A Silly Blogger from Ipoh to Alibaba - 1

If you want to learn Kung Fu, go Shaolin.

If you want to embrace eCommerce, come Alibaba.

Yes. I am the lucky yet silly blogger from Ipoh who was accepted in Alibaba 1st Netprenuer Program in Hangzhou. It was a long program spanning two weeks, from Apr 23rd to May 3rd in Alibaba Campus in Hangzhou, China.

When the application link was out and shared by Carol, from MDEC, I applied for it immediately ! I was so happy when I received the email from Alibaba about my acceptance into the program. In fact I was the first to be in the dingtalk group.

But I dare not share it publicly.

Why? Because I am 42. One of the terms of the application is the age need to be below 40. So I thought they forget to look at my age in my application.

I ask the facilitators only when I am there. They were fully aware of it. Alibaba culture is about breaking boundaries. Rules can be dismiss. You get it if you really wanted it. So here I am, the second oldest at 42. We have another participant, Daniel which is my senior. Who said Old cannot be YOUNG!

So If you want to apply for this program in future, do it early asap, and be passionate on what you are doing, and let nothing stop you from coming here.

It was the 3rd Night when I am writing this blog. How’s the first 3 days?


Great stuff happened even at the first day. Currently, it is hard and strict for foreigners to get their a Bank account in China. My understanding is that you need a permanent address , recommendation letter, and some even say you need verification from the police station before before a bank will open an account for you.

On the first day after breakfast, we are led to nearby banks and got this done by just filling up a form! Yes it was this easy!

I understand from some of the sellers that there is agent which charge a bomb for helping you opening a bank account in China. Yet, they couldn't guarantee the success. We just get it easily! Thanks to Alibaba.

Second day, we got to know each other better. The selection mechanism was great, as we had participants from different races, region, background and age group. All of them have great stories and experience to tell. In this 3 days, I had the opportunity to talk with some of them in lunch and dinner, and was really blown away by their journey in life to reach this moment.

The energy level is at the max level, that everyone participate in group activities strongly. We try to contribute as much as possible and compete to grab the mic. There was a nice girl in this group, which seems to be quiet in the first day, but when she got the mic, she transformed into an elaborate speaker.

Although there are only 9 ladies in the whole contingent, without any prearrangement, all the group team leader elected by us are the ladies! Girl Power!

Among the facilitators, there is one young girl. Angeline! She is from Malaysia! After high school, she wanted to learn about Alibaba eCommerce. So alone without friends, she apply to the University in Hangzhou to learn Alibaba eCommerce syllabus. She got it and one of the speaker is her teacher. Thus now here was Angeline, helping us coping with Alibaba. This was really one of the best move from a teenager from Malaysia. Kudos. Myself in that age did not have such courage.

Yet among the participants, there are few I know at their early twenties, one haven’t finished his degree and another her ACCA. Yet they are doing so great in eCommerce, as one of the top eCommerce business owner in Malaysia. Another young and very humble fellow, is so ambitious that he had started his own production in Malaysia, and his product is the current second highest selling SKU in Lazada, after Milo!

Now I know why the age limit is below 40. I felt so embarrass of my MBA, and thinking of jumping into the river in the Hangzhou campus to start over again young as them. How I envy them !!!!!

So I told myself to remove all the water in my glass, and come empty. There are so much to learn absorb from the fellow participants.

So what are the key takeaways I can reflect and share with readers for the 1st 3 day?

In eCommerce especially in Marketplaces, many sellers want to focus on price. Best price is the best strategy. Second, sellers in Malaysia worried about being copied or other sellers selling the same stuff.

In the 3rd day, we had a very interesting field trip to the Eefini (One of the top fashion brand in China).

Eefini are not worried on competitor copying the and selling their product

Their price are not cheap either.

Why? Because they are always ahead of their competitors. They understand customer better and react faster than competitor. If there is new insight detected in the market, the whole production lines are more flexible in adapting constantly. This allowed them to produce the product in just 1 week after detecting a new trend

Thus, they are always first in the market for newer trends. This motivate consumers to pay a higher premium price for their product. When the competitor done copy ing their hot selling products and sell similar products in much lower price, they already have move on to another trend ! So they are always leading while their competitor is catching up.

