Khalid Gibran is cooking up a storm one year into his online foray
By Geraldine Wong October 13, 2021
- Raised US$2.4mil via Fundnel & HNIs, US$480k sales in first year online
- Advises budding entrepreneurs to collaborate, focus on building communities
Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many businesses, the opposite is true for Khalid Gibran, cofounder of My Cooking Story, an online portal dedicated to home cooks and a B2C channel selling premium kitchenware.
In fact, the pandemic was the catalyst that propelled the entrepreneur and his cofounders, Gary Chin and Vijay Anand to shift their business model online, a move which has yielded them much success. For slightly more than a year now since My Cooking Story was launched, Khalid claims that the company has served more than 11,000 unique customers, got around 875,000 Malaysian home cooks hooked onto the brand and brought in more than US$480,000 (RM2 million) in sales.
And investors believe there is more to come. The company quickly raised US$2.4 million (RM10 million) in July, RM3 million from equity crowdfunding platform, Fundnel, and impressively, RM7 million from High Networth Individuals (HNIs)
[RM1 = US$0.239]
When the whole Is greater than the sum of its parts
Strengthening his market presence, Khalid also did something interesting recently, before raising funding. In May, he agreed to merge My Cooking Story into Eatcosys, a new player in the B2B retail sector, especially for F&B, that was formed with the merger of nine existing businesses with the goal of becoming an integrated platform that serves the end to end needs of F&B players through offering digital solutions.
For Khalid this was a case where the whole was more valuable than the sum of the parts.
He points to a number of advantages of this merger which includes access to a larger consumer base for My Cooking Story as some of the nine companies are In the B2C space. There Is also an alignment with his core values of becoming an integrated ecosystem player to empower the underserved segments.
There Is also the commercial motivation. "Working with a group of like minded partners from diverse background allows Eatcosys to achieve synergy and realise our dream to be a listed regional leader."
All about building communities and driving engagement - not joining a marketplace
So how did Khalid, Chin and Vijay, three old school entrepreneurs until the pandemic forced them to go online, achieve success?
“It has always been about serving a particular set of consumers or community, identifying what their compelling needs are and then fulfilling them. Essentially, what we at My Cooking Story are trying to do is to provide a solution for our consumers which is offering professional kitchenware at the best-est prices."
They found that there was a large community of home cooks out there, even before the pandemic, with the numbers only growing through the pandemic. "There is just no stopping this, even after more than a year now,” says Khalid.
“We got our brand in front of 875,000 people (over the period of a year) through performance marketing, which includes live shows on Facebook, live commerce via ez-mall , (a live selling platform that aims to enhance the shopping experience by helping shoppers to discover the latest products and trends) and of course, social media. However, 70% of our sales are from our affiliates or affiliate programmes, where we ride on the influence of nano (up to 1,000 followers), micro (between 5,000 to 10,000 followers) and mega (over 10,000 followers) influencers to spread the word about My Cooking Story and push our brand to their own audiences,” Khalid explains.
Over the course of the year, My Cooking Story has worked with over 350 personalities through their affiliate programme. Some popular names in their roster include Abang Brian, Chef Bob, Dr Ezani Monoto and Aina Maisara.
Khalid claims that at present, My Cooking Story is the only e-commerce site in Malaysia to engage with affiliate marketing as a branded shop. Instead of setting up shop in a crowded marketplace like Shopee or Lazada, the founders decided to create a specialty shop where they can better serve the community of passionate home cooks by providing wholesome community experiences, excellent customer service as well as fun and dynamic content.
Riding on content for conversion
Khalid attributes a large part of My Cooking Story’s growth and success to its content which has to date garnered a strong following and high levels of engagement from its community.
“We started off by sharing content on cooking, healthy eating, recipes and so on but as time went by, and as our community grew, we had more data in hand to customise our content to fit the needs of our home cooks,” he says.
Content has always been a medium to long term play for the founders and experience with the My Cooking Story community has shown that “when a consumer resonates with our content, they will keep coming back for more. And the more time they spend on our channels, the easier it is for us to convert them into customers.”
To keep their home cooks coming back for more, My Cooking Story will be introducing its MCS Academy at the end of October. Dubbed as the Netflix for home cooks, the academy will feature a series of fun and interesting videos across seven different categories such as cooking hacks, recipes, live cooking shows hosted by expert chefs and experienced home cooks.
The Academy will be hosted on My Cooking Story’s website and will run on a subscription model. Content will be available for free till the end of the year and subscribers will subsequently be charged a nominal monthly fee, starting January 2022.
Lessons learnt a year into the business
“If there are two pieces of advice I can impart to fellow entrepreneurs, it's community and collaboration. These are the two essentials for every business,” Khalid shares.
The only reason My Cooking Story has gotten this far in a short time Is down to its 875,000 strong community which it sought to build from the get go.
“The next important thing is collaboration - and remember when I say collaboration I always mean one plus one equals five,” Khalid stresses, alluding to the fact that he sees a multiplier effect in everyone he partners.
“My Cooking Story’s was quick to go to market thanks to our influencers whom we call our partners or collaborators. Through partnering with them, we managed to expand our reach quickly by tapping into their popularity and network of followers.”
Ultimately, it's about knowing your community, understanding their needs and then hunting down the people who will fit into the needs of your community, he sums up.
My Cooking Story is currently serving the Malaysian and Indonesian market, with Khalid looking to widen its regional footprint with an entrance into Brunei next month and a launch in Singapore, at the end of 2021 or early 2022.
“We made our debut in Indonesia at the end of 2020 by forming strategic partnerships with Hypermart, Indonesia’s largest hypermarket chain and a logistics fulfillment partner. However with so many things happening in Malaysia, we haven’t had the opportunity to maximise our presence there yet, but it will happen in the first quarter of 2022,” he promises.
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