Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ready-to-cook meals delivered deskside for working women



Ready-to-cook meals delivered deskside for working women

Saya Linda wants to bring Smarta’s food to working mums.
Saya Linda wants to bring Smarta’s food to working mums. Athena Zelandonii

Ready-to-cook meals delivered deskside for working women

The concept of ready-to-cook grocery delivery rose to success on the dime of Western office workers returning home late to an empty fridge. But in Cambodia, three twenty-something women have designed a business that tests the model among a new market: Phnom Penh’s working mothers.

The small-scale Smarta Food Store, launched last month, aims to cut down on women’s time constraints, says 25-year-old general manager Saya Linda.

“Working mums have to do their shopping, do their cleaning. By the time they cook, they are already exhausted,” she says.

Linda and her business partners – her sister Saya Marta and colleague Say Lalin – operate a climate-controlled warehouse behind the family home. Inside, fresh meats (delivered from a butcher in Takhmao), vegetables (from three local suppliers) and market ingredients are carefully packed and lined up for in-city delivery.

Ready-to-cook Cambodian cuisine is par for the course at local supermarkets, says Linda, where they are often pre-packaged days in advance. But Smarta’s meals arrive at their customers’ desks just as they prepare to head home – no grocery-run necessary – and on the day they are made.

The businesswomen believe the demand for their new service rests – at least partially – in Cambodia’s entrenched gender norms. Marta, a mother and food-hygiene specialist, was inspired by personal experience.

“Women now, they are [educated], so most of them work. But still, the responsibility for taking care of the family at home is their core responsibility,” Linda says. “If you can’t feed your family’s stomach – no matter how successful you are outside the home – [the perception is] that you’re not a good woman.”

So over the past few weeks, Linda has gone from workplace to workplace advertising Smarta. “I always ask around: How many people? How many girls?” she says.

The idea for Smarta took root in late 2014, and the women tested their pitch last year in front of investors and businesspeople through the Ministry of Commerce’s MOC 101 Incubator. For now, though, they are entirely self-funded.

“We don’t even have the market yet,” says Linda. During its soft launch, Smarta has courted just 15 weekly customers. For now, the service is call-in, with plans for an online system in the works.

But the businesswomen have based their model on wildly successful grocery-delivery startups in wealthier countries – from the US to Southeast Asia. Companies have taken off in Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Taipei. Roger Egan, the CEO of Singapore-based RedMart, estimates that country’s online-delivery market’s annual value at $16 billion.

Replicating the model for Cambodian working moms won’t yield that kind of cash. But the issues faced by large companies – namely maintaining hygienic standards and regular temperatures in large warehouses – also likely won’t be a problem for a small-scale operation like Smarta. Marta’s expertise has proven instrumental.

“She knows how things should be cut, cleaned and stored,” Linda says, and it’s been put into practice in the warehouse.

By the end of the year – and pending investment – the women plan for Smarta’s enterprise to move out of the back of the house and on to a plot of land where they can source their own vegetables, avoiding potentially harmful chemicals.

First, Smarta may face a barrier to entry: the priciest meal is 20,000 riel – about $5 – but the entrepreneurs are working quickly to bring down the cost.

“It’s not about the business making money,” Linda says. “It’s about providing social responsibility to our customers.”

Linda sees that responsibility at the individual level: women returning home to their families, with a slightly lighter burden.

“When they come home, they just open the package and just start cooking.”

Smarta Food Store is now open for delivery. Website: www.smartafood.com. Tel: 093 811 342.

MOST VIEWED

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Inter-provincial travel ban lifted; Phnom Penh and Takmao not exempted

    The government on April 25 decided to lift the inter-provincial travel ban and the closure of tourist attractions across the country, effectively immediately. The travel ban and closures of all resorts were imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19,

  • Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown extended for another week

    The government late on April 26 announced an extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province for another seven days – or longer if residents do not comply with Covid-19 preventive measures and the community outbreak does not subside – until May 5. According

  • Gov't mulls extension of Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown

    The Inter-ministerial National Commission for the Control and Enforcement of Lockdown held a video conference meeting on April 25 to review a draft document on the extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal province’s Takmao town. The meeting was chaired by Minister of

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a