A Brand’s Story: BAEMIN Builds a Culture of Conversationalists
In 2010, Woowa Brothers, a South Korean developer of smartphone applications and advertising platforms, officially launched BAEMIN. Short for ‘Baedal Minjok’ or ‘Nation of Delivery’, the app was developed with a mission to utilize the power of information technology for the food delivery industry. The arrival of BAEMIN was a breath of fresh air thanks to an introduction of interactive and innovative processes for merchants, riders and consumers.
From launching, BAEMIN’s vision has continued to evolve, while staying true to the brand’s original purpose of bringing delicious food to people wherever they are. This is the premise upon which BAEMIN has expanded its product line with ‘Baemin Riders’, ‘Baemin Kitchen’ and ‘Baemin Store’. Now hailed as South Korea's most beloved delivery app, BAEMIN has put Woowa Brothers' name on the business world’s map as a shining example of a tech unicorn.
BAEMIN’s growth since entering Vietnam in June 2019 with their Ho Chi Minh City service has maintained an electric pace. It now covers 18 districts in the city, with an average delivery time of 20 minutes, and provides earning opportunities to tens of thousands of local riders and merchants in its partner networks. Recently, the app has extended its service to Hanoi.
In celebration of BAEMIN Vietnam’s first anniversary, we visited their new office on an invitation of Mr. Trung Thanh Nguyen, the COO of BAEMIN Vietnam, to gain insights into the company’s work culture and its journey to success.
What made you decide to join BAEMIN?
I have a lot of passion for technology and startups. Before BAEMIN, I had the good fortune to work with a number of tech startups that were in later stages when I came on board. Joining a company that was in the setting-up stage for its Vietnam business was a very interesting opportunity for me.
My prediction was that FoodTech and FinTech (Food Technology and Financial Technology) would experience tremendous growth in Vietnam in the next 2-3 years, so when BAEMIN, a FoodTech company with great potential and cultural fit, made an offer, I gratefully accepted.
How did BAEMIN tap into its 10 years of experience to thrive in Vietnam?
When BAEMIN entered Vietnam, we relied on our core strengths: ability to discover our customers' needs and interests, as well as the ability to create unique products and content.
We wanted to go above and beyond what's required of a food delivery service by making the user experience exciting, so we designed an exclusive set of fonts for all communication, and a character called ‘Mèo Mập’ (the Fat Cat) for the Vietnamese market. As a result, BAEMIN's interface is considered by customers to be very unique and user-friendly.
How does Vietnam’s FoodTech scene differ from South Korea's? Has the company had to make any strategy adjustments to succeed in the local market?
South Korea is a country with developed infrastructure and logistics so we mostly worked on communications, advertising and customer care there.
Meanwhile in Vietnam, FoodTech is a relatively new concept, meaning companies in this field have to invest a lot in building their own delivery fleet and managing it. Hence our strategy to invest resources into operation and logistics. We’ve also partnered with a number of third parties to provide diverse and effortless payment options for our Vietnamese customers.
What is BAEMIN’s approach to building your local rider team?
We are proud to have developed some of the most thorough rider recruitment and training processes in the industry. Currently, to become a rider with BAEMIN, applicants must register online and take an online test. If they pass, they are invited to our training center for on-site training sessions, and take another test. Only then, riders are activated and can start working immediately.
We also attach great importance to designing rider uniforms that are comfortable and stylish so that they leave a lasting impression. We want our well-trained and polite riders to be remembered by the customers as the industry's gold standard.
What is BAEMIN’s approach to establishing relationships with merchants?
In a new market like Vietnam, most restaurants are still unfamiliar with the concept of online sales. The most practical thing that can be done now is to give them an online revenue stream first.
Then, our representatives will walk the restaurant owners through the application, helping them to reach a wider audience and achieve greater revenue growth. At the same time, we constantly improve our merchant service to ensure prompt communication and timely payment, so that their working cash flow is smooth. These are some very basic but necessary steps for the restaurants to gain the confidence and to establish closer relationships with us.
BAEMIN will continue assisting merchants in setting up online operations and listing products on our platform. Making the jump from offline to online requires them to embrace changes to be able to adapt to a wider and more varied set of customers — which is challenging. During this transition, BAEMIN hopes to be a reliable partner, providing knowledge and tools that merchants can take advantage of.
What are the cornerstones of BAEMIN’s work culture?
Our definition of an ideal hire is someone who is “self-leading, confident and outstanding”. We put great emphasis on attracting talented people by offering a multicultural working environment with young staff from Vietnam, South Korea and many other countries. Each of them has their own flair and brings something unique to the table.
At BAEMIN, more casual chatting with colleagues is encouraged, not frowned upon. We believe in face-to-face interactions, rather than communicating through long email chains.
To help immerse team members in the spirit and work culture here, we keep our Credo, a handbook with core values, role models, and work culture, in circulation, as well as sharing other guidelines to help the staff work effectively at BAEMIN.
We believe in the unifying power of a shared firm culture. It allows us to maximize our efficiency while also empowering the staff to make values-based decisions. Even in daily affairs and communication, employees can refer to the Credo to modify their behavior and make decisions accordingly.
In a rapidly changing FoodTech scene, how do you maintain an innovative workforce?
BAEMIN is a fast-growing startup, so team members have a lot of opportunities to grow. While each employee is recruited for a specific job, the learning, promotion and moving to other departments will mostly depend on his or her abilities and interests.
In response to the rapidly changing FoodTech scene, we encourage our staff to stay up to date with customers and the market, so that they understand how it might affect the nature of their work. They must also learn from each other and from the industry to burnish their skills and serve customers better.
For the newcomers, in addition to training sessions, we organize mandatory field trips. This is an opportunity for them to directly observe the market, chat with riders and merchant partners.
Every week, each department is provided with customer, restaurant and driver feedback (voice of customers, voice of merchants, and voice of riders).
Every month, we have Town Hall meetings, where the management shares important milestones. Here employees can also directly interact with and pose questions to the leadership.
What are some of the biggest successes BAEMIN has achieved in its one year in Vietnam?
We regard success as a long journey and not emphasize short-term milestones.
For me personally, the most memorable moments are when people around me share their experiences with BAEMIN. Like when a colleague posted on social media over the weekend saying how excited he was about the job and that he couldn't wait to get back to work on Monday. It's the warm feeling when our merchants write good reviews about us on forums. Or that time when customers commented that our video clip was the best ad they had ever watched.
Lastly, can you talk about BAEMIN Vietnam’s plans in the near future?
We have just opened our service in Hanoi in June. Even though we’ve been there for less than a month, customer excitement in Hanoi is much greater than when we first launched in Ho Chi Minh City.
For the rest of 2020, BAEMIN will continue to expand in other cities in Vietnam. As we grow, our commitment to new and existing merchants remains: we are here to support and provide them with expertise and tools to be successful in the digital era.