“E-Commerce cannot replace brick and mortar work – but it is definitely catching on,” says Mr Paul Lim, CEO of Singapore-based eComLog Network Solutions (eNS).
eNS is a company set up to provide an easy-to-use and affordable one-stop platform to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to manage an online e-Commerce marketplace. Founded in August 2014, it brings merchants online in less than a week and sets up a functional customised site for its clients in less than a month. Launching two main services – Digital Marketing and Logistics & Fulfillment Services – eNS aims to help merchants deliver their businesses to the next level.
“To be successful online, there is a need to consider various factors such as online branding [and] reaching out to consumers,” advises Mr Lim.
Beside assisting merchants to set up an independent online marketplace and deploying digital marketing tools to entice consumers, eNS also expands the market reach of its clients through Kwerkee.com, its own online marketplace which has more than 20,000 members. Paul Lim is the CEO of Kwerkee.com – a leading portal selling unique products and collectors’ items.
In addition, eNS assists merchants in inventory storage and management as well as order management, picking, packaging, fulfillment and returns management. While there are basic charges in the technical setup and the logistics management, merchants will only pay upon the successful sale of their products.
Mr Lim, who has has more than 25 years in the retail, logistics and supply chain industry with multinationals such as TNT Worldwide Express, Menlo Worldwide Logistics and YCH Group, is also the founder of Supply Chain Asia. He says, “A successful e-Commerce venture will need to ensure they can manage their supplies, inventory and logistics management as well as last mile delivery and fulfillment.”
His first retailing career was with Isetan, which he joined in 1988. He believes that in the next few years, e-Commerce will become better in serving consumers and retail space may become showrooms.
“Brands will need to continue to reach out to its customers, who will become less channel-focused and will seek products available in all forms of channels, including e-Commerce,” he points out.
A graduate of the National University of Singapore and an MBA holder (with distinction) – specialising in Retail Distribution, from the University of Stirling in Scotland – this man has met with a few setbacks in life.
Prior to eNS, he started a few businesses which include an email service business in 1993 and an online shopping portal in 1999 – but both businesses failed and went bust.
“Entrepreneurship is not easy. It can be painful and intense. Entrepreneurs are lonely people, often struggling on their own,” shares Mr Lim.
“The key to one’s success may not be the millions we hope to earn, but the journey and experience,” he adds.
Mr Lim, you are the CEO of Kwerkee.com, a website selling artistic designer items. What are some tips for managing an e-commerce business?
Many brick and mortar businesses tend to think that going online is simply setting up a website. That is just the start of a highly complicated process of selling. To be successful online, there is a need to consider various factors such as online branding [and] reaching out to consumers.
Furthermore, there is the need for building up a loyal base of consumers, running online digital campaigns, reaching out to consumers through social media and exploring ways to use online tech to get a captive audience.
There is a growing trend towards convergence between the online world and the physical retail structure. And it is only a matter of time that many brick and mortar operators will have to go online. And the sooner they go online now, the earlier they can learn the various factors that will determine their success in this industry.
You are also the founder of Supply Chain Asia. How is e-commerce related to the logistics and supply chain?
E-Commerce is not just about developing the technology aspects of an online market place. A successful e-Commerce venture will need to ensure they can manage their supplies, inventory and logistics management as well as last mile delivery and fulfillment.
Supply Chain Asia provides a platform that brings professionals to network, share and learn from one another. SCA focuses on bringing knowledge to the forefront and encourages adoption of innovative processes in the industry.
The challenges of e-Commerce Logistics requiring quick and accurate picking and distribution is one area of logistics and supply chain operations Supply Chain Asia has been promoting over the last few years. We expect to do more over the next few years as e-Commerce continues to evolve in many countries in Asia.
Why is tapping on digital tech an important opportunity for SMEs?
One of the biggest challenges for many SME owners is to justify the investment in technology. Unlike physical equipment such as racking systems and material handling equipment, technology has no physical form, meaning it is more difficult to equate a value to it. But technology can improve processes and lead to productivity and higher operating efficiency. SMEs prepared to explore using digital tech as an option to improve their processes will have a lot more to gain than what they imagine.
The key to one’s success may not be the millions we hope to earn, but the journey and experience.
Mr Paul Lim – CEO of eComLog Network Solutions
You started a few businesses which were met with failure.
In 1993, I started an email service using Compuserv. The service was USD10 per month for unlimited email. When I tried to sell this service, I got the following response – “so who can I send email to? You?” In 1995, email services were provided by various leading internet service providers, [but] today, not having an email is like not having an address.
In 1999, I came out again to dabble in e-Commerce, setting up an online portal to sell everything similar to what Amazon was doing then. Together with a few partners, we managed to raise $1m, but we went bust during the crash of Nasdaq.
The failure in both businesses almost bankrupted me. And it took me a number of years to pay off all my debts to start over again.
What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is not easy. It can be painful and intense. Entrepreneurs are lonely people, often struggling on their own. When times are tough, it is easy for those around them to give up, But for the entrepreneur, it is always about the belief that “success is just around the corner” that keeps them going.
I do not encourage people to take the entrepreneurship route just because they think it is glamourous. Also, if you are thinking of making millions by being an entrepreneur, just consider this one fact – for every successful Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, there are millions of entrepreneurs who didn’t make it. The key to one’s success may not be the millions we hope to earn, but the journey and experience.
Can you predict the future of e-commerce in five years?
E-Commerce cannot replace brick and mortar work – but it is definitely catching on. We are already witnessing [these] phenomena – people who go to physical retail shops to identify a product to buy and finally shopping for a cheaper one online (called Showrooming) and a growing number of new start-ups disrupting the industry with specialised online stores. Retailers today are beginning to feel [these] challenges posed by e-Commerce businesses, with many complaining of “dwindling number of physical purchases” in their stores.
I believe that in the next few years, e-Commerce will become better in serving consumers – not just in the way they procure and curate products, but in their speed of fulfillment and delivery services as well.
Some retail space may turn into “showrooms” for brands; these brands will need to continue to reach out to its customers, who will become less “channel-focused” and will seek products available in all forms of channels, including e-Commerce.
This Is Singapore is a fortnightly feature that delves into the life of an inspiring and talented individual in Singapore. Read all our interviews here: http://bit.do/thisissingapore