VMO Rocks co-founder, Vincent Kok spoke to Business Today on how the company continues to brace through the storm, thanks to the diversifying vision the company had from its early days
By Poovenraj Kanagaraj
In 2019, VMO Rocks saw an upward trajectory in their business operations and that was considered a good year. The company, established 2014 in a bid to close the loop between F&B venues and consumers has since grown from a mere network of 20 event venues to presently housing over 2,000 listings on its platform, generating over RM180 million in event enquiries for F&B businesses.
However, with the Covid-19 outbreak, Vincent Kok, chief eventgelist of VMO Rocks, co-founder of VMO Rocks, one of the country’s largest event and venue booking platform is currently facing a predicament.
Businesses nationwide are witnessing an increasing amount of pressure and impact, even more so when the government had announced the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 16. Since then, the country has seen another two week extension until April 28.
“There’s definitely a huge shift. With zero events, there’s a clear business impact,” says Vincent.
Being an events central company, Vincent saw cancellations of birthday parties in both March and April one after the other and adding on to the cancellations, weddings had to be postponed. Several couples pushed their weddings to the year-end while others decided to be more cautious and saw 2021 as a more optimistic time for a wedding.
While the virus outbreak and the MCO had amplified challenges for many businesses in the country, Vincent on the other hand saw new ones sprout out of the crisis. The new challenge came in the form of facing zero revenues.
“I didn’t think it would lead to a MCO being announced in Malaysia initially. But we were already preparing as we saw others being cautious,” Vincent says. Immediately after the announcement of the MCO, Vincent and his team acted fast and started discussing to partners and operators on their next move.
They decided to add new features to their existing services.
VMO Group, known for its events and venue platform, VMO Rocks, is also home to Boozeat, the country’s largest beverage on-demand platform and according to Vincent, the first e-commerce platform in the alcohol industry. Another service that was part of the Group is Food Advisor, a platform that helps users to discover the best eating spots with over 500,000 page views monthly.
“There are two things people are doing now, they are drinking and eating lots of cakes.”
With the events segment of the company generating zero revenue, Vincent says the two segments of the company had picked up traction.
“We had also built a food delivery section the very next day the MCO was announced. The section partners with food and beverage operators allowing site users to be re-routed to the merchants for food delivery or self-pickups services,” Vincent told Business Today.
The idea of building a food delivery section on their website came about when existing food and beverage merchants came to Vincent and his team to promote their business online.
What started with only seven listings on the section, there are over 200 merchants on the site today. Vincent says the numbers are still small but they are growing and the additional service that popped up during the crisis will stay on even after the ongoing crisis subsides.
VMO is not the only business in the country that has since shifted their focus into food delivery services. With existing players in the sector, more new players are adding on the service into their operations as well.
“We have always wanted to cover the F&B sector. Food Advisor was our initial step into getting people into the food discovery pace. The current situation however has accelerated us into the food delivery service segment,” Vincent says.
“The MCO has enabled us into talking to hawkers and it has to an extent benefited both sides. There is a shift taking place for so many people,” Vincent opines, as he believes most street hawkers would not have thought about moving onto the online space prior to the crisis.
“What we get to do is mass reach out to the hawkers and that is new to us,” Vincent says.
Seeing that diversification has been part of the company since its early years, Vincent points out that one of their strength and advantage has been having few sites that complement one another. Prior to the MCO, the sites recorded half a million views per page and over 200,000 users a month.
Currently, Vincent and his team are seeing the numbers soar high and with the addition of the food delivery service, the chief eventgelist says everything has ramped up.
“The government has also been doing all they can. In comparison with the 1997 financial crisis, the Malaysian government during this crisis has gone above and beyond to help SMEs,” Vincent added.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced a RM 10 billion third stimulus package targeting small and medium enterprises (SME) after an outcry from the community for the lack of aid.
Moving forward, Vincent says things will change for the short-term. “People have short-term memory,” he says. He believes certain habits will change and delivery services will become more important. He also says that while fear will be around when it comes to dining among large groups of people, Vincent is of the opinion that there will still be diners who would eventually want to be able to dine out.