SINGAPORE – As the coronavirus pandemic surpasses four million cases around the world as of 18 May, many of us are finding new routines staying at home, managing workload, ordering groceries and doing household chores all at the same time.
According to the international market research company IGD Asia, online grocery sales in Asia is developing at a rapid pace, with the market set to grow from its current value of US$99 billion to US$295 billion by 2023. The report also highlights Singapore, as our country has established itself as the most advanced online grocery market in Southeast Asia.
“Competition here is fierce; retailers are building scale by attracting more customers, while also investing in technology for long-term growth. Redmart has been migrated onto the Lazada platform, as a move towards expanding online grocery services to other countries in Southeast Asia, while FairPrice On is making use of robots and data analytics to improve its service,” added Shirley Zhu, Programme Director at IGD Asia.
As we continue to distance ourselves at home, many of us have embraced home delivery and click-and-collect technologies to shop for groceries. Unfortunately, because of the high demand for online grocery delivery, most of us are facing difficulties in not being able to secure a delivery slot.
Software engineer Shweta Sharma, 27, faced the same problem of limited delivery capacity. So she decided to take matters into her own hands, and built a grocery delivery slots finder during the partial lockdown in Singapore.
Upon sharing her application on Facebook, her post went viral and attracted about 100 comments praising her for the useful mobile-optimised web app, called ChopeCart.
In an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle SEA, Sharma, who works for Affable, a local startup company, tells us: “I built ChopeCart to essentially alert me once any grocery store had available slots; which meant that I wouldn’t have to wait helplessly trying to get a slot. Currently ChopeCart tracks available delivery slots across Giant, Cold Storage, Sheng Siong, Fairprice, Everyday Vegan Grocer, Sasha’s Fine Foods, Waangoo, Redmart and Little Farms.”
Sharma named the tool ChopeCart, which means reserve-cart in Singlish. “Given that I was targeting Singapore users, I felt that ChopeCart would strike a chord with the people here,” she adds.
As part of her full-time job, Sharma builds large scale data applications for a living and was trained as a computer science engineer at the National University of Singapore.
She built ChopeCart as part of a weekend project with some help from a friend. She’s currently managing this project on her own.
As a user of online grocery services, she couldn’t imagine life without it: “It not only saves you time but also provides access to a larger food variety.”
During Singapore’s stepped-up safe distancing measures, Sharma realised two problems occurred: popular online grocery stores were always out of slots and stocks as they were over-subscribed; and new/smaller grocer stores had emerged but without any discoverability. “I personally came across some such stores via WhatsApp groups, where friends were constantly sharing available slots,” Sharma shared in a screenshot below.
For ChopeCart to work, Sharma used a combination of public APIs and direct feed from stores to collate this data.
“Once the basic tool was developed, I shared with my friends first for their feedback. Their feedback was encouraging and unanimous - the tool did one thing, and did it right. I figured a lot more users had the same problem and started sharing the tool in Facebook Groups.”
So far, her app has attracted various store owners in Singapore to be listed and she is working on adding those requests over the next couple of days.
“I hope services like ChopeCart make online grocery buying more relevant and seamless. With stores running out of stock, we hope ChopeCart can soon also help users find stores that have the products they need and thus balance the consumer demand across stores,” Sharma said. She is confident that consumers will have more luck securing delivery slots now with her app.
As for plans to expand, Sharma hopes to prioritise listings for all Singapore stores first before moving on to other markets.
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