With businesses across the sultanate hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, Brunei-based online marketplace heydomo is providing those affected with job opportunities, as the demand for delivery services continue to escalate in the sultanate. 

“On an average day, we would receive about 60 to 70 orders per day, amounting to 600 orders per month, but that was February,” said the Chief Executive Officer of heydomo, Darryn Liew. 

“Since the suspension of dine-in services in mid-March, our orders have increased drastically,” he said, with March totalling up to more than two thousand orders going through the online platform, representing a growth of about 250 to 260 per cent.

Darryn Liew, 43, CEO of heydomo in an interview with The Bruneian on 02/04/2020. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

According to Darryn, as the coronavirus situation continues to develop in the country, a number of businesses are already pivoting their operations toward e-commerce, to cope with the drop in retail sales, as shoppers dwindle offline and go online. 

All across the board, heydomo’s business is ballooning; user registration has already hit 14 thousand, with the online marketplace receiving about five thousand user sign-ups and 150 vendor registrations in the last two weeks of March alone. 

“So, if we are looking at pre-COVID and post-COVID performances, just the last two weeks of March brought a great amount of business, and at the moment we are trying to cope (with the influx),” he added. 

A customer browsing heydomo. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Lend a hand, to meet demand

Understandably, in order to be on the step with the current surge in business, heydomo had to expand their capacity quickly, adding 25 new dispatchers to its previous driver pool of 15 in early March. 

“With about 250 to 260 orders in a day now, we had to reorganise our operations personnel and increase our headcount to ensure that we meet the rising demand as well as to make certain that our deliveries run smooth,” explained the 43-year-old. 

“One of our partners actually introduced us to other businesses that have been heavily affected by the outbreak like travel agencies, courier services and car rental services which rely heavily on the tourism sector,” Liew continued. 

heydomo staff at work in their office in Delima on 02/04/2020. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Out of the 40 dispatchers currently employed with heydomo, 20 per cent of them are employees of these affected businesses, seeking to supplement their staggering income, which depended on commissions and tips from tourists. 

“Basically we are trying to help these employees because most of them were asked to take leave since the travel and tourism sector is receiving no business during this coronavirus crisis,” added Liew. 

The CEO went on to explain that a hundred per cent of the delivery charges will go to the dispatcher, which – depending on their daily volume of deliveries – will earn them about $100 to $200 per week. 

heydomo dispatcher, Danial Sabtu picking up an order at Pepper Lunch, Kiulap on 01/04/2020. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“By driving with us, it actually helps cover the losses that they are going through,” said the CEO, adding that the company will require another ten drivers to fully accommodate the rising number of orders. 

“At this moment, we are trying to manage and we are constantly exploring new drivers. Also during this outbreak, we provide gloves, face masks and hand sanitizers for all our drivers, to ensure they are well protected,” he added. 

The future of heydomo, an opportunity amidst crisis

Despite the unprecedented uptick in business, Liew understood that this surge may only be temporary, having expected a reduction in volume once the outbreak ceases, and life in the sultanate returns to normal. 

A customer browsing heydomo. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

However, he also expressed the opinion that the epidemic may be a watershed moment for Brunei, triggering the start of a new way of life, one that is even more conducive and open towards e-commerce than ever before. 

“We believe that with every major crisis, comes the opportunity for change. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak we can already see a drastic change in behaviour from consumers,” he pointed out.

For Liew, the outbreak has given businesses a reason to reshape themselves and their business models, to follow suit an economic trend that has been widely embraced by most developed countries, but not so much here in the sultanate. 

“heydomo was never just a food delivery platform, as our categories go beyond just food and beverage, including fashion, tech and lifestyle,” he explained. 

A customer browsing heydomo. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“For us, mobile commerce is the way of the future. Even if we talk about e-commerce like shopping rough desktops, via websites, not a lot of people do that anymore, mobile commerce is where it is at the moment,” he said.

“Because everyone has a device but not everyone has a computer,” he added. 

According to Liew, a number of heydomo vendors, have expressed interest in transforming their business through the online platform, hoping to capitalise on the lifestyle change that may come about due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“heydomo was started to help home businesses by making sure they have an avenue to do business online easily, to give these businesses additional value,” continued Liew.

heydomo dispatcher, Danial Sabtu during an interview with The Bruneian at Pepper Lunch, Kiulap on 01/04/2020. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“I think that this is a start of a change for Brunei, because people used to say that e-commerce is not suitable for the sultanate, but it’s all about whether the products you are providing is the right fit for the market,” he continued. 

The CEO mentioned that heydomo has a number of new initiatives in the pipeline, including a plan to expand the platform to include services that cater to the daily needs of its users, hoping to become a one-stop platform of sorts in the near future. 

“Though COVID-19 has caused an exponential growth, heydomo has actually been growing at a steady pace with a month to month growth of users, vendors and revenue.

“Despite the positive impact this pandemic has caused for the company, just like everyone we hope that this pandemic will be over soon.

“For heydomo, our priority right now is to serve the people and to continuously add value to our services and our vendors,” concluded Liew. 

This article was first published on April 4, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 83

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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