6 July 2020
AS Raja Ahmad Fauzan Raja Hassan browsed through his phone, a message pops up. It’s from his coffee vending machine app, notifying him that one of his kiosks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is running out of beans.
Upon seeing the message, he orders his staff to go to the machine to top up the ingredient.
While his staff is on the way there, he taps on the proprietary app to activate the machine’s self-cleaning feature.
HIGH-TECH COFFEE MACHINE
This high-tech coffee vending machine is Fauzan’s creation through his startup company Coffee Star Malaysia, which he founded more than a year ago with the objective of letting Malaysians enjoy real expertise coffee at affordable prices.
The engineer-by-training technopreneur says he wanted to be different in the coffee business, not just by making a high-tech coffee vending machine, but also in selecting the beans used in his machine.
“Our objective is not to compete in the already crowded space of the coffee business in Malaysia.
“We wanted to be different. That’s why we came out with the machine,” he says, while showing the workings of the Coffee Star machine.
Fauzan says the coffee machine is not built locally. It’s just like Apple, where the United States company owns the technology, but its products are manufactured elsewhere.
“While I hold the technology innovation behind it, the machine is assembled in China, with parts from all over the world.
“For example, the grinder is from Switzerland, and the canister from Italy,” he says.
The coffee vending machine Fauzan created may look similar to normal coffee vending machines, but the workings are very different.
“We introduced a concept called ‘connectec coffee’, where everything is done through the cloud system. The machine is controlled through cloud and my technicians will know when to top up the coffee, etc.
“Even the payment system is cashless. When we designed the machine, we asked ourselves if Malaysians are ready for cashless transactions.
“We took the leap of faith. Since a year ago, our machines do not take cash anymore. They only accept mobile e-wallets and credit cards, hence the name Coffee ATM,” he explains.
With the current Covid-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing, this contactless mode makes sense and is more practical.
MADE FOR MALAYSIAN ENVIRONMENT
Fauzan says the difference between his Coffee ATM and other machines is that the former is uniquely designed in the country and tailored to the local environment.
“Besides the earlier mentioned cashless payment mode, our machines are without any holes and gaps to prevent insects such as flies or cockroaches from going in,” he adds.
Everything inside is completely enclosed. Even the door is constantly locked using a magnetic system.
When a customer buys a cup of coffee, the machine will unlock the door once the coffee is ready. The lock is engaged after the coffee is taken out.
FAIR TRADE COFFEE
Besides creating a high-tech coffee vending machine, Fauzan also wants to make sure that the beans used in his machines are fairly sourced from growers.
For this, he partnered with coffee connoisseur Ronny Kiekens of the Puro Fairtrade Coffee.
“It is certainly an exciting time for the coffee industry now that consumers are increasingly caring about the environment and welfare of third-world farmers, as well as developing sophisticated taste requirements,” he says.
The Fairtrade Organic Puro Coffee brand has proudly taken its socially-responsible espresso marketing two steps further, with a product that bears a combination of fairtrade certification and rainforest conservation through the World Land Trust (WLT).
Uniquely, two per cent of revenue generated from the sale of Puro Fairtrade Coffee will be channelled to protect precious rainforests worldwide and ensure that third-world growers get a fair and sustainable deal.
Fauzan and his team took 10 months to design their vending machine, while working with suppliers and partners.
“The hardest part was incorporating cloud technology into the system. There are no physical buttons on the machine, just a touch screen,” he says.
The machine also allows one to customise the sweetness of the drink.
“This can be useful for people who need to monitor their sugar intake,” he adds, while demonstrating how it is done via the touch screen monitor on the machine.
Another challenge, Fauzan says, is connecting the vending machine to the Internet for the mobile payment system to work.
“We talked to various partners like Boost, Grab, AliChat, WeChat and others to design the mobile payment system. Since we have machines in KLIA and klia2, we need to work with international e-wallet service providers too,” he says.
Coffee Star machines currently have 18 payment modules. Its Coffee ATMs are currently located at both KLIA and klia2, the National Heart Institute, Technology Park Malaysia, KL Gateway Mall, i-City Central Mall and Astro Studio.
Recently, in recognition of frontline workers fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, Coffee Star placed some of its vending machines at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang and Sungai Buloh Hospital to provide them with free coffee.
The machines dispensed more than 10,000 cups of fresh coffee since their installation last April.
Another feature of the payment system is the ability to detect a QR code to dispense coffee.
That system, according to Fauzan, can be installed at offices so that companies can control the coffee allowance for staff.
This new normal, he adds, will stay. Fauzan is also contemplating a vending machine with facial recognition technology to dispense coffee.
“That’s technology… Whatever you can imagine can be built,” he says.