The hawker industry in Singapore has been a staple source of rich food and tradition for the past decades. It has introduced a lot of generations to the culture and diverse food history of the country. It has allowed tradition to live on as well as teach young entrepreneurs the ins and outs of running a business of their own.
But things are starting to change.
Douglas Ng, one of the younger generation of the hawker industry talks about the challenges the food sector is facing as times change and demand may not be met with supply. Douglas may be young at 25 years old but is already considered a veteran hawker having started about 8 years ago. He chose to sell fishball noodles being inspired by his grandmother’s recipe which took him about 4 months to master.
Mr Ng has always been intrigued by the Food and Beverage industry at a young age and after getting out of National Service, he decided to enter the hawker industry. Armed with his grandmother’s recipe for fishball noodles, he preferred to be a hawker for two reasons – it was less capital intensive and as straightforward as a business can be in terms of operations.
Image credits: Douglas Ng
Main challenges in the hawker industry
Mr Ng broke down the biggest challenges that beset the industry into four main points. The first is manpower where regardless if the salary range is increasing, people are still reluctant to start a career in the industry. This is mainly due to the fact that being a hawker requires hard work and entails long hours of operation. They also need to have the passion for it to succeed in the business.
Rental is another challenge the hawkers are facing on a regular basis because of a very simple economic equation. As the cost of living goes up, the standard of living increases as well. With all the prices increasing, their rent for their stalls is included. The sad part is that they cannot simply pass on the increase to their consumers for fear of losing customers.
The food price has relatively been behind the increase in the standard of living as well which has plagued a lot of hawker food businesses and prevented them in increasing their prices. The fourth biggest challenge that the industry has is the fact that their cost of ingredients is already half of their selling price so factoring in all the other expenses could greatly diminish the income they derive from their business.
Demand and supply in talent
Mr Ng was quick to point out one sad fact about the industry which is already suffering a slow death. What people doesn’t know is that as there are new and young talents coming into the hawker industry either to pick up on a family business or start a new one, the retiring ones are alarming. There are more people exiting the industry compared to those that are coming in.
That is why it is important to create more awareness on the hawker industry and in the process, attract a bigger percentage of the younger generation to carry on the tradition of the food industry. One thing the younger generation can be proud of is how the quality of food is delivered by hawkers which is best summed up by Mr Ng saying “we will never compromise, we rather not do it.”
This article is written by the Crowdfunders Editorial Team. In Asia, Crowdfunders.Asia is a leading portal on providing news related to crowdfunding, start-up, property and business. It is operated by CoAssets.com. CoAssets is South East Asia’s first listed and largest real estate crowdfunding platform. If you have any Crowdfunding news or stories to share, please email [email protected]