IF you’ve ever wondered how strongly personal developments can influence one’s entrepreneurial journey, just take a look at the team behind Wedding.com.my.
Initially launched in September 2013, the platform aggregates wedding-related content and serves as a bridge between wedding vendors and couples getting married.
In an email interview with Digital News Asia (DNA), cofounder Petrina Goh shares that the inspiration came from her own frustrations when planning her wedding.
“I was clueless and confused with all the information and recommendations we got from fairs and friends. We then did our research the traditional way, travelling around bridal streets in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, spending all our weekends looking for the right wedding vendors,” she says.
Goh describes Wedding.com.my as the first social commerce platform for weddings in the country, saying that in addition to ideas, it also serves as a marketplace for traditional brick and mortar businesses to sell their wares.
About 300,000 couples tie the knot every year, and for an enterprise trying to nab a share of the RM7-billion (US$2.2-billion) wedding industry in Malaysia, one unique selling point is its visual search feature.
“We are a visual search engine that enables brides and grooms to find wedding ideas by colours, themes, categories and ethnicity,” says Goh.
“We inspire females with massive beautiful visual content and help them to make decisions in the purchasing and hiring of wedding vendors via our online shop,” she adds.
Goh says that the platform operates on both fermium and premium models and is the only wedding platform that is monetising via both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) channels.
“For B2B, vendors pay an annual subscription to enjoy full access to all features, including unlimited leads-generation; while B2C revenue comes from profit-sharing for successful online e-commerce transactions,” she says.
Goh claims that the platform currently has about 600 vendors listed and enjoys a member base of more than 100,000.
“We are experiencing about 20% growth on a month-to-month basis with 150,000 unique visitors a month,” she says, adding that the platform is targeted at the female demographic who are Internet-savvy and spend money online, with 80% of its current user base being Malaysian females aged between 18 and 40 years old.
Wedding dresses to baby diapers
Given that the experience of getting married sparked this first venture, it comes as no surprise that the team’s new platform, Motherhood.com.my
, had a similar source of inspiration.
Goh shares that she went through a similar experience when she was expecting her first child, embarking on a mad hunt to get both information and the material things required to welcome a new addition to the family.
“As a first-time mommy myself, I was excited about my pregnancy but had to go through the phase of confusion and was overwhelmed by all the choices. There wasn’t a single platform that could offer me reliable local content with the convenience of online shopping, especially during my confinement period.
“We realised then that there is lack of reliable information for women when they enter a new stage in life – be it getting married or entering motherhood,” she says.
Motherhood.com.my was launched in August and Goh claims “amazing” growth, with the platform averaging a 45% month-on-month increase in users, and since launch has garnered over 6,000 members.
Conceived as a social commerce platform for mothers, it intends to bring together modern advice, local content and e-commerce to a single platform to give parents ‘the inside scoop’ on fertility, pregnancy, birth and babies.
Monetisation of the platform will be via subscription fees from vendors and brands; advertising from brands; and e-commerce revenue sharing.
“We also aim to help ‘Mompreneurs’ leverage on our platform to sell handmade items or other baby-related products to our community,” says Goh.
In a similar vein to how Wedding.com.my was built, Motherhood.com.my plays in a space currently populated by traditional portals that serve as either directories or forums for discussion.
Goh claims that her platform is the first online resource in the country that focuses on local content, via partnerships with reputable print and online publishers.
“We are collaborating with BabyTalk, SmartKids and Smart Parenting at the moment, to share free content with our readers. We are also working on Malay and Chinese-language content collaborations,” she says.
With 500,000 new babies born every year in Malaysia, the team estimates the market potential to be just under RM5 billion (US$1.5 billion), just on newborn spending alone.
“On advertising, we are experiencing a shift from traditional advertising in print to online and TV advertising. Total advertising spend on baby products is estimated to be approximately RM3 billion per year,” Goh says.
Core crew and future ambitions
The team (pic)
behind all this numbers only nine, including the three-person management team which includes Goh, Kelvin Leow who serves as chief technology officer, and Stacey Lee who heads sales and marketing.
It remains a self-funded enterprise with all founders retaining their original equity stakes.
Leow shares that the company hopes to close its Series A funding within the next month or so, with two investors already committed to the round.
Goh has an “interesting education mix,” holding degrees in finance and electrical engineering and has clocked up time at consulting firm Accenture, along with a stint as an investment banker.
She shares that her foray into entrepreneurship also stemmed from the realisation that she does not enjoy routine jobs.
“Entrepreneurship allows me to pursue my passion and gain personal fulfilment in making my vision become a reality. Identifying a problem, being able to solve it, and seeing a happy customer keeps me motivated, especially knowing that what we do impacts the lives of many.
“Seeing that our product actually helps couple plan their dream wedding, or receiving testimonials from awesome members and merchants, simply inspires us continue to do more,” she says.
It is this impact, in providing both localised information and relevant products to Malaysian women (and men) via online channels, that makes Wedding.com.my and Motherhood.com.my prime outcome examples of the nation’s Digital Malaysia initiative.
Specifically, it addresses a key thrust to change the consumer mindset so prevalent in technology use, to Malaysian individuals and businesses producing as much as they consume from digital technologies.
The Digital Malaysia programme was unveiled in 2012, seeking to foster a cohesive digital ecosystem and accelerate the nation toward a developed digital economy by 2020. The programme is spearheaded by national ICT custodian Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC).
With the ultimate vision of being the leading female portal in South-East Asia, guiding women though all the important life stages, the next year (or two) looks set to be an extremely busy one for the team.
Goh says that improvements to the user interface is on the priority list for the next three months for Motherhood.com.my, with an upcoming campaign that will be conducted in conjunction with a baby fair taking place in November at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
“Our short-term plan is to launch and ramp up our online shop by year-end. By middle of next year, we would like to explore regional expansion to another country in South-East Asia,” she adds.
Talent for a budding company is always a pain point, but Goh says that recruiting talent to join the team is only the second toughest challenge.
“The toughest is convincing talent not to leave!” she quips.
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