KUALA LUMPUR, July 26 ? With its free nationwide shipping and 14-day return policy, new German-linked online shopping website Lazada aims to introduce Malaysians to an internet retail experience usually available only to consumers in advanced countries.
Lazada, which made its debut in April, now ships out 600 purchases per day and expects this number to hit 2,000, with an eventual target of 6,000 daily.
Managing director Giacomo Ficari said the website aims to follow in the footsteps of internet shopping giant Amazon and be a “people-friendly way to shop.”
We are convenient and the cheapest in the market,” he claimed. ‘We always compare our prices to our competitors.”
He noted that shipping costs and customs clearance were a deterrent to shopping on websites based overseas and Lazada’s free local shipping was a compelling alternative.
Ficari said that as Lazada need not maintain stores like hypermarkets, it can use the savings to offer free shipping on top of lowering costs by buying in bulk.
There is also a price management team that monitors prices offered by competitors on a daily basis. The customer service team is also kept in-house so the quality of service could be better monitored.
Lazada currently has about 16,500 products in its catalogue and Ficari said that another 40,000 were “ready to go-live.”
Its top selling products were USB drives, diapers, videogames, books, CDs and smartphones.
Lazada also saw its staff numbers grow rapidly and while Ficari declined to disclose exact figures, it has already reached over a hundred, which is sizable for a young internet start-up.
The company occupies several floors in the Southgate commercial centre in the Sungai Besi district of Kuala Lumpur and was abuzz with activity and notable for its multi-national flavour, with a number of Europeans occupying desks and walking around.
While most of the employees are Malaysian, the company also counts French, Britons, Australians and Koreans among its workers.
Ficari himself is Italian and said that he tries to make Lazada a superior work environment with little hierarchy and by cultivating a culture of openness and humbleness.
“We don’t put titles on our cards,” he said while handing over his name card.
The agreeable work environment was part of the reason the company was able to expand so quickly after setting up shop only in February as many staff recruited their friends to Lazada.
“A key factor is that people have to be able to share their ideas,” he said. “They have to feel that they are changing things in Malaysia.”
The approach taken by Lazada’s parent ― Germany’s Rocket Internet ― which apparently is to grow big fast has drawn some criticism from other online shopping players.
The hiring spree by Lazada and another Rocket Internet company, Zalora, created a buzz in the local internet community and also among professional buyers.
In one recent interview with Digital News Asia, Jamie Jackson, the chairman of Apac Sale Group that operates the Mysale shopping website, said that Rocket Internet’s approach of free shipping, low prices and liberal return policy was “suicidal”.
Ficari said, however, that Lazada was able to do what it does with the resources that come from the backing of its parent company.
“We have the knowledge (about) how to do it,” he said.
Online shopping continues to be a growing phenomenon not just in the West but also in Malaysia.
A survey by MasterCard suggested that the number of Malaysians who shopped online grew 12 per cent in 2011 and 55 per cent in 2010.
Internet payment solution provider Paypal also estimated the Malaysian online shopping market to grow from RM1.8 billion in 2010 to RM5 billion by 2014.
By Lee Wei Lian
The Malaysian Insider
26 July 2012
Led by Ficari, Lazada has taken both the local internet retail arena and job market by storm. — Pictures by Choo Choy May