Jump In With Joonaak: Interview With Co-Founder, Leakhena Long, About SADIF and Much More

Last week, we had a lovely chat with Aniwaa’s Co-Founder and CEO, Martin Lansard, about his own experience being one of the first batch of investees for the Smart Axiata Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF), as well as his company’s early days growing the business to what it is today and what people in the Kingdom can expect from them in the near future.

In this second instalment of the SADIF Interview Series, we had the opportunity to meet up with Joonaak Delivery’s Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO), Leakhena Long. She shares with us how her startup business has evolved since its launch, lessons learnt along the way; as well as what we can expect from Joonaak post-SADIF.

Leakhena Long, together with fellow Co-Founder and CEO of Joonaak, Jay Kong
Leakhena Long, together with fellow Co-Founder and CEO of Joonaak, Jay Kong

For those of you who may not be sure what Joonak Delivery does, they are basically a local startup company that focuses on providing local deliveries and e-commerce solutions to business here. They engage in this sector with the aim of offering last-mile connectivity between the people of Cambodia and local businesses; all while continually integrating technology and develop effective solutions of superior quality and value to help businesses grow and expand.

Under their line of work, they cover deliveries ranging from Business Distribution Services, Online Shop Deliveries and Fulfillment solutions, which include warehousing and packaging.

Besides that, the company prides itself in the promise of presenting time-saving, stress-free and trustworthy delivery solutions that also are efficient and cost effective. This, in turn, helps businesses have a higher growth in sales as now, they can put all their focus on value-adding to their products for the people and not constantly worry about how to distribute their products to their consumers, efficiently and safely.

Joonaak Deliveries provides businesses an easy and convenient solution to distributing their products.
Joonaak Deliveries provides businesses an easy and convenient solution to distributing their products.

The following interview has been edited for clarity, length and flow.

The last time we did an interview with Joonaak was back in 2016, can you just give us a refresher on the inspiration behind your innovation?

Leakhena (L): We saw how e-commerce was growing, we saw that more people are buying stuff and selling; but there was no actual delivery service at that time. It was only food deliveries, so we saw that there was this missing piece.

Shop owners did everything by themselves, so they could not just focus on growing their own company. When ordering things, customers also had to meet sellers at certain places to collect their items. We felt that this was not the right way for both owners and customers. So, we introduced Joonaak, which is all about convenient deliveries with joy, helping to make the whole process easier and more efficient.

Also, can you share how the innovation has evolved and grown since the beginning?

L: Basically, we finally launched our web application for internal use around late 2016. This is to help us with our backend office and back-office issues.  Also, it is used by merchants to check their inventory and track the products they deliver using our service, as well as receive invoicing.

Joonaak’s Web Platform
Joonaak’s Web Platform

How has the reception been like ever since the launch of your innovation?

L: They like it because it helps them to see everything that they have ordered, especially those who have a lot of packages. They don’t have to keep on coming back to ask “How is my package now?”; they can just go straight to the (platform) to check the status.

It is just a bit of a challenge now because we only have a web app (at the moment). Some of the users and merchants do not have any access to laptops or desktops; so we just recently made the website more mobile-friendly. We cannot make it a mobile app yet as we need to test it out first.

As a business, I am sure you have definitely faced other challenges along the way besides what you mentioned in the previous question. What are some of the other challenges you have faced and how have you tried to overcome them?

L: Firstly, we definitely want to implement more technology such as a mobile app as said previously; but as a startup, we also have to think if we build it, does it fit to the customers’ needs right now? Will the customers actually use it or not? So, we have to test and validate the service because we are different from the normal tech companies. We are more like a service provider, so we need to make sure that our service is good first, then we integrate the technology to help our (customers) and make them use it.

Secondly, (the market’s knowledge about how deliveries work and their needs). Some people do not fully understand, like for example; in other countries when they buy stuff, they know that they have to wait for at least two days. However, here (in Cambodia), when they buy things, they want it right away. For our service, we do have express service and all that, which consumers have to pay more for but they do not want to. Furthermore, our deliveries only happen during an open gap hour, for example around 3 to 4pm, and some people do not understand that. This makes it a bit hard.

Stability and growth is another challenge. We have to stabilise our operations, but at the same time, we have to always look at what part we have to improve and what part we have to grow at. Many businesses and many startups will face, maybe one year, where they kind of fail. For us, we strive to stabilise and grow when we look at (our needs at hand).

Since the end of last year, we actually planned to raise funds for 2017. Planning everything in advance and going through the process (step-by-step is what helps us overcome these challenges faced).

I am sure you have your very own competitors as well, what does Joonaak do to differentiate yourselves from the competition?

L: We are not just a local delivery service; we offers different services too, such as e-commerce solutions. For now, we offer warehousing and packaging; so for the online shops, they can just pass the packages to us and we will take care of the rest. They only have to focus on themselves.

Most notably, Joonaak was recently chosen as one of the three first batch of investees for Smart Axiata’s Digital Innovation Fund (SADIF). How did being chosen as the first few investees feel like?

L: We are very excited because after the first two years, our initial investment was starting to die out already. We want to grow even bigger, expand more and implement even more technology in our operations; and SADIF is the one who can help us with our business growth.

Following this investment, what are Joonaak’s plans for the future?

L: With the new investment, we are planning to use the money for further expansion and technology for more optimisation and easy usage for users and shop owners. We are planning to add more features to our web application and we will also finally release our mobile app within next year.

As a startup yourself who has achieved quite a bit so far, what advice do you have for other aspiring startups out there right now?

L: For the beginning, I would say that you really have to test your idea with the market first, then implement your idea at the right time. Some ideas may not work for now, but it may work later on. Secondly, it is all about the team. You need to find the right team because it is all about having the same vision and the same (idea) of what you want to achieve. It will be a struggle if you cannot work together. Also, funding is important.

Speaking of funding, what advice do you have for startups looking for the right kinds of investors?

L: For me personally, before we got chose by SADIF, I also went through various fund managers and investors. (So, from personal experience), the point is that you need to see if they just want to invest in your money and what their money back because in startups, it is not as if you can get your money back right away. It’s not about making profit right away; but for some investors, they think, “I put in $100 now, I should get $1,000 back” and that is hard for a startup team to work with.

It’s also about the company’s vision. Do (the investors) believe in what we are doing? Do they really believe in our products? If they do not believe in what we are doing, your company may get forced into a different direction and in the end, the team will fail because you will go into a direction you may not actually want. In some cases, some teams may even start to re-think their business idea and think they are not right.

Most importantly, along the way, you should educate yourself on funding; such as how you should talk to or pitch to potential investors, what is the evaluation, how is the negotiation. Some startups do not think in advance about how long these funds are going to last, especially if you need to raise money, you should think in advance.

With that, we wish Joonaak the best of luck for their future endeavours and we cannot wait to see their mobile application launch in the near future, as well as how they will continue to re-shape and evolve the delivery and e-commerce market of the Kingdom! For more information on Joonaak, do visit their website here or head on over to their Facebook page here.

Also, don’t forget to stay tuned to this last instalment of this series coming up next week as we will be hearing from Morakot’s CEO, Khuon Sophort!