers,” she said.
Now that the country is slowly easing restrictions as the containment effort has yielded positive results, she said this is the perfect time to “make up for the losses incurred by the pandemic”.
Norhakimah added, “While it’s not at full capacity yet, we are truly grateful for the support from our customers.
“COVID-19 has been very challenging for entrepreneurs across the world. We can only hope that business will pick up soon.”
Meanwhile, local ride-hailing app Dart saw an opportunity when the social distancing rule was announced by expanding their services to food delivery.
The company adjusted its business strategy and their swift action paid off. During Ramadhan, when it has traditionally been the busiest time for the local food and beverage sector, they were rewarded a slice of the pie of the exponentially higher market demand for food delivery.
One deliverman said he had been busy since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak as the public had opted against leaving their homes or offices for takeaways.
“Many people chose to remain indoors,” he said. “I frequently received orders to deliver food to Brunei-Muara District residents and the hospital.”