Everyone knows the famous success stories of Grab or iMoney, but there are countless other young entrepreneurs who don’t just understand how to use technology but also how to build technology.
David and Jessica Buri are twins from Miri who founded a family storage business called Storage Bloc.
“We figured that as house prices keep climbing in KL, the pressures on storage space would increase accordingly,” says David.
“And sure enough, our market research revealed that the storage business in KL is quickly reaching capacity, and there was a lot of room for growth.”
By custom designing their own website, online booking, inventory management and tracking systems, the Buri siblings found their niche with both valet storage and a fulfilment service for product-based startups.
“Convenience is everything these days,” David asserts. “We can offer an end-to-end service from pickup, to packing, to itemising, to delivery and storage.
“Any system nowadays must offer choices, be user-friendly and immediately responsive. Our valet storage customers can order boxes via email or phone and set up pickup/delivery times at their convenience, while our e-business clients can monitor their orders, deliveries and stock levels in real-time.”
Business is good, and Storage Bloc is now looking for their second, larger, warehouse as operations gear up to expand.
What many startups have in common is the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to new economic and technological conditions.
Shane Loh, who opened a boutique marketing and branding consultancy four years ago, concurs.
Shane can see how the financial pressures of a changing market presents an opportunity for smaller, more nimble startups like hers to thrive.
“Budgets are a lot smaller these days. Many businesses cannot afford either in-house marketing teams or to hire the major firms.
With the internet, they can easily find out what things actually cost and go straight to the smaller companies to do the work directly and quickly,” Shane says.
“At Ideastogo, we can offer a marketing eye to any service a client needs. It may start with wanting a logo or an event but we can add value by working closely with clients to build their brand,” Shane concludes.
For handmade shoe designers Yoke & Theam, the ability to leverage on technology has been a crucial factor in how their startup has been able to go beyond traditional manufacturing, and experiment with offering new products to the local market.
“We like that our e-commerce site is automated from order processing to order fulfilment where we link our system to the warehouse team.
“It is a 24-hour operation even if you're on a holiday. This makes it different than running a physical shop,” Yokie Theam says.
The internet revolution has made conducting business much simpler on every front.
“I think it’s easier to start a company now than in the past because all the information is available online,” Yokie continues.
Knowing your target market
Having graduated from a startup to a successful SME over the last decade, cosmetics entrepreneur Audri Zin has seen how dramatic changes can bring both opportunities and pitfalls.
With cosmetics and fashion being one of the earliest adopters of online technology, the sector is now highly competitive, and it’s proving progressively difficult for new players to establish a sustainable foothold.
“Social media, although beneficial, were disruptive to us, since small players can easily launch their own brands on the weight of just social media followers,” Audri shares.
“Customers these days are very fickle and are open to a lot of choices, and they are easily swayed by the promise of new products.”
In order to deal with this increasing saturation in the market, Audri’s brand, Ronasutra, has focused on growing a loyal fan base by targeting customers among those looking for natural, chemical-free and halal products.
“When we produce honest and high-quality products, customers reward us by recommending to their friends and family, and that’s how we grew the business,” Audri enthuses.
Today, the Ronasutra range is available online as well as in physical stores, with a network of 300 dealers across the region.