Dahmakan, a vertically-integrated Malaysian meal delivery startup, announced today that it has acquired Polpa to enter Bangkok. Dahmakan was the first Malaysian startup to participate in Y Combinator and recently received a $2.6 million round of funding earmarked for its expansion into new markets.
The company, which was launched in 2015 by former Rocket Internet executives, says it now delivers tens of thousands of meals each month in Kuala Lumpur, where it is based, and Bangkok. Co-founder and chief executive officer Jonathan Weins told TechCrunch that Dahmakan plans to venture into other Southeast Asian markets first, including Jakarta, Singapore, Hong Kong and Manila, before tackling East Asian countries like Japan and Korea.
Polpa was founded in 2014 by Julian Timings and Prongfa Uennatornaranggoon, who will join Dahmakan’s team. Polpa will continue to operate under its own brand in Bangkok.
“Polpa has incredible founders and we have been in touch with them for over a year. We shared the same excitement and wanted to do something much bigger together, so when it came to an acquisition, it made sense because they are complementary to us,” says Weins.
Polpa shares a similar business model to Dahmakan that helps them differentiate from “traditional” food delivery startups like Foodpanda (which was formerly owned by Rocket Internet) and Uber Eats. Self-described “full-stack food delivery” companies, they handle almost all parts of their business operation, including food preparation and logistics, in-house.
In order to make that possible, Dahmakan pre-plans menus a week in advance, offering a choice of several meals each day that customers can order a la carte or with discounted package deals. To make large-scale meal production and delivery efficient and affordable, the startup relies on its proprietary machine-learning routing technology. The system allows it to produce and began delivery of more than 1,200 fresh meals in an hour, or a “four times higher efficiency than the industry benchmark set by Chipotle,” Dahmakan claims. The company also says its delivery cost is five times lower than traditional food delivery companies.
As it expands, Dahmakan will need to compete with other vertically-integrated food delivery services, the most notable of which is probably Grain in Singapore. Weins says Dahmakan’s AI-based technology will be its key differentiator, because it keeps costs down while ensuring quick deliveries. Dahmakan will also be up against Foodpanda, Uber Eats and other services that offer food from a wide range of restaurants, but Weins says the benefit of choosing from Dahmakan’s pre-planned menus is quality control. Many of its chefs formerly worked in luxury hotels, including Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, and create meals that the company says would be 30% to 50% more expensive when ordered from restaurants that aren’t able to utilize its economies of scale.