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A True Ipoh Cross-Border Story

March 13, 2019

    I still remember how it started.

 

    After an event in #LazadaClub Perak, a lady asked the ambassador, Alexis to help her in eCommerce.  Alexis pointed at me, "Please talk to Koh, as he helped me most on my business".

 

   "Mr. Koh, I like your passion for Ipoh, and my eCommerce business is not doing so well, can we have a discussion?" She pass me her card. Looking at her business card, it looks like an auto parts dealer. 

 

     At that time I had zero experience in auto-parts eCommerce. Additionally, I am really struggling allocating time for current clients,  while sustaining my passion. I had really limited time and couldn't take in more clients. Thus I informed her to follow my blog for ideas.

 

    But Mrs. L did not give up. She keeps coming to my events, and kept calling me and often ask me when I will come. She just can;t take no for an answer.

 

    Until at one time, I couldn't say no anymore. I surrender to Mrs. L, and we set a time to visit her shop. When I reached her place, my head start spinning... Can I really help her?

 

 

   This is one the most traditional business in Malaysia. A more than 40 years family business, supplying auto parts to foremans and service centers. 

 

    I am really at loss on how I can help.

 

     Local automotive category for eCommerce in Malaysia is very competitive. A lot of sellers are selling the common popular brand and models. Thus consumers can compare price easily. Many sellers slash the price drastically with little profit margin to gain market share.  

 

     Current most popular or fast moving SKUs is for accessories (wiper) or services (oil filter). At this moment, Malaysia consumers prefer to send in their automotive to the local service center. Thus more technical parts such as cars headlights, buying are by the service center, rather than consumers.

 

     In order to penetrate the market which has many existing sellers with reviews in their store, she had to compete in price to gain traffic. Thus the profit margin is reduced drastically, and at times sell at lost. Additionally, some of her customers complained to her parents when they discover that the offline price is much higher than the online price, and subsequently the pressure was on her shoulder.  

 

      This had also created a resistance internally in her family business. Looking from another business perspective, her online business upset current customer base and having a low-profit-margin, plus risk of returns and other issues.

 

     Furthermore, she had engage a consultant previously. Same as many other businesses, she met a consultant trying to sell their services regardless the situation. The previous consultant charge quite a sum of money, but couldn't deliver.  This further lowered her family confidence in eCommerce. 

 

     But Mrs L never gave up. She is fully aware of the upcoming new generations will buy more online. If the family business is not in eCommerce, the future seems bleak, when the current older generation of customer retire from the auto industry. 

 

    She persisted even until now, trying to find a way, even when other family member is at lowest confident level and spending quite a sum, 

 

    Feeling her passion, I cant just turn my head and walk away. I tried to work out some strategy, but the success chance is very low looking at the resources available. 

 

    But then the breakthrough will always come at the darkest hour if you don't give up. 

 

    Looking at the balance sheet of the business, I noticed very high Inventory Levels. Out of curiosity, I asked her about the inventory level.

     She replied, those are old obsolete stocks which can't be sold, and not written off. Subsequently, she brought me to her warehouse. She was apologetic on the messy condition. Many old and obsolete automotive parts were stores in original packaging. There is a very small market in Malaysia for old auto parts, as most Malaysians prefer the newest Car Model.

 

     Then I remembered the car restoration channels I watched on Astro. If there is no market in Malaysia, how about Global Market?

 

     So I immediately snap some pictures and message it to my friend, Bryan from eBay Malaysia. eBay Malaysia had a team here constantly looking for potential sellers, and helping them on-board cross-border.

 

 

     Bryan replied - "Its time for me to come Ipoh to enjoy great food again".

 

     When I told Mrs. L that eBay people were going to visit her Ipoh business to help her find a way, she just can't believe. In her mind, she think it is impossible that eBay, a reputable multi billion multinational will visit a business in a small town in Ipoh. I tried to calm her is just to visit a friend and for great food - not business hahaha.

 

and eBay Really DID IT.

 

     After two weeks, Bryan came down to Ipoh with 2 of his colleagues which are very knowledgeable in automotive industry. We had a great Ipoh breakfast to start things.

 

     Then we went to visit Mrs L Warehouse. When the eBay team saw the obsolete stocks........ 

 

     I will always remember how eBay people eyes shone when they saw the old automotive parts.

 

     They just keep saying wow repeatedly.

 

      After visiting the warehouse, we have another food meeting. Ipoh is really a food heaven. In that meeting, Bryan advised Mrs. L that she must start selling her vintage automotive parts in eBay. In fact, there is a huge market in Western Countries.

 

     We are completed hooked by Bryan explanation that eBay Marketplace is the largest in the world for automotive parts. People all around the world buy and sell vintage, obsolete automotive parts to restore their beloved vintage cars.  Consumers are willing to pay a huge premium for parts which they really want, which translate to great profit for sellers.

    

 

    Yes! We finally a way out to:

  1. Earn good profit from stock which previously very difficult to sale and assume to be low value. 

  2. Reduce cannibalizing existing current Malaysia customer base by selling into new markets worldwide.

  3. Increase Family stakeholders’ confidence, and subsequently gaining the trust and resources for future transformation.

    I was so happy for Mrs L. Yet I understand that at this starting stage, she will have difficulty paying KK much. But then we always want to look at the long term. It seems that with eBay support, we might have a chance to create a great Ipoh success story to further encourage other traditional business!

