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How This Malaysian Start-up Uses AI to Scale Food Delivery

dahmakan creates and delivers high quality, healthy food right to your doorstep

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 30 Jan 2018

How This Malaysian Start-up Uses AI to Scale Food Delivery

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There are many food delivery platforms in Southeast Asia, but perhaps only Malaysia’s dahmakan can lay claim to also making the food that they deliver to consumers. CEO and co-founder Jonathan Weins believes this is what differentiates dahmakan from other platforms and marketplaces.

“Owning the entire value-chain from food production to delivery means that we can control the quality of the product fully and can improve the experience quickly, [unlike] food delivery marketplaces [that] are reliant on the varying standards of individual restaurants. By combining efficiencies of large scale food production such as those found in airline catering with machine learning routing technology, we create a food delivery experience that is [of] higher quality and better value than any other alternatives,” says Weins.

Weins explains that in a vertically integrated model like dahmakan, they are scaling three different businesses: food production, delivery, and growth. They have been able to address this challenge through tech infrastructure that supports all parts of their operations and automates many processes, making it easy for them to scale.

Weins says that dahmakan’s target market are working professionals and busy families in metropolitan cities across Southeast Asia. The value proposition is simple: high quality, healthy food delivered to your door in a timely, affordable manner.

The company relies heavily on organic growth.

“Our strongest marketing channel is through word of mouth and referrals and we have focused on making a food delivery experience so magical that customers share this on their social media and tell their colleagues, family and friends about it,” he says.

dahmakan also offers subscription packages in addition to their one-time orders, and Weins says upgrades from customers has also been largely organic.

“Our prime customers have a real need for the product, they understand the core value proposition of eating better quality food and saving money and time. These could be busy executives who need to work over lunch, or working parents who want to spend more quality time with their family when they get home,” he says.

Others have taken notice of dahmakan’s success. In 2017, the company became the first Malaysian start-up to be accepted into Y Combinator, and has raised $4 million from investors across Silicon Valley, Europe, and Southeast Asia. These funds have helped fund development of their dahmakan Intelligent Operator System (DIOS), a self-learning system based on 24 different artificial intelligence components.

The company is also standing behind their tech. “We are so confident with the level of on-time delivery rates, that we now offer a delivery guarantee to customer — the only food delivery company apart from Domino’s to do this,” says Weins.

Apart from launching in two new markets next year in Southeast Asia — one is already in testing, while the other will follow in the third quarter of 2018 — dahmakan will continue to focus on improving its tech.

“We’re already using simple machine learning techniques to forecast sales and reduce food waste, and soon will be integrating this with an AI-backed PLM system to increase efficiency in the kitchen. Connecting the production and delivery operating systems to optimize the workflow will give us even more efficiency gains that will give us yet another competitive advantage in the space,” says Weins.

Weins advises other entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia to build a global network to solve local challenges.

“Without this mindset, we probably wouldn't have even considered to apply to Y Combinator which typically only hosts US start-ups in every batch. The same for fundraising, we raised funding from local, regional and international investors to tap into their local networks for later funding rounds as well as hiring and mentors,” he says.

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