Photos credit: www.temasek.com.sg
In June, Singapore was honoured to have the billionaire founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, over in our tiny red dot, where he graced an event sponsored by Temasek. He talked about the bigger picture of technology, the impact of technology on jobs and the virtual economy, among others. We are glad to present a sharing session.
JM: It’s quite interesting to see how you leveraged on Taobao (TB) for your Interior Design business. How do you come up with this concept?
MSS: We started off as an e-commence platform trading furniture. After a few months into our business, we realised that there was an increasing number of buyers shopping for furnishings from TB. This posed a real threat, not just for ‘brick & mortar’ retailers but also e-tailers.
Instead of viewing this as a threat, we have chosen to innovate and explore on how we can leverage on the platform. Firstly, buyers know how to buy from TB. But they do not really know what to buy. This is where our styling and sourcing abilities help to value-add to our clientele. Secondly, unlike clothing or accessories, buyers do not buy bulky items on a regular basis. This is where our experience in logistics with regards to importing furniture can help to eliminate all the risks and uncertainty attached to shopping for furniture from TB.
JM: Interesting. What if Alibaba is able to eliminate all the risk? They are able to improve their platform in such a way that there’s no need for even a third party forwarder or shipping company. Buyers are able to communicate directly with the seller and resolve any issues directly through their platform. Do you think it will affect your operation?
MSS: Yes, it certainly does, albeit in a positive way. We will leverage on this improved platform. Currently, we have invested in a middle-man over in China, to assist in pre-shipment checking procedures so as to reduce the risk of importing all our purchases. This intermediary also helps to resolve any post-shipment rectification, so we are able to provide after sales services to our owners should any issue arise.
With this improvement, we are able to reduce our costs, transferring the savings over to our owners. Even with this improved infrastructure, the same issues still exist. With so many products on TB, owners know how to buy but they still do not know what to buy.
JM: How about if one is able to purchase “Decorator Services” on TB? The online Decorator will source and provide a list of items with individual item links for owners. All they need to do is pay a nominal styling fee.
MSS: We will hire the TB Decorator! That is if the TB Decorator is indeed talented and matches our expectations. Sourcing is just one of the job scopes by our Decorator. We still require our Decorator to be physically on site to carry out styling procedures. A lot of times, there will be last minute free play on site, on how to best style up or deck out the interior.
JM: Well thought. Good luck!
Highlight of Ma's speech above
*We look forward to meeting with the man soon!*