As a top global tourist attraction, Southeast Asia has taken over $100 billion from tourism. Hotels and restaurants can be seen everywhere. However, the way restaurants purchase goods is not standardised as purchasers range from restaurant owners to chief chefs and communicating with various food suppliers is complicated and time consuming.
In 2018 two Japanese entrepreneurs: Taku Tanaka and Hiroshi Tokaku, founded a B2B purchasing platform targeting the catering industry in Vietnam in a bid to make communication between restaurants and suppliers, ordering, and purchasing easier. Kamereo recently announced that it had raised half a million dollars from Japanese VC, Genesia Ventures, and Ventures Vietnam.
Apart from Kamereo, Zeemart, a B2B purchasing platform for the catering industry from Singapore, also raised $5.2 million in an investment led by an Indonesian VC, Kresna Graha Investama. Its business has expanded from the catering industry to hotels, covering Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam. FoodMarketHub, another B2B purchasing platform from Malaysia, established in 2017, has raised $0.45 million in a series seed round funding. Compared with Kamereo, it focuses more on the application of big data and AI in the automatic communication between restaurants, central kitchens, and suppliers and inventory management.
Recently, the CEO of Kamereo, Taku Tanaka, sat down with Volanew to discuss why the Shopify of the catering industry becomes the most promising sector for entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia.
Time to Improve Restaurants’ Efficiency
After three years in an investment bank, Taku Tanaka joined a Vietnamese restaurant, Pizza 4P, in 2015 and was placed in charge of accounting, financial management, operation, and purchasing. “Although I did a good job in American banks, I am passionate about the catering industry. That’s why I joined Pizza 4P in 2015. Two years later, I decided to start my own business.”
What inspired Taku Tanaka to establish a start-up was his work in Pizza 4P. When he ran this chain restaurant he found that “the purchasing department was not working efficiently because the purchasing process was shambolic. Different purchasers use different tools to talk to suppliers. Some use Skype, others use email. Some like talking via phone, while others use Zalo(a local chatting app). As a result, communication between purchasers and suppliers is not centralized. Restaurants have to spend extra money to hire people to look after orders. Hence, I want to build a B2B platform for suppliers and restaurants to streamline the purchasing, communication and ordering.”
Taku Tanaka created Kamereo out of this aspiration. “Kamereo derives from chameleon. We hope to attract people with a strange yet funny name. A chameleon can change its color to adapt to the environment, which speaks well for our aim as we change flexibly to meet customers’ needs.”
According to Taku Tanaka, Kamereo, which streamlines the purchasing process for restaurants, resembles Shopify (an eCommerce platform). But its product structure and interface are tailored to the needs of suppliers and restaurant who can save time, store and analyze data, and reduce errors on the platform. We can also help suppliers with sales and restaurants with finding suppliers. We offer a transaction platform on which restaurants can find the right suppliers.
Taku Tanaka believes that technologies can significantly improve the transparency and accuracy of purchasing, and thus reduce labour cost and address low efficiency.
Focus on Vietnam and Go Deep into the Supply Chain
After raising half a million dollars in a seed round funding, Taku Tanaka will continue to focus on the Vietnamese market with an aim to have 500 orders per day. Kamereo now boasts 260 suppliers, 500 purchasers, and over 16,000 SKU. Kamereo is a company of 25 people.
Kamereo has developed a new service to support the agricultural economy by connecting restaurants with crofters who grow vegetables and fruit. “this service is similar to that provided by Meicai (a B2B eCommerce platform selling agricultural products, vegetables and fruit) of China. Due to an inefficient supply chain and price differences brought by agents, consumers need to spend ￥75 to buy ￥25 vegetables. Our platform talks to farmers directly after pooling together restaurants’ needs. We sell agricultural products bought from farmers at lower prices so that we can improve efficiency and save costs while increasing the farmers’ income. We launched this service two months ago and have had 100 active users. Therefore, there is a huge need.”
When it comes to Kamereo’s competitors from Singapore and Malaysia, like Zeemart and FoodMarketHub, Taku Tanaka noted that “although we will see competitors in the Vietnamese market in the future, we still boast substantial advantage as the first one stop B2B purchasing platform. Once users start using our product there will be customer loyalty and transfer costs. Restaurants will invite suppliers to use our platform. In return, suppliers will invite their restaurant partners to come to our platform. In this way, we will have an ever-growing database, and once we have established a large business network, it is very difficult to be challenge in the market.” he added that “what we take pride in the most is that instead of losing our clients, we retain all of them.”
Volanews also noticed that Zeemart takes a higher annual subscription fee of $1299 than Kamereo which only takes $500. FoodMarketHub of Malaysia provides similar services as Kamereo, but it focuses more on the application of big data and AI in the automatic communication between restaurants, central kitchens, and suppliers and inventory management.