Interview with Joel Sng, CEO and co-founder, honestbee.com

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Describe Joel in 50 words or less. 

Joel thrives on innovative ideas and loves building businesses. After graduating from Harvard he started his career in investment banking and has held a passion for businesses with transformative potential.

Why did you start Honestbee? 

  • We wanted to provide the masses who can’t work fixed hours with sustainable income opportunities.
  • We chose grocery shopping with because, (1) quality can be standardised and maintained; (2) grocery shopping happens more frequently; (3) stores are distributed which means more workers do not have to travel very far to get to work.
  • As such, grocery shopping will generate a higher sustainable demand for labour.

Tell us about your expansion plans, how did you go about it? 

honestbee now operates in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei. We also had a seasonal store in Niseko from December last year to February this year. We will be expanding to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Tokyo. Our vision is to become Asia's largest online grocery concierge delivery company. We are still at the early stage of our business, and we have lots more to do.

What are the regional differences in terms of doing business/adaptation?

When it comes to doing business, there are local nuances and formalities we have to be mindful of. For example, marketing campaigns that might work in Singapore might not work in Hong Kong. Teams then have to localise the content to make sure it sits well with the people in that particular city while achieving the same objective. 

In 5 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

  • Customers will enjoy fresh groceries as an when they need it, delivered to their doorstep.
  • Go-to flexible income opportunities for people who need to work but cannot commit full-time.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

The first half of my day is spent meeting teams and getting updates from them. The second half of the day is spent fixing any problems that might arise based on what teams have feedbacked in the meetings. In the evenings, I respond to emails and do business strategising for the future.

What were the biggest challenges you faced building your startup?

Hiring and talent retention are one of the challenges many start-ups face. This is because the skill sets we need are not readily available in Asia.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

My most memorable moment has to be the launch in Hong Kong. It was very exciting for me – it was the first overseas expansion, we had great turnout at the launch event, and everyone was just excited that we were in Hong Kong

What do you think of Hong Kong's Startup Scene?

  • Hong Kong is a unique international hub for business where it embraces different culture and ideas, and the legal system is stable.
  • By providing an open environment to start a business, Hong Kong attracts multinational talents, and gets business from all over the world.
  • Co-working spaces, accelerators and incubators are multiplying, corporations are starting to get involved, and support from government, academia and special interest groups is increasing. There's no better time to jump into entrepreneurship.
  • The culture and energy in Hong Kong is beneficial for startups like honestbee.

What are 3 things you want consumers to remember about your company?

  • We are a one-stop grocery store. We allow you to buy from over 10 different types of stores with one single check out.
  • We are not competitors with grocers; honestbee partners with grocers to our mutual benefit through revenue sharing.
  • We are committed to quality - trained, dedicated concierge shoppers and speedy delivery bees deliver your orders within the next hour.