This is a strong reflection comparing to sellers which want to have their TOP SELLING SKUs to sell forever, and complained when somebody copy them and selling at lower price. Often such sellers believe Price is King.

In Eefini point of view, If Price is King, it means you do not know about your customer. Thus you think your customer only the lowest price. However, price are easily followed and replicated by competitors.

How did Eifini obtain such competencies?

Its thru embracing Data & Digital Transformation.

In order to understand consumer pain points, they implemented RFID tracking on their products in some of their offline store. They monitored the detail consumer behavior, such as how many times a customer pick up a piece of cloth, how often they try it, and after trying, how often they buy it.

For example, a blouse is often pick up by consumers for trying, but there is very little percentage of consumer buying after trying - hence the conversion rate is too low. The staff will be alerted to engage and seek the customer feedback on the reason they did not purchase the product. Once there are sufficient data, the production line will immediately react and a new improved product will be on the shelf in 1 week!

One sentence from Eifini GM really shook me to my core.

“Previously we run with our eyes close. Now at least we run with our eyes open. Although the vision is still blur and uncertain, at least we had our eyes open”

In many times, while KK was trying to help Malaysia Product Manufacturer to venture into cross border B2C, once of the roadblocks is manufacturer unwilling to try B2C. They prefer B2B business which usually have much higher quantity. In their mindset, If I can serve 1 customer with 1 million unit of sales, it is much better and easier to serve 1 million customer.

For Eefini, If I can serve every consumer well, and really understand their behavior offline and online, then we can be the first to know WHAT CUSTOMER WANT!

So they embraced data and digital transformation. Their offline retail store is not just sales store, but also an experience center for online purchase, a fulfillment store to deliver to customer at the shortest point possible.

Imagine in 11/11, the first customer which purchase Eefini product got her package in less than 10 minutes after she purchased it. It is because they have a store nearby, and it’s just a matter of packing it immediately and send to customer.

Because in fashion, first to market is gold.

Knowing it is not enough. The other critical advantage is the ability to share valuable information real time in the whole value chain.

Many players will like to keep the insights they have to themselves and worried about competitor copying. Again in the opposite, Eefini share such information with partners, inclusive of 3rd party supplier.

This allow every stakeholders in the ecosystem to react at the fastest speed possible to consumer needs. Supplier having the insights of the next trend can start sourcing for raw materials, without even Eefini asking them.

This information sharing is inspiring, and it boost Eefini competitiveness to next level. Instead of worrying their product being copied, their competitive edge is their Mass Customization capability. They achieved astonishing speed in adapting to consumer needs for as much range of segments as possible, and to produce customized products to consumers as fast as possible.

And Eefini doesn’t think that offline retail will suffer because of online eCommerce. In fact they are planning to expand their retail chain to more than 2000 stores in China this year. The GM strongly believe that it will only get better.

The objective is to be where customer will like to be, in offline or online, providing a real omni-channel experience for the Eefini Brand. Offline data and Online data is combined to give a clearer presentation of their targeted audiences behavior. Subsequently it it increased Eefini accuracy in delivering products that really connect to various customer segments.

One highlight was for the top 10 fashion brand in Alibaba TMALL, all have offline store and non is purely online seller.

After the visit, we had another top Alibaba B2C teacher. It was again not about selling the lowest market pricing at the tough Taobao market.

She shared a case. A shoe which don’t have much fashion, single color and look boring. Yet such product can enjoy great sales with great premium successfully. The key is about telling the product story and how you connect with your customer. Below is the video.

Other great insights shared:

Return rate for fashion is 30%-60%, yet if the profit generated is sufficient to cover the return cost, then the business is viable.

Sellers should start thinking of Life Time Value (LTV) then the GMV.

Data analysis from seller store is very important to gather insights on consumer behavior, thus data collection is a must. In fact, she could not emphasis enough on how important store data is. The ability to compile it and analysis it is so critical.

And the closure was fantastic:

If you love a person, bring him/her to eCommerce as it is the future.

If you hate a person, bring him/her to eCommerce as she will stuck in unending struggle.

My next blog is how this trip really touched me to my heart. Keep in tune.

Lastly, there was a bit of story between eBay and Alibaba, And I thought, why not bring them together again with KK. Cheers

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