Local app takes on the big boys
Pilot community project in Lat Phrao provides new income for motorcycle taxi riders
While most consumers rely on major platforms such as Grab and foodpanda when they want food delivered, residents living in Lat Phrao Soi 101 Bangkok now have "Tam Sang-Tam Song" ("You Order, We Deliver") -- a food delivery initiative designed to foster community spirit and reduce commission fees.
The "Tam Sang-Tam Song" app, which launched officially on Friday, was developed by a research team from the Institute of Asian Studies (IAS) at Chulalongkorn University.
The project was funded by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation with the aim of providing a financial solution for motorcycle taxi operators affected by income loss during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The lockdown hit so-called "win" riders hard, with many seeing their fares drop by 80-90%, according to Akkanut Wantanasombut, a researcher from the IAS.
"Despite the boom in online food delivery services, they were unable to make up for the lost revenue by riding for food delivery companies," he said.
The university researchers found that though many win riders had joined the major online food delivery platforms, they rarely made much income as they had to pay a commission of up to 15% on the delivery fees they received.
The delivery platform operators also take a commission on the food that is ordered at a rate of 15-30%. Some restaurants reduce the size of their takeaway portions, or raise the price slightly, to account for this.
With that in mind, the Chula team invented the alternative Tam Sang-Tam Song service and tested it using a Line group prior to the app's roll-out among community residents in Lat Phrao Soi 101.
"This scheme was created to showcase that people can help their community economically, and small operators can have their own platform. They do not have to compete against the major operators. They can work and survive on a community level," Mr Akkanat told the Bangkok Post.
Lat Phrao Soi 101 was chosen as it has the ideal elements for a win delivery network -- it is three kilometres in length with seven motorcycle taxi queues.
Critically, there are also 200 restaurants and food stalls and a number of communities and apartments.
As of now, the team has signed up 30 food shops to the service with many more gearing up to join. Researchers are also training the win riders on how to use mobile technology to accept orders as well to improve their service skills.
"One factor that makes online food delivery thrive is that you can control quality. Consumers can complain about late and poor service and our platform has no measure to fine or penalise those riders," said Mr Akkanat.
"However, Tam Sang-Tam Song sets itself apart by not charging any form of commission, either to the shops or the riders," he added.
The project kicked off as a community Line group with riders and restaurants using iSharing and Zello to navigate and stay in touch with with the research team.
But now the app is live, plans are already afoot to expand to a community in Nonthaburi province.
Not only for profit
Chalerm Changthongmadan, president of the Motorcycle Taxi Association who also happens to live on the soi, said the Tam Sang-Tam Song platform is not just one way to earn an income.
"The project helps to boost the relationships of people in the community once they start using our service," he said.
He also expressed his hope that the "Tam Sang-Tam Song" app can become more than a food delivery service.
As many of riders are also rescue volunteers, he said he was investigating ways in which the app could be used by residents to notify them about emergencies within the community.
He said that in future, people in Lat Phrao Soi 101 will be able to use this app to get help, not only food.
"Once people get used to communicating using the app, they can contact us and ask us to get snakes out of their homes or alert us to road accidents," he said.