Through Dishtag’s quest to inspire foodies around Hong Kong, we’ve been fortunate to meet other like-minded groups that share the same passion in food and food photography. One such group are our friends over at MONOGIC.
Founded in 2020, MONOGIC is a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in F&B, hospitality and lifestyle. We spoke with their co-founders (Alexandra Leung & Kieran Driver) and Head of Business Development & Projects (Calvin Lai) to discuss how MONOGIC came to be and how they tackled the challenges of this year.
Hi guys, can you tell us a bit more about yourselves and your backgrounds?
Alexandra Leung: My name is Alexandra and I am a Co-Founder of MONOGIC as well as Head of Digital Media. My focus is largely on social media marketing and e-commerce, but I also support web and app development. Prior to starting MONOGIC, I was an in-house digital marketer for an F&B Group. My interest in social media started early on while I was in university. I was mostly interested in lifestyle and F&B brands. In my spare time I enjoy writing personal blogs under my social media handle, @bonjourajade, and covering lifestyle, beauty and travel content.
Calvin Lai: My name is Calvin and I am the Head of Business Development and Projects. I work closely with our clients to ensure their digital needs are met and vision executed. I also focus on driving MONOGIC’s growth as a reputable solution provider in the industry. Prior to joining, I was the Sales and Marketing lead at a Hong Kong-based food tech platform. Outside of work, I enjoy documenting my F&B journeys through my social handle @clai_eats. This has been a passion project of mine that has been running for several years now.
Kieran Driver: I’m Kieran, Co-Founder of Monogic and Head of Search. I come from a background of data management, and transitioned into marketing after moving to Hong Kong, bringing with me a data-focused approach to my work. I lead the search engine marketing operations through helping position businesses in front of warm audiences, and connecting people actively searching for a relevant solution or product with our clients.
How did you meet each other?
Alexandra: It’s actually quite funny. We met each other because of food. Throwback to 2018, we were all invited to a tasting. We were sitting opposite to each other (and right next to a big speaker). After around 5 minutes of awkward staring, we decided to start the conversation. “Well, the food was quite good here…”
When did you know you’d make a good team?
Alexandra: From the beginning I always felt like we would be a good match. While Kieran and I are both in digital marketing, we specialise in very different areas. He is all about data, trend analysis and the search engine marketing side of operations. I, on the other hand, am more inclined to focus the content side, social media, web and app development. Our complementary skill sets alone made it a good match. But our shared vision of creating an all-in-one digital service to the F&B industry made it a perfect match.
Kieran: With Calvin on board with us, we can think from a new perspective. We usually think from a marketing or digital perspective, but with Calvin, we would start thinking from a restaurant and business perspective. It’s all about combining our individual expertise to create the optimal solutions for our clients.
Where does your passion for F&B originate from?
Kieran: I’ve always been a massive food-fan, owing to an upbringing around great appreciators of good food, and London’s energetic and thriving F&B scene. Even as a child, I’d be ordering straight from the seafood counters, and trying something new whenever possible. The fantastic Hong Kong F&B industry, with so many unique and interesting concepts and independent restaurants, definitely made me feel more at home in Hong Kong.
Alexandra: I first learned about the industry from my cousin while I was in university. She used to work as an in-house designer for a big F&B group. She inspired me to explore this world and it led to me starting my blog. From there I continued into PR and then digital marketing, but always with an F&B focus. For me the industry is not just about the food, but the passionate people and culture behind the scenes that helps to create these amazing brands.
Calvin: My family was always big on food and I was fortunate enough to find my passion in food from an early age. I continued to pursue this passion through my ongoing blogging life. But it was a short, but sweet, experience at an F&B tech company that really motivated me to develop a career focusing on the F&B industry.
Where does Monogic position itself within the Hong Kong F&B landscape?
Alexandra: Instead of focusing on what we can do, we try to focus on who we are serving. Our services are developed specifically for the industry and our one-stop agency allows us to deliver unique solutions to each of our clients. We like our clients to think of us an “in-house team” for their F&B concepts.
Kieran: Our love for Hong Kong’s F&B scene, and our passion for good food positions us as a partner to F&B businesses that are, understandably, finding
adapting to distanced operations difficult.
We understand that your mission is to help and support the HK F&B industry through some difficult times, can you share with us how you do so and what is your vision on the current situation/future of HK F&B?
Collectively: For the past 9 months we have been witnessing the challenges faced by the HK F&B industry since the first outbreak of the global pandemic. It has been painful for us to see great concepts closing down due to expensive rents and an uncertain future. This was one of the main reasons we started MONOGIC. We wanted to offer solutions that could potentially help brands survive through the difficult times by leveraging our cross-disciplined and integrated F&B experiences. Through hearing about their struggles, our approach has been to view them as “friends” rather than clients. In the current market our greatest strengths have been in providing tech and data-backed integrated marketing and e-commerce solutions to help digitise their businesses, while growing their own communities and sustaining their businesses.
Sadly it seems this will be an ongoing fight for the F&B industry, at least until the world finds a permanent solution to COVID-19. It goes without saying that restaurants must maximise their offerings as much as possible while dine-in services still allowed in the chance that a fourth wave brings a further round of restrictions. That being said, we’ve also witnessed how the F&B world has evolved quickly to counter some of these challenges. Restaurants have become very creative with delivery/takeaway options, with some offering “homemakase” sets and bottled cocktail delivery. Some have gone to great lengths to build their own e-commerce channels to create new channels of revenue that hadn’t existed before, or in some cases moving their business comletely online. With the entire F&B industry affected by the pandemic, we’ve also seen the industry come together and provide support to each other. The smaller local brand especially have come together to develop a community-driven approach.
While the uncertainty remains, we expect the F&B industry to continue to show creative and innovative ways to operate their businesses. With our data-driven digital approach at MONOGIC, we hope to play a big part in helping the industry sustain itself during these challenging times.
You’ve been collaborating with Dishtag for a few months now. Knowing the platform quite well, what do you like the most about us?
Collectively: We have always been huge fans of Dishtag. The community-driven approach is an ideal that we believe in at MONOGIC and it’s great to have a platform to connect with other passionate foodies, as well as with restaurants. What really stands out is the in-app augmented reality camera that helps users take the perfect food photo. This is a great way to inspire those that are new to food photography.
Any advice you would give to other young entrepreneurs who are starting their own business?
Alexandra: Always be humble. Growing up in an age of technology, it’s easy to feel like we know everything. Whenever you meet someone, you will always have something to learn from them. And be down-to-earth. We should always do our best to understand what our target audience thinks while planning our ideas and goals.