In 2018, when Honestbee first launched Habitat, a cashless supermarket with food stalls, we posted on TLD that we did not understand Honestbee.
A few months later, when reports emerged that Honestbee ran into serious cashflow problems, we reposted the blog.
Since then, the company started appearing regularly in Singapore’s business media and Souhteast Asia’s tech media, with stories from CEO misappropriating funds to creditors going into a law suit.
The latest is that Habitat, which is shut amid the coronavirus fears, might not resurrect because investor talks have stalled. The company is allegedly mulling over the possibility of pivoting the concept to Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs).
Why do people go to a supermarket
The ‘cashless’ supermarket with food stalls by itself does not make sense – nobody goes to a supermarket because it is cashless. Besides, most supermarkets in Singapore allow cashless payments anyway.
Also it is not a new concept to have a supermarket with food stalls. Although Alibaba’s Hema in China sounds inspiring, they themselves are far away from profitability, in a much bigger market where they have a lot of leverage (in particular Alibaba’s user and payment ecosystem).
Many existing supermarkets have mastered design thinking and consumer psychology. They are not easy to beat.
In Singapore, aside from more news coverage, Habitat does not have any of the advantages Don Don Donki and Cold Storage have:
Turning it into QSRs might prolong its breath; however, it is hard to imagine Honestbee QSR be more competitive than Grab, Delivero, Foodpanda and Travis Kalanick’s City Storage Systems, which is already operating in Singapore.
Can Honestbee survive? Yes – but definitely not with the current story.