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Food for thought: Q&A with Benjamin Yang, CEO of Novitee

Written by Edmund Wee Published on   4 mins read

Novitee’s new procurement platform, KoomiMarket, connects food suppliers with F&B businesses.

Launched in October 2022 by omnichannel food services tech platform Novitee and food and agritech company Glife Technologies, KoomiMarket is a new B2B digital marketplace that allows F&B businesses to source and purchase directly from food wholesalers.

KrASIA spoke with CEO of Novitee, Benjamin Yang, who shared how the platform aims to improve the transparency of the food supply chain.

This interview has been consolidated and edited for brevity and clarity.

KrASIA (Kr): Tell us about KoomiMarket and what it does.

Benjamin Yang (BY): KoomiMarket is a digital platform that connects F&B establishments with food suppliers. The procurement process of restaurants has traditionally been anchored on a “paper-and-pen” model, which is not just manually intensive but error-prone.

KoomiMarket is looking to transform the sourcing and purchasing experience for restaurants by leveraging AI, big data, and fintech. This would also catalyze the digital transformation of the wholesale food industry.

Kr: Tell us more about the partnership between Novitee and Glife, and its significance for players in the food chain.

BY: We have a symbiotic relationship with Glife Technologies. The partnership aims to solve a major issue in the food industry, which involves a deep mistrust between food suppliers and restaurant owners. The relationship between restaurants and their food supplier is often an adversarial one. This is happening because both parties lack complete information.

What our platform aims to do is facilitate greater communication between both sides of the marketplace and hopefully build greater transparency in the industry.

Kr: What kinds of technological solutions is the platform leveraging?

BY: We’re leveraging AI, big data, and fintech.

AI can transform the sourcing and purchasing experience for our users. We believe that AI should be applied in B2B marketplaces in areas such as customer support for suppliers to drive better purchasing decisions and optimize the profits of food suppliers and restaurants.

We’re also tapping big data and turning data sets into valuable business insights for our users. This can help them reduce food waste, lower food costs, as well as drive food innovation.

On top of developing fintech partnerships, we are also building our own fintech solutions to provide a seamless payment experience for users of KoomiMarket. These digital solutions can help our users consolidate their invoices and allow them to make payments through a credit card or via bank transfer.

Kr: What are the major challenges facing the food ecosystem amid the adoption of digital strategies to streamline food supply?

BY: Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the food industry was facing issues such as a lack of manpower, higher rentals, and increasing food costs. These are issues that technology can help improve. Having said that, many restaurant owners still have a traditional mindset and want to go back to their old ways of running their businesses.

Another key challenge is a lack of interoperability. Despite more businesses in the F&B industry that are adopting digital technologies, there is a lack of technological integration across the platforms in the sector. For example, companies might be using different accounting software, loyalty programs, and procurement and inventory systems. Hence, digital information flow is fragmented, which can hinder business operations.

Kr: What are some emerging trends in the food tech space in Southeast Asia?

BY: The first trend we’ve observed is in sustainability. Reports have shown that people are making more sustainable and ethical purchases since the pandemic. This is because consumers and businesses are now more aware of the need for food products to have healthier ingredients as well as more environmentally friendly packaging. This is resulting in more locally produced foods and sustainable packaging in the food industry.

Another trend we’re seeing is a greater focus on higher-quality food products. Post-pandemic, more people are paying more attention to their health, including modifying their lifestyles and diets. To cater to this shift in consumer behavior, the food industry is developing better quality food products as well as sourcing sustainable ingredients.

Alternative proteins, which aim to meet Singapore’s food security goals in the long term, are another emerging trend. Alternative proteins can help strengthen the country’s food supply resilience. In fact, Singapore is one of the leaders in this space. For example, it is one of the first countries in the world to approve lab-grown meat.

Kr: Share with us the future plans for KoomiMarket.

BY: We’re looking forward to further collaboration with our sellers to reach out to more F&B establishments. The entire B2B food industry is largely based on an offline model, and as such, we can expect to see more physical events take place where our users can interact with each other.

On the buyer side, we’re also looking to bring to them an improved purchasing experience. We’re developing a simple and intuitive user interface that is easy to use. At the same time, we want to provide our users with a multitude of useful product information to guide their purchase decision.

Essentially, we want to make purchasing and sourcing an enjoyable digital experience while maintaining transparency.


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