Sime Darby Plantation



The Robin Food app emerged as the winning idea from the Sime Darby Young Innovator’s Challenge. The idea really came to life when a dedicated team at Sime Darby Plantation took to operationalising the idea.

The concept of a food surplus management app is not unheard of, especially in France, the UK, and US. The obvious thing to then do, would be to directly replicate the system here in Malaysia; but by doing so, the team would have neglected crucial elements of the local culture that made the app work well for its users here.



Through their empathy research, the team came to realise a key factor that separated the Malaysian landscape from its Western counterparts – the profiles of their end users. Unlike the UK whose end users are low income families, the homeless and other possible direct benefactors of the service, the end users in Malaysia were really NGOs and supermarkets.

The team discovered a few reasons for the disparity:

  1. Market maturity – NGOs in the UK and US have had the chance to develop more advanced infrastructure whether it is storage facilities or availability of full time staff. The NGOs operating in Malaysia however, largely rely on volunteer-based recruitment where scheduling becomes much trickier to work around. We also do not have very established food storage capabilities to preserve food for extended periods of time.
  2. Funding – NGOs in the UK and US receive a steadier stream of funding from multiple foundations whereas funding in Malaysia is more sporadic, relying on limited government funds and to a certain extent, CSR efforts from corporates.
  3. Consumer base – the consumer base in the UK and US are also more open to reaching out directly to NGOs to a greater extent than it is here in Malaysia.

Design Thinking gave the team the awareness to pivot the project toward the right end users considering the local context.

Tesco’s CSR initiative being a directive from its headquarters in the UK, necessitated tracking and monitoring of the food surplus for reporting purposes.
Before the introduction of the app, Tesco would rely on manual recording. This system posed problems in the following areas:

  1. Created an added administrative burden for the already limited resource involved.
  2. Coordination on what is available versus what is needed was poor.
  3. Due to the nature of how food is collected and distributed, there was no end to end tracking of food from store to plate.

Learning about this offered the team an avenue to look at opportunities to enhance the existing process.

To get a better grasp of their users’ journey and pain points, the team had to approach two distinct parties: those who had a surplus of food, and those who received and further distributed the food. The team approached Tesco because it already ran a food surplus distributing initiative as a directive from its headquarters in UK. On the food dispensing end, the design team approached The Lost Food Project, Grace Community, Kechara Soup Kitchen, and Food Aid Foundation.


As Design Thinkers, the team immersed in the typical end-to-end journey of what it’s like to be a person working on different parts of the distribution chain. Their empathy fieldwork led them to the insight that their app should not only make tracking, data collecting, and analytics a lot less cumbersome, but that it should also create a system of accountability between donors and distributors for food donated and food received. The analytics from the app goes beyond just numbers. It equips donors and distributors with the necessary knowledge to take action more proactively.

As with the Design Thinking process, the app was prototyped and tested using wireframes that end users could interact with. Design Thinking gave them an avenue to co-create solutions with their end users, so that the end product addresses their needs. Testing and prototyping helped them decide what information should be reflected on the mobile app versus what is seen on the web interface (quick facts vs. details).


Food Aid foundation currently directs the management of this app and serves as its main parent. Ever since, they have expanded their network of donors and distributors to include hotels, restaurants, and manufacturers.

Tee Ee Lynn, project lead of this initiative said that Design Thinking offered them a way to scale up the initial idea. Chooi Yew Vern, a project team member expressed that Design Thinking helps orient a person’s thinking from “what do we stand to gain from this?” to a more user-centred “how would our solution make people feel?”