Malaysia Entrepreneurship

Not Good Enough

We can never be good enough. The bar gets higher all the time.

The moment I published a post or submitted the final draft for a product description, I always get that annoying feeling that there are better ways to write it. Each time we sent the product catalog to print, I always felt that I could have spend a few more minutes fine tuning it (there’s surely a better font for the title!).

They say you are your own harshest critics. Of course, you should always set high standards for your work. The quality and outcome of your work speaks a lot about you and your values.

But don’t let that paralyze and hinder you from starting a new project.

The key is to make sure the next version is always better than the last one.

2016-11-25T03:48:02+00:00November 25th, 2016|Entrepreneurship|0 Comments

Charting the Future

Though not much of a business plan writer, I recently realized the importance of having a plan for what you want to achieve in your entrepreneurship journey. While it’s true that we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow, that doesn’t mean we can use it as an excuse not to chart the path of where the enterprise will be 10 years down the road.

And while I was fantasizing about where to bring the company, I begin to think along the line of life goals and business goals. I believe we should always put the life goals before the business goals. Not that business goals are less important, but if your business goals are not supporting what you want to with your life, what’s the point then?

To create a valuable business, at least in monetary terms, it could easily take anywhere between 5 to 10 years. And if I am to live to 60 years old, that would be about 8% of my life allocated into this pursuit. My grandpa lived to a ripe age of 98 years old though. So, it becomes pretty obvious that there should be some correlation between what you want to with your life as well as your business.

If one of my goals is to travel the world, it would make sense that my business would allow me to do that at least once every year. It could be a business trip or just a simple getaway, but if my business cannot allow me to even take a few days off, perhaps I am building a business that my life will hate.

I am going to put off my business goals for now while I work on the check list for my life.

2016-01-21T00:37:35+00:00January 21st, 2016|Entrepreneurship|0 Comments

Malaysia Online Marketplaces

It seems everyone wants to play the markeplace game. Who doesn’t?

A marketplace is extremely scalable. You don’t own inventories, you don’t need to spend money on warehouses and security. You don’t need to hire people to pick and pack. A wonderful business model. But like any businesses, if what you offer is pretty much the same thing your competitors offer, it won’t be long you start playing the price war game to get market shar. That’s when you start racing your way to the bottom of the food chain.

If you have been selling on Etsy, you would realize these people are not just out to make money on your transactions or to use your sales data against you (marketplaces are known to source products that are hot-selling and compete against their own sellers). Etsy is serious about helping sellers make a living.

Etsy made a compelling product for the supply side of the marketplace, the supply then unlocked the demand through white hat social media. Etsy’s incredible organic channel is the entrepreneurial drive of its sellers.

The underlying strength of this organic channel is evidenced by Etsy’s repeat purchase rate. That is, the majority of Etsy’s GMS is generated from repeat purchases. Incredibly, in 2014, 78% of purchases were from repeat customers.

Higher revenues for sellers => Higher seller retention => Higher seller personal promotion through social media => Higher visibility for Etsy’s products => Higher GMS => IPO

Nicolò Ungari, What Etsy’s S1 Filing Taught Me About Marketplaces

I totally agree with >Nicolò. And from my experience, eBay is exactly the opposite of Etsy and that’s why eBay is becoming irrelevant in today’s e-commerce marketplace.

On another note, Etsy has seldom, if ever asked their sellers to offer their products at deep discount to attract customers. They understood the economics of things. You cannot keep giving discounts and expect to run a healthy long term business. Let’s face it, all business needs profit to survive and thrive. But marketplaces in Malaysia doesn’t seem to think so- they are always offering vouchers, deep discounts and pricing gimmicks just to get the transaction, often at the expenses of their merchants.

If you are doing your business so you can win the title for ‘The Most Popular Merchant on ABC Marketplace’, by all means keep offering discounts and reduce your margins. If you are like most of the other normal business, then I strongly suggest that you be very careful with the marketing campaigns these marketplaces are requesting you to participate.

You should continue to sell on online marketplaces as long as it justifies the resources you invest in them.

I have been selling on major marketplaces, and the good ones will make sure sellers can thrive using their platform. Because in the grand scheme of things, as an online marketpalce, your merchants are also your customers.

2015-10-11T18:18:52+00:00October 11th, 2015|E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship|2 Comments

Am End Cees

First, we read that JVC is quiting Malaysia and relocating to Thailand.

About 500 workers from consumer and professional electronics devices corporation — JVCKENWOOD Malaysia Sdn Bhd — were laid off as part of the Japanese company’s plans to relocate its operations, shutting down its plant here.

News of the factory’s official closure today had been making its rounds over social media, attracting netizens to lament on the workers’ plight and the state of economy.

While some described the sudden closure as being unfair to the workers, checks by The Rakyat Post revealed that this was not the case.

“The workers were not laid off suddenly as they were already notified of the closure earlier this year,” a factory worker said.

While some of the staff were retrenched, appropriate compensation was paid and JVC had also assisted others to secure employment elsewhere.

“They told us that the factory operations were moving to Thailand,” said the worker.

Source: The Rakyat Post

And then we read about the possibility of Shell’s winding up their IT operation here in Malaysia.

