Robots and animatronics, for all their amazing capabilities, have found their renaissance during the pandemic, with business owners in the hospitality industry finding themselves at a loss when it came to hiring workers.
Amidst rising hygiene concerns, the situation allowed robots to thrive in the public view. Seeing this, local robotics company, Xtrike Robotics stepped in with their resident hospitality robots; some of which you may have seen zooming around restaurants and your local ‘mamak.’
One robot that’s taken the market by storm is the Pudu Bellabot, an intelligent multifunctional delivery robot. Pudu Bellabot was an award winner at the Good Design Award 2022.
Known for its multimodal interaction system and adorable cat-like appearance complete with smart expressions, Bellabot is already gaining popularity among consumers and industry players.
At the helm of the company is Jotham Hooi, Co-founder and General Manager. With experience as the Head of Retail at DHL eCommerce Malaysia, he decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship with his founding partners after taking notice of the limits of the F&B segment where robotics could potentially play a vital role.
The start-up prides itself on being the primary distributor for Shenzhen-based robotics company Pudu Robotics and aims to bring awareness to incorporating robotic solutions into the hospitality sector. With all the right tools for success, many would be surprised that the company is still in its infancy, having only been established in 2022.
While business owners are somewhat open to welcoming robots into their operations, there is still a bit of uncertainty about how these robots can help them.
To ease the adoption, Xtrike Robotics does a thorough analysis of the client’s business to build up a business solution where the robot can be incorporated into their process, of serving food to the customers.
“We always position ourselves as problem solvers, and the reality is that robots can't do much for a business if owners are not open to adopting the change and allowing collaboration. Therefore, it is our job to ease them into the process.”
To soothe their concerns, Xtrike has developed a business model that allows owners to choose between a sort of trial run of the robots by renting them for an affordable monthly fee, or acquiring full ownership.
Despite the possibilities that robots like Bellabot could offer the hospitality industry, it’s put some on high alert. A sentiment that is shared across the economy, many workers are growing concerned that they might soon be replaced if robots prove to be a more efficient and valuable asset. “This is one of the most prominent challenges we’ve encountered when marketing our products to business owners.
With this worry about what this could mean for the future of human labour, Jotham gives some assurance that a future where robots and animatronics take over every facet of our lives is still a distant dream.
“In spite of what people might perceive about that possibility from movies, it will be a long time before we reach that point in time. In truth, it’s far too expensive to adopt currently,” explains Jotham.
He goes on to say that even though we’re only seeing robots slowly integrating into the market in the last couple of years here, we are only the latest in a long line of countries that have accepted robotics. In other parts of the world, high-tech robotics have always been the next step in our road to societal development, with Japan being at the forefront of this evolution for more than a decade.
“Malaysia is still relatively new to the concept, but I would say that we’re on the right track. The aim isn’t to replace human labour as we still rely heavily on it. The purpose of the robots is to take up at 50% of the workload to create more efficiency.”
At the moment, the local market is home to only a select few companies focused on robotics, but Jotham predicts that this could change in just a matter of years. He teases that the company wants to collaborate with other local robotics companies to upgrade their bots to provide better solutions for their clientele.
Moving forward, Jotham and his team are set on their objective to educate the community about robots and make them comfortable with the application of robotics. Xtrike has taken a hands-on approach by having their team of experts guide business owners through the process.
“It’s still a distant dream, but it’s a very exciting time for the robotics and hospitality industry, and we’re very excited about what the road has in store.”