What I’m interested in interviewing with foreign entrepreneurs here in Thailand is the way they’re doing business and how can they grow their startups from an expat’s view. These insights will help a lots for other entrepreneurs and marketers to learn. Another interesting part is how can they live their life out of work. And Martin Toft is one of the typical guys who is willing to open and share. Let’s get his thought!
What do you think about working in Thailand? And why Thailand for your startup WearYouWant?
I think Thailand is a great but challenging place to work. For a Scandinavian guy like me, it takes a bit of time to get used to the atmosphere though. What is absolutely normal in Denmark is not the always the same in Thailand. [quote]However, what I really like is the non-formal way of doing business. Everything from appointments to negotiating can be done via Line or Whatsapp.[/quote] For those foreigners with a limited knowledge of the Thai language this is really a gift. What sometimes takes longer time is to establish partnerships and find out who the key persons are. Once you find them, and once a partnership is established, they usually last very long though.[quote] Thailand is probably the country in SEA with the most interest for fashion products. In general Thai’s spend a high percentage of their income on clothes, shoes and beauty products every month. [/quote] That combined with a strong trend of Thai’s getting online and savvier about shopping online clearly shows the potential of exploring the fashion vertical.
The roles of you and your co-founder? How to separate each other’s works?
Julien and I have very different backgrounds and therefore we do very different things. To be honest, this is a great combination and definitely recommendable for other startups/founders. Personally I’m mainly involved in business development/partnerships and sales whereas Julien uses most of his time on business administration and the more technical aspects of the company.
Your team has 20 members, 4 are foreigners and the rest are Thai. How to find good Thai staffs and any principles to manage them effectively?
In general we find it hard to find good staff. The unemployment rate in Thailand is almost too low, and in certain areas there’s basically none. Of course that makes it difficult to attract the talented people as they have several options on hand. We have found most of our staff via friends and business partners. Traditional job-sites haven’t brought us much. [quote]That said, we’re constantly recruiting in order to follow the growth of the company, so please do contact us in case you’re skilled in tech, marketing or sales:)[/quote] . Managing Thai’s are of course different than managing Westerners. However, a few things are similar. A long as your staff sees that business is growing, the chance of promotion is present and that their opinions/ideas are heard then management becomes easier.
[quote]In the long run I would probably recommend a Thai HR/COO to deal with some parts of the operations/management.[/quote]
What is WearYouWant selling and Who are the target customers?
WearYouWant‘s fashion collection
WearYouWant is basically a collective of fashion brands. Initially our focus was very much on the apparel side, but shoes and especially beauty items like make-up and skincare has become a significant part of our inventory. Our target group is male/female aged 18-35.
Your biz model is B2C2C so how do you set up your team to serve such a complicated business? Why don’t you just keep B2C or C2C so your work is much easier?
[quote]Running a B2B2C business demands a lot of different departments to make things happen. On one side we need great variety and multiple brands to attract the end-users and on the other hand we need many end-users (traffic) to attract the well-known brands.[/quote] It has taken some time to actually set up all the departments. Of course some were given, but others became needed as we grew. The reason for this business model, even it looks more complicated than running a pure B2C set-up is connected to the financials. As we do not have our own warehouse or buy products up front, this was the only, and way more cost-effective way of setting up the business.
Which is the most important part: B2B, B2C or C2C and why?
It’s impossible to talk about a “most important part”. Without the brands and stores we work with no inventory, and without our customers no orders. So as our business concept relies on both B2B part and B2C part they are equally important.
How about the other marketing channels that work? The ratio of traffic, ROI matter… and the highest conversion rate source?
We need to grow via traditional marketing channels as well. SEO, SEM and Social Media are the main channels used. No secret that the highest conversions comes from EDM. I believe this is the same for almost all ecommerce players, [quote]which is why we all focus so much about growing our database, so we can reach our customers by the cheapest channel of them all – email![/quote]
The ratio of payment method on WearYouWant? How to collect fee via CPA model if COD is still popular?
COD is becoming the most popular payment method. As Thailand is still a relatively immature market when it comes to online shopping this method is super attractive as it removes the risk for the first time buyer who doesn’t have the trust in online shopping yet. Also, many Thai’s still do not hold a debit/credit card, which is another reason why the so-called offline payment options are essential in growing an online business in Thailand.
WearYouWant seems to have strong partnership with some big names in Thailand: Sanook, Line, some banks? So why do you focus on partnerships and can you share with other entrepreneurs about the key of setting up good and effective partnerships.
Partnerships are very essential in terms of gaining trust and brand awareness. For a startup with low market recognition this is without doubt a way to get a significant boost. Our current partners are all very well known in their category meaning that we get high exposure via these partnerships. Again, besides orders and revenue this is how to establish your name and company as a trusted player on the market if your pockets are not full of cash, so you can do it all yourself. One of our core strengths is our relationship with fashion brands and distributors. [quote]Therefore, we posses something unique that our partners appreciate. With other words, you have to bring something of value to the table.[/quote]
Difficult one, there are so many challenging things happening all the time, but I believe regional expansion will be something that demands quite some attention. That said, this is also what I’m looking forward to, and challenges are what makes you improve and get better.
Sound great, keep moving Martin!
And you, what do you think about Martin’s answers?