Around 850 jobs could be at stake at Shell offices in Cyberjaya as the Anglo-Dutch oil major consolidates its IT functions at a new base in Bangalore, India.

While no decision has yet been made, a senior officer dropped this bombshell during a town hall meeting with staff in Cyberjaya late last month, said sources.

The Bangalore move could also affect some 1,000 third party contractors if they are unable to relocate to India, the sources said.

Source: RoyalDutchShellPLC.com

And we always read about how our government provides tax rebates, free trade zones and many other perks to get these multi-national corporations (MNCs) to setup their operations here. These MNCs provides job opportunities and brings money to invest, so goes the logic.

Anyway, I’m rather amused by the way these MNCs just close shops like that, citing higher cost of operation as their main reason. In a way, as a business strategy, I totally agree that when the environment becomes hostile, a business should always relocate to a more business-friendly environment, e.g. cheaper labor, lower tax rates etc.

But bear in mind, these corporations do not have any loyalty to the Malaysia, or it’s likely they pledge no allegiance to any countries. They will stick around as long as the countries are conducive to their operation. Instead of spending resources to attract these MNCs, I suggest that we put more effort to build up the local businesses in Malaysia, specifically the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These local businesses are the ones that faithfully contribute taxes and keeps the economy going even during the worst recessions. They are also likely the business segment that is responsible for the majority of the employment in Malaysia.

They are a lot of reasons why we should boost local businesses. Perhaps you can name a few.

While there’s nothing wrong with making Malaysia a lucrative place for foreign corporations to setup shop, but I really think that there’s nothing much being done to make life easier for local businesses.

2015-07-06T01:54:31+00:00July 6th, 2015|Daily Observations, Entrepreneurship|0 Comments

A Marketing Experiment while Getting My FujiXerox Machine

There was this computer hardware company (we will call them Company AT) where I bought a few entry level Xerox printers 5 years ago. And ever since I checked the ‘Subscribe me to the latest promotion…’ check box, I have been receiving their newsletters. And I did not opt-out of the mailing list, which probably says alot about my level of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).

They started sending me emails, and the links in their emails were directed to their website at AT2U.com

And in the beginning of those emails, their website was either out of service, or was hacked. I actually took the trouble to call them up and alerted them about it, but they don’t seem to be able to fix it. Or nobody seemed bothered about their website.

And a few more months passed. They seemed to have decided that their website could be an important sales channel to complement their retail operation. And that’s when the SMS starts coming in, and I had to admit I was quite impressed at the level of customization that was invested in these promotional SMS- “Get Your Xerox Phaser 3010 Toners at Only RM225.00”.

They actually remembered which printer I bought.

And I did buy those toners from them.

And just today, I bought a bulky Fuji Xerox CM305DF for our new office. But I did not buy it from them. I got it from a retail store that I have never heard of in the mall.

Then, as I drove back to setup the printer in the office, I kept thinking what went wrong with Company AT’s marketing? They’ve been very consistent with their Petronas and KFC Vouchers. They occasionally sent me warnings about toners and printing supplies price hike which I find very useful.

But why didn’t I buy the CM305DF from Company AT? Where was my sense of loyalty to this company that has been persistently sending me product updates and offerings? I was just comparing their prices online with other online portals such as Lazada and Lelong yesterday, and they’d one of the lowest pricing.

The salesman that was attending to me wasn’t very knowledgeable and not at all helpful in closing the sale. He was lucky I was a determined buyer who had done his homework.

And so, I ran a list of possible factors that could have caused me to buy from the unknown retailer:

1) There was no additional value buying from Company AT. No member points, no rebates. Maybe free delivery, but I am already in the mall, so it makes no difference.

2) There’s a lack of human interaction when I am shopping online. There are a lot of other questions I threw to the salesman where I got almost instant answers, e.g. price of the toners, similar price products, cost of ownership, special features etc. I couldn’t get all these from the online stores, at least not instantly. And if you are shopping online at 11pm, the phone numbers don’t work either. I guess fast and timely human response is very important to get me to part with my money. Impulsiveness at work here.

3) I could get physical with the products. I tried to carry a few of the printers to gauge their weight, opened up the compartments and paper trays, checked out the cable connectivity. All these help to reinforce the idea of possessing the printer, even though I hadn’t pay for it yet. I was also able to instantly visualize how the printer would fit in my office. And there’s no way these information can come so easily from product photos on the web.

4) A retail space can be a very controlled experience. The moment I stepped into the retail shop, instead of being distracted by irrelevant banner ads, annoying Facebook game invites, I am surrounded by products that the retailers wants me to see. The retailer had somehow meticulously designed the surroundings to give him the best ROI per square feet. It’s like walking into a trap :-)

As a guy who runs a few e-commerce businesses, I am particularly curious in identifying what goes on in the mind of a potential customer who in the end, after all the marketing and communications I’ve done, still end up not buying from me. A returning customer is one of the best assets a business can have. If I can keep improving the odds of my customers coming back over and over again, we are on the right track to a healthy bottom line.

2015-06-21T03:07:27+00:00June 21st, 2015|E-Commerce, Entrepreneurship|0 Comments