KUALA LUMPUR - Online food and grocery delivery start-up Honestbee has offered to help its competitors gain halal certification following the launch of its own halal spin-off in Malaysia on April 4.
Bungkus by Honestbee, a completely “segregated” service that uses a separate fleet of drivers to deliver halal-only meals, is the first of its kind to be granted certification by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM).
“In terms of my direct competitors in food delivery, I’d be more than happy to help them to receive their certification as well,” Afzan Lutfi, Honestbee’s country manager for Malaysia, told Salaam Gateway at the World Halal Conference in Kuala Lumpur, where the launch took place.
“The more parties that can participate in this, the bigger that we are able to grow the [halal] economy and the bigger the market share as well.”
Commercially, the company hopes Bungkus will attract business from Muslim customers who want assurance that their deliveries will not have come in contact with non-halal food in any way.
On a corporate level, halal certification will give restaurants and groceries more confidence in partnering with it.
“It means they do not have to work with non-halal-certified companies that could put their integrity, their halal certification or their brand at risk,” said Afzan.
"If a customer sees a rider pick up a meal and in that same bag is an un-halal meal, that would be disastrous, a PR nightmare. Brands do not now have to subject themselves to that risk. They can get full assurance while working with us because they know in terms of our processes it is backed by JAKIM, it is audited by JAKIM.”
There had been no standard for halal food delivery before Afzan approached JAKIM in early 2018 to ask for certification. The closest category was halal logistics at the time, prompting JAKIM to decide to create a new one for businesses like Bungkus.
The certification heavyweight ended the process in November with standards requiring the complete separation of halal delivery fleets from their non-halal counterparts. Bungkus would also have to be established as a separate business from Honestbee.
It is not a requirement from JAKIM to hire only Muslim riders, though Honestbee asserts that all Bungkus riders are currently Muslim.
“[The standards] mean a different set of riders, clothes, bags, lanyards, different equipment,” said Afzan.
"On the technology side, we’ve had to enhance our platform to segregate the fleet of riders. In terms of how we use our system to assign orders, there is no risk of non-halal meals being assigned to our halal fleet of riders.”
Other food delivery companies, such as GrabFood and Foodpanda, are bound to fully enter the halal market at some point, he concedes. Currently, they accommodate halal deliveries by placing orders in separate bags.
Working with JAKIM while it devised standards for the meal delivery industry has given Honestbee knowhow that can be passed on to other companies when they apply for halal certification.
“We’d be more than happy to help them out. It’s only a matter of time before more certification happens,” said Afzan.
“In the Malaysian context, it is important for the local market, it will come. This is where we want to establish ourselves as the expert, the go-to resource, so when it comes to the minds of the customer and our business partners, they know the best partner to work with will be Bungkus by Honestbee.”
Both GrabFood and Foodpanda have been approached by Salaam Gateway for their response to Honestbee’s offer.
Honestbee said it will not pass on to customers the cost of certification and changes to its operation as a result of the process, and delivery charges will remain the same for its halal and non-halal platforms.
The Singapore-based company is “open” to the idea of expanding halal-certified deliveries to other markets in its eight-country network, though it acknowledged this would depend on local market demand.