Design-focused online store makes Malaysian debut
Still seeking investments to fuel regional ambitions
SINGAPORE-based startup HipVan has launched its maiden foray into the Malaysian market, the first stop in its regional growth plan.
“We’re excited to launch HipVan in Malaysia, showcasing exciting designs from local and international brands and emerging designers,” said Deborah Wee, HipVan cofounder and head of merchandising.
The Malaysian store is a replica of the company’s flagship Singapore store “with a slight twist” in merchandising to cater to the local market.
“We think customers in Malaysia are really going to love the designs we carefully curate for them and the experience of shopping on our friendly online store,” she added.
HipVan specialises in offering design products in categories such as furniture and home essentials, fashion and accessories, art and collectibles.
The online store is intended to offer design lovers a place to shop and discover design inspirations for everyday living. It is also offers a platform for emerging designers to sell their products to a wider audience.
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), HipVan cofounder and chief executive officer Danny Tan said that the idea first came about because all the founders hail from a shared background in e-commerce and wanted to do something “we know well.”
Along with Wee and Tan, HipVan’s other cofounders are Shobhit Datta and Kevin Vo. All four met while working at Rocket Internet in 2012.
“When looking at the current online offerings, we realised that it was not easy to find well-designed products in furniture, home essentials, and even fashion and accessories. We decided to start HipVan to solve this problem,” said Tan.
The team’s mission is to work with local and international brands and emerging designers to make great designs accessible to consumers in South-East Asia.
Launched in Singapore in April, the site currently boasts over 12,000 registered users in the island-republic and has crossed the 5,000-user mark in Malaysia. Tan claimed that the Malaysian site appears on track to hit similar user figures as its flagship store. HipVan also currently features approximately 2,200 products from 250 brands and designers.
“We started HipVan to put a smile on people’s faces through great designs. This is why we only feature designs that we absolutely love, and sell these designs at great prices to make them accessible to our customers. Ultimately, great designs are for everyone, and we can all do with a more smiles in our lives,” said Tan.
It is similar to well known US-based online store Fab, which also offers design-centric products for consumers, and Tan claimed that the company does not have a close competitor in the South-East Asia region.
“Strangely enough, our biggest competitors are probably big chain stores that sell generic and poorly designed products,” he said.
In terms of its business model, Tan (pic) said that it is similar to any other e-commerce store, with HipVan making a profit on the products sold.
When asked what is HipVan’s differentiator, Tan noted that the biggest innovation is probably in the way products are presented to its customers.
“We place a huge emphasis on telling the stories of the designers, brands and products that we feature to help our customers understand what and why they are buying.
“This is very different from traditional e-commerce companies where the strategy is to flood the site with generic products and compete on price and convenience,” he claimed.
With its entry into Malaysia, HipVan is just getting started with its regional growth plan, and intends to bring its friendly design store to more countries in South-East Asia in the near future.
“Malaysia is our first attempt at growing HipVan beyond Singapore and hence we approach it with a fair bit of excitement and caution. On the one hand, we are quietly optimistic; on the other, we know that every market in South-East Asia behaves very differently and so we are learning a lot from our launch so far,” said Tan.
The company is currently self-funded with the founders retaining 100% of the equity.
“We recently took a small angel investment but we're not ready to disclose the figures yet as the funding round has not closed,” he said.
Tan added that the company is looking for seed investments of between S$700,000 (US$ 550,000) and S$1.5 million (US$1.18 million).
Asked what has been the biggest challenge, he noted that it's “always a roller coaster ride when you start a company but the benefit of experience helps.”
And the roadmap for the next six to 12 months of HipVan’s journey? “Keep growing!” quipped Tan.
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