Since its inception in 2012, i-Pmart has expanded aggressively via its marketing efforts, and built up its reputation as the largest ICT gadget portal in Malaysia.
It was formed when Mart Tang merged two entities, ipmart.com.my and ipmart.com to become a sole business entity; the former was focussed on selling IT gadgets and the latter was selling phone components to serve the international market.
However, the aggressive expansion was not without its price. The entire campaign took its toll on the company’s cash flow, and the company soon faced difficulties in sustaining its operations.
Enter My Social Network (MSN) in December 2014, who entered into discussions with Mart Tang about acquiring the i-PMart business, and after several months of back and forth, both parties reached an agreement for MSN to acquire the portal business and to settle all outstanding liabilities on i-PMart. MSN officially took over on July 1st, 2015.
When MSN took over, they brought in a new management team, and focused on cash flow and sustainability. According to Managing Director Wong Weng Yew, the team spent every day looking for ways to improve their processes and means to improve customer satisfaction.
“After all, if we fail to create any ‘stickiness’ with our service, our customer will not return. We have also made the decision to be a reliable partner to our suppliers by making sure we work closely with them in addressing their concerns and to collaborate on marketing campaigns. We strongly believe our success cannot be attained without the support from both our customers and our supplier partners,” said Wong.
“In a market where most big players are marketplaces, we pride ourselves as one of the most forward-looking and SME-focused E-commerce player in the industry. Many people call us David against the Goliath, but we are of the opinion that our offering is unique in the market and our positioning provides customers a more reliable choice to shop from,” he added.
i-PMart has been in the market since 2012, which Wong admits is a short time in business. He also identified the e-commerce market as highly competitive, stating that “the transparent nature of the Internet requires all players to think out-of-the-box to retain customers”.
“Pricing is not always the answer to get good sales numbers. It is being able to take the challenge to think out-of-the-box that sets apart the best from the rest,” said Wong, noting that one particular challenge had been the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which had impacted i-PMart’s sales.
When asked about what he thinks are the strengths of i-PMart, Wong pointed out the high number of SKUs that the company offers (over 25,000), as well as a website that remains constantly updated. The company stores its merchandise in an integrated 5000 square foot warehouse in Petaling Jaya, which allows for fast shipments, as well as his efficient team who work hard to keep everything running smoothly.
According to Wong, another point in their favour, is that the company designed and developed their portal from the ground up, leading to a homegrown integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that can manage sales, marketing, supply chains, customer service, and finances.
“This system allows us to quickly respond to orders and customer requests. The self-ownership of the system also allows us to customise our offerings according to our own needs. We see this as a strong competitive advantage, as we are able to bring innovation to the market which other system-based competitors are hard-pressed to match,” said Wong.
Lastly, the brand itself is one of the early starters in Malaysia’s e-commerce scene, and this brand has more than 800,000 followers on Facebook. With over 40% of the company’s sales coming from the corporate sector, the brand’s strength can be seen as an asset that the company intends to build and enhance.
Wong also noted that the local e-commerce scene looks to be booming, and set to accelerate over the coming years. However, he also noted several differences between the Malaysian market and other countries, such as the popularity of marketplaces over individual merchant portals, the popularity of drop-shipping, and the rise of shopping apps. At the same time, Wong said that there are opportunities aplenty in the Malaysian e-commerce market, as there are still many market segments that do not have dominant leaders.
When asked about the Top E-Commerce Merchant Awards, Wong said that the event is meaningful and timely, in that it helps local SMEs validate their efforts and strategies, and serving as a catalyst to further accelerate the adoption of e-commerce among SMEs.
“I am extremely proud and thankful of our team, as we would never have been able to win the award without them. We will celebrate this success, and afterward continue our journey with a humbled heart and boosted morale,” said Wong.