Marshall Islands Correspondent

MAJURO, Marshall Islands — The first online purchasing and delivery app has been launched in Majuro.

The new app combines internet-based orders to local restaurants and retail stores with delivery service in the Marshall Islands capital.

The app — — has been several years in the making and is the brainchild of Daniel Kramer and his Six9Too Productions company, which specializes in music recording, FM radio broadcasting, concerts and logistical support for major events. “I was trying to see how we could use the internet besides for marketing events,” Kramer said of the new app. “We got into it and developed it as an Uber-type of thing.”

It is still early in the rollout of the new app, with only a handful of restaurants and retail stores available on the app for purchases. “It’s mostly been a word-of-mouth thing up to now,” Kramer said, adding that he has purposely moved slowly so he and his team can iron out any issues with the app. “We’re now getting more vendors on board,” he said.

His long-term vision is to expand the use of the app into Guam and Federated States of Micronesia markets.

For the name of the app, Kramer used the Marshallese word for buy/sell which is “wia.”

The company has received a strong local response to the app as its availability has become known. “Someone posted online about a meal from Wellness Center (one of the vendors serviced by the app) and it went viral,” Kramer said. “We had 500 people sign up.”

Kramer said he’s been reaching out to new vendors and the response has been good, with more expected to sign up for the new purchase and delivery system.

Wiahut delivery man Patrick Poquita with Giff Johnson’s lunch, delivered to his office Dec. 2.
Photos by Giff Johnson.

Vendors who sign up on the system can post menus, photos and details of their products for sale in the app. Customers can shop at any vendor in the app that is “open” for business.

It’s not only Majuro residents taking advantage of the new app and delivery service, said Kramer. Two different customers who live in the United States use the app to buy meals for their mothers from the Wellness Center virtually every day, he said. This is another way that Marshallese living off-island stay in touch and help family members.

Another local business, K&K Island Pride Supermarket, has a link with a U.S.-based Micronesian who has a website that allows islanders living in the States to place orders to K&K in Majuro and Lei-Side Store in Weno, Chuuk. Unlike the wiahut app, this other ordering service is website based — — and does not include the delivery option. Edward Fowler, manager at K&K Wholesale, said the website generates significant business for the store from U.S.-based Marshallese who purchase food items for family members in Majuro to collect.

In contrast, the wiahut app allows customers to have food and other products delivered to their doorstep. Once an order is submitted by a customer on the wiahut app, the vendor receives notification and when it clicks the “accept” command, a further notification goes to Kramer’s delivery staff. They then generate an alert to the customer confirming the order and the estimated time to arrival of the order.

I tried out the service while researching this story. Using the app, I placed an order to a local restaurant and the delivery time for the food matched the notification from the delivery person provided on receipt of the order.

A hurdle for the Six9Too delivery team is that there are no street addresses in Majuro. Kramer said this is why the app is designed with GPS and Google maps programs so that customers can locate their house or office on the app, as well as provide any additional written directions. In Majuro, the satellite imagery makes locating a home and then delivery relatively easy for a driver who may be unfamiliar with a labyrinth of houses in certain urban areas. Once this information is plugged into a customer’s account on the app on the initial order, the next time around they simply click “home” or “office” as the delivery location and the system has it on file.

“Delivery is a challenge because there are no street addresses in the Marshall Islands,” Kramer said. “The app uses satellite images and a Google map overlay so we can see the actual places for delivery. We haven’t had any hiccups so far.”

The app is available for download on Google Play and the Apple Store. “With this app, a person can set up a store today and start selling — today,” Kramer said.

The company charges customers a $5 delivery fee and an 8% processing fee for each order. mbj