Gone are the days where we have wait for the stores to open so we can buy items we need. With technology as an enabler, we can now walk out at all times of the day to purchase drinks, tidbits, salmon and even pizzas from vending machines. We spoke to Ryan Wong, Co-founder of Vendibles to understand how the vending machine business model works.
SGLS: Why and how did you jump onto the vending machines bandwagon? How many machines do you have and what do yours sell?
Ryan: I co-founded Vendibles back in 2017 when I was in my second year of Polytechnic alongside my partners. Back then, it was our curriculum’s requirement to start and manage a business and we wanted to run a business of a larger scale and one that solves existing retail problems such as high rental costs, manpower and operation overheads. In addition, we noticed that part-time students who came to the polytechnic at night had difficulty purchasing food, beverages or essential items since the shops were all closed. It was then that we saw how vending machines could solve these problems. What started as a school project then turned into a full-scale cluster of over 30 vending machines in Singapore Polytechnic from 2017 to 2019. Currently our vending machines offer face masks, crafting kits and sustainable products, among many others.
SGLS: The name “Vendibles”, has a nice ring to it. How did the name come about and why?
Ryan: We wanted to create a brand that is relative to what our specialisation is about and also something that everyone can remember easily. We would term the products in the vending machine as ‘vendibles’ or in saying that something is ‘vendible’.
SGLS: Which are your favourite Vendibles machine(s) and why?
Ryan: All the vending machines are my favourites since we take into consideration many factors before we curate the products. Furthermore, we run on a co-share model where one vending machine would comprise of products by six different vendors, hence, all our machines have a good mix of items spanning categories such as sustainable goods to handcrafted gifts and even jewellery. In this Covid climate, one of our best-sellers is actually face masks. However, we are seeing more traffic drawn towards retail products as retail shops start to decline.
SGLS: What are some of the challenges in being a vending machines operator, especially for machines that deal with perishables, such as food (if it applies). What are some of your learnings?
Ryan: The first challenge we faced in dealing with food products was in maintaining and ensuring the freshness and quality of the food. This involves close tracking of the item’s shelf life and also to utilise air-conditioning for the products if required. The second challenge for dealing with retail items is to ensure that the products are suited for our demographics. This involves research and a keenness in keeping abreast with trends. For example, adopting cashless options as Singapore moves towards digitalisation. The second learning I had is to consistently innovate and streamline processes to improve the experience for customers and to make our vending machines more accessible to businesses of every size.
SGLS: What is your market share like? How do you differ yourself from your competitors? Any plans for expansion into other countries?
Ryan: At this juncture, we do not have enough statistics to generate market share. We differentiate ourselves through our co-shared vending machine model, and in the products curated. Essentially, we aim to lower the barriers to vending machine solutions for vendors. We have plans for expansion overseas, however, due to the current economic climate due to COVID-19, our plans have been put on hold.