Keeping cultural traditions alive: There’s an app for that
By Lum Ka Kay October 21, 2015
- App reminds users of traditional Chinese festivals, to expand to other cultures
- Also acts as a mobile marketplace for festive supplies
MIX culture, tradition and technology together, and what do you get?
“A mobile marketplace that educates and reminds us of our cultural events and at the same time, serves as platform for users to purchase festive supplies – all without having to leave their homes,” says Feng Lim, cofounder and chief executive officer of CultureGuru.
The young entrepreneur is also the founder of Startup Johor, a community for entrepreneurs in the southern Malaysian state of Johor, just across from Singapore.
Lim and his team were the winners in the AngelHack Kuala Lumpur hackathon earlier this year, as the team MyPray. As part of that victory, they will be heading out to Silicon Valley to pitch their app at AngelHack’s Global Demo Day on Oct 29.
He says the inspiration for the app came from the team’s own problems keeping up with cultural celebrations.
“There are so many festivities on the Lunar calendar, and for the younger generation (Gen-Y and Gen-Z) like me and my team, it’s difficult to remember so many dates.
“There is the Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, Hungry Ghost Festival, Winter Solstice, different gods’ birthdays … can anyone really remember them all?
“I asked around and found out that not only younger generation, but even many older people find it hard to remember all these dates,” he says.
Lim (pic above) kept this issue close to his heart, and with an initial fund of US$6,168 (RM26,000 at current rates), he and his team came up with the CultureGuru app.
It is common for families to pass down cultural knowledge from one generation to the next, “but one day, our parents will be gone – who will remind us about all these cultural celebrations then?” he notes.
“Therefore, we hope that by digitising all this cultural information, it would be more appealing for Gen-Y and Gen-Z to keep these traditions close to their hearts,” he adds.
Besides Gen-Y and Gen-Z, Lim also hopes to raise cultural awareness among families with young or even old parents.
“Everyone, whether they are from a Buddhist or Taoist household, can use the app. The objective is for everyone to realise the importance of the continuity of tradition and culture,” he says.
Lim claims CultureGuru was well-received by many families during its launch at ntv7’s Yuan Carnival in September.
“They were very impressed with the reminder function and the mobile marketplace offered on our app, so we will be conducting more roadshows to promote the app,” he says.,
Noting also WeChat’s 95% penetration rate in Malaysia, Lim projects a new trend will emerge within the mobile marketplace when the WeChat Wallet lands in Malaysia, and that this will benefit CultureGuru.
“We will do more content marketing and then we will focus on promoting our app through WeChat.
“We are currently registering an official WeChat account,” he says, adding that through his own research, he realised that the chat app by Tencent is very popular with CultureGuru’s target audience.
Looking to scale
CultureGuru was founded in July 2015, after the six-person team spent two months to build and validate the app, according to Lim. The app is currently only available for the Android platform.
Despite being a marketplace where users can purchase festive supplies, and have these supplies delivered by the next day, CultureGuru is not competing against the retail market, he argues.
“The only difference is that we provide convenience to our users by delivering these items to them,” he adds.
Noting that there are many different cultural celebrations in a year, Lim says users can find different items available for different festivals.
“Our SKU (stock keeping unit) will change according to different festivals. We would also recommend festive packages to users, where they can purchase a whole package of festive supplies at one go, instead of having to browse through item by item.
“So for the next Lunar New Year, you can actually purchase barbequed pork from our app and have it delivered to your doorstep on the next day,” he quips.
Currently, CultureGuru has a physical presence in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Johor Baru (JB). The team works with different suppliers and wholesalers in both cities.
“We have two strategic partners now, one in KL and another in JB – we hope more partners will join us soon,” says Lim.
The startup is also seeking strategic partners and investors for a pre-seed investment.
For now, the app is rather focused on Chinese cultural traditions and the Malaysian market, but Lim isn’t going to stop there. He hopes to expand CultureGuru to Singapore by next July, and then to Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Lim says that he and his team will be in touch with experts to include other cultures such as Hindu, Japanese or Korean.
“Culture is something that everybody should work hard to preserve … . We should all go back to our cultural roots, and the more we learn about our own culture, the more we come to appreciate it,” he says.
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