iFood Macau founder Aeson Lei

SME Corner: iFood Macau

[In this segment, Macau News Agency will seek to talk with local SMEs about the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on their business]

Considering that local residents have been repeatedly urged to stay home and avoid eating out, one would think that the Covid-19 pandemic would lead to an increase in business for food delivery companies. However, for local company iFood Macau it meant having to diversify its business.

Created in 2011, iFood Macau is an e-commerce mobile application brand offering food delivery, catering promotion, restaurant consultancy and brand building for local food & beverage businesses.

According to the company’s founder, Aeson Lei Iam Leong, the number of restaurants registered on the platform has increased by 20 per cent to some 2,000 establishments and 2.5 million users, overall food deliveries have decreased 50 per cent in the last months.

For Lei, one explanation could be an increase in stockpiling of food at home by residents, as fears that the pandemic could impact the food supply to the city, with residents also ending up cooking at home to avoid going out.

However, as restaurants started struggling with cash flow, iFood Macau started seeing one of its business services expand by 30 per cent, as the company also assists restaurants to obtain loans through Ant Financial, the Alibaba Group affiliate responsible for e-payment service Alipay.

“During this period, restaurant owners need extra money to keep paying their rent and employee payments since they have no business on the street. We do many referrals to the Alibaba bank. That part of the business is increasing,” Lei told MNA.

“This way more SMEs can have extra money to keep alive in these hard moments”

According to Lei, iFood Macau currently employes about 20 people, including locals and mainland China employees, and while it has been able to maintain most of its local employees some of its Chinese labour have preferred staying in the mainland.

The local businessman also defended policies announced by local authorities to assist in covering bank loan interest rates and the tax rebates for SMEs, they have “helped his business a lot” during the crisis.

In February, the Macau Government announced tax benefits for companies and the population, a line of soft loans for SMEs and social support measures to reduce the economic impact due to the coronavirus.

Exceptional measures include exemption or reduction of taxes, the opening of a line of loans with subsidized interest rates, the strengthening of social support, as well as the launch of electronic consumption vouchers.

SMEs can also request the support of MOP600,000, free of interest, being obliged to pay the debt in the following eight years.

Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng yesterday stated that, apart from the measures already announced, his administration is not currently contemplating more measures to support SMEs struggling with the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.