PETALING JAYA: “There is a silver lining in every circumstance.”
That is the principle Chunky Monkeys co-founders and directors Fatin Rasyiqah Mustaza and Saiful Adzli Ghazali have stuck to while navigating the murkiness of running a startup in the midst of a global pandemic.
In a recent interview with SunBiz, Fatin explained that while it is always a gamble when it comes to running a startup, the job losses people faced during the movement control order (MCO) period proved to be a solution to the company’s staffing issues.
“Our staff are all mainly part-timers and we lost a few talent along the way of our growth because we were not able to pay them as a permanent staff. We only operate for weekly deliveries, therefore there was no need for permanent staff.
“During MCO there were many layoffs in the F&B industry and we were able to take in good talent from the industry to join our team. It has never been easy to find good talent who are able to understand our products and to have been able to score some during that period is a blessing,” she said.
That said, the company did face a number of challenges during the MCO, as Fatin and Saiful were unsure if they could continue to operate. However, after some tweaks to operation hours, vendors and delivery days, the company was able to soldier on.
“Our orders were quite strong during the first few weeks of MCO. We guessed people were just following their urges to stock up on food from the fear of no access to any. But after that it started to slow down, which we assumed was because people had to consume their perishables that they had stocked up before.
“At the same time, many were making more prudent decisions in their spending from economic uncertainties, but during that period, our basic menu items like the cauliflower rice and desserts orders were still coming in as usual,” said Saiful.
Since the implementation of the conditional MCO, however, Chunky Monkeys has seen steady growth in their orders.
Chunky Monkeys, a ketogenic (keto) diet meal delivery service, was launched in January 2019, initially with orders made through Instagram or Whatsapp only, and fulfilled in a home kitchen.
Following an unexpected surge in orders in February that same year, the duo found themselves overwhelmed and unable to fulfil orders in a timely manner. They took a break to move operations to a centralised kitchen, and relaunched in July 2019 with collaborations with Oddle as its ordering platform and website host, and Lalamove as its delivery partner.
As sales grew steadily, the pair decided to take yet another gamble, and launched Chunky Monkeys’ sister company Nom Nom during the MCO.
Saiful said the idea was driven by the need to cater to the mass market at a time when people were stuck at home during a festive season.
“The original plan to launch Nom Nom was set for the beginning of April, we weighed our options and decided to just go with it towards the end of April. This gamble paid off as it was also just in time for Ramadan and we mainly catered to that crowd.
“During Ramadan we got the word out for Nom Nom by joining the local FB Ramadan bazaars where we got mainly recognised for our Singapore murtabak. The Singapore murtabak was our best seller during Ramadan. During the Raya period we made food options like rendang, kuah kacang and dendeng which garnered quite a response,” he explained.
Saiful said that because Nom Nom caters to the masses, the business will be able to supplement the company’s daily recurring income to ensure that cash flow is stronger for future expansion.
On what lies ahead for Chunky Monkeys and Nom Nom, Fatin said both brands are essentially still in the infancy stage and there is much more room for growth.
“Our next course of action is to expand Chunky Monkeys’ operations to be able to deliver daily and weekly. To do this we will need to expand our kitchen further and expand our team to enable interchangeable roles for Chunky Monkeys and Nom Nom. As I said, always look for a silver lining, so seeing that many F&B businesses are facing a tough time, we are scouting for a takeover of assets or business in order to expand our operations,” she said.
In addition, the pair are looking to venture into commercial trading, with the intention to create products to supply to supermarkets and pharmacies.
“This will create a new avenue for us to reach a larger market share where we can offer our products outside of the Klang Valley too. But this is still in the R&D and due diligence process and with this new norm there are many more factors to weigh, but this is our long-term plan,” said Saiful.
They are also looking for funding for the next stage of growth, either via government grants or angel investors.