 

   There is no way KK will miss this!

 

    Thus I assure her that I will be with her for their business on their journey eBay. I understand her difficulties in convincing her family to engage me at the moment. So I told her, let's start it first and convince her family about the potential of eCommerce before we discuss money.

 

    It's the same for my current client, Alexis. I started helping her without asking anything when she was struggling but keep believing her passion. The only thing I asked is that when she start generating stable and good income, she will need to support (pay me some money lah) my passion to contribute to Perak eCommerce Industry and helping more businesses.

 

   So Mrs. L started to go into the dusty warehouses and retrieve the SKUS by herself. Imagine a young lady, roll up her sleeves, and wear a mask and doing something she believe is the future for her family business. And it’s in a pre-dominantly Male business!

 

 

     Next is the challenge of producing great photos which will entice people. There are many service provider available in the market, but it involves quite a lot of cost in logistics to move the parts to the photographer.

 

     This is where KK can really help. Our method is always to help our client develop on-site photography skill sets. It can help saved much time and cost, and it is not that difficult to produce great photos.

 

      We transferred the necessary photography skill set, knowledge, and tools to her.  As she has the passion to do this, in a short time, she developed her own necessary skillets, and start rolling out great pictures on her own. In comparison, it was much better than the current sellers in eBay.

 

     We then helped her create eBay Account with eBay Malaysia and then link it to Paypal. Such information and the video clip is available online, and actually, anybody can start selling cross border in eBay anytime! There are many regulations and rules in eBay, but we always encourage learning while doing.

 

     We start selling in the US market and below is one of our first listings. 

 

     Then finally the moment we had been waiting came!

 

     I still remember on the 1st week after we started our listing, at our 23rd listings, we got our first Order! It’s a pair of headlights which we sold for nearly USD 400. And the amazing part is that the customer is from Australia buying from the US marketplace - www.ebay.com.

 

 

    Then the next challenge is fulfillment. This is our first time ship to Malaysia. So I call out my friend Jabez, from Aramex Ipoh and Crysta, from Aramex HQ. Both of them immediately responded and gave us the assurance that it will reach customer safely and in the fastest time.

 

    And barely 4 working days from the day we send it to Aramex service centre in Ipoh, the product reach the customer in Australia, near to perfect conditions! The customer was very impress of the shipment time plus the condition of the package. Thank you Aramex for responding to us and delivering a great service. 

 

 

  These head lights had been in her warehouse for decades, and she was not able to sell it. In fact previously, she had discarded some of the old stock as metal. But now, it was sold in less than a week after listed on eBay!

 

     Why? Because by selling Cross-Border in eBay, she had increased her product reach to potential audiences many fold, by selling to the Whole World! People who is hungry for her products is converging on eBay auto parts market.

 

     So by selling on eBay, she is directly reaching the customer who wanted her product, compared to just selling in Malaysia with a very small market. That is an exponential growth of exposure with very little cost The feeling of seeing her so happy receiving her first order in Cross-Border is a priceless moment for myself.

 

   Really, if a traditional auto parts store in a small town like Ipoh cans also sell cross-border, there is no reason why other business cannot do it.  In our opinion, cross-border selling on eBay is not limited to big factories or China sellers. We actually have a lot of potential Malaysia Products which can make it in the World Stage.

 

   But then again and again,  this will not have happen if Mrs L have not persisted in finding a way.

 

    Thus if you are reading this article and wanted to start selling cross-border, what are you waiting for? You have to start executing and reach out persistently to others. If you just sit there and keep thinking that whether you should start selling cross-border, nothing going to happen.

 

SO START DOING IT NOW!

 

     Some of my friends which heard this story claim that I am not a business man. They advised that I should had purchased Mrs. D stock at her weakest point, and prevented eBay from knowing Mrs. L. Then I will have much negotiation power and enjoy the limelight. Now I am at risk as Mrs. L can deal directly with eBay on future business. At least I should have a contract with Mrs L. 

 

    Haha they might be right. I had many times before being left out.

 

     But I had even more times being helped by people which didn’t ask for any return in my darkest hour. People like Carol Fung, Adrian Oh and Bryan had helped me when I just started. 

 

     And don't every think others is stupid. If I have such negative thoughts, this collaboration will have high risk of ending in failure. TRUST IS EVERYTHING.

 

     Actually I am just continue passing the help I received to others for the Malaysia eCommerce Industry. If in future if I was left out, its their loss, not my loss, as I will have more time to help more business.

 

      That will be our vision. To become Top Malaysia Product Enabler locally and Internationally in eCommerce. Its not to be the richest service provider or the best seller in Malaysia. 

 

     But the story does not end here. We will be sharing the second episode of how Mrs L venture into one of the largest automotive trade show in Malaysia - the Automechanika Kuala Lumpur on 21-23rd Mar 2019! Come discover her eBay store and product in eBay Pavilion next Thursday!

 

 

     

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