Bankwest spe­cial

A Mel­bourne firm has put tech­nol­ogy at the cen­tre of its fur­ni­ture busi­ness

The Australian - The Deal - - News - Jack­son Hewett

Ivan Lim thought he was done with wasted week­ends of fruit­less hunt­ing af­ter he fi­nally bought his first prop­erty.

In­stead he found him­self pound­ing the pave­ments of Mel­bourne’s fur­ni­ture dis­trict, dis­mayed at how ex­pen­sive the couches were. His mother, an in­te­rior de­signer, had for­bid­den him from shop­ping at IKEA, and af­ter four week­ends of frus­tra­tion, Lim re­alised he had stum­bled upon an un­tapped mar­ket.

“It’s a painful ex­pe­ri­ence to go shop­ping for fur­ni­ture,” Lim said. “I re­alised that once you had grad­u­ated from IKEA there wasn’t re­ally a mid-range op­tion that of­fered a wide choice with the qual­ity and crafts­man­ship that you would find at a de­signer fur­ni­ture re­tailer.

“What re­ally stood out is that those ex­pen­sive pieces had fat mar­gins on them and there wasn’t a lot of de­sign or style va­ri­ety. I thought I could do some­thing about that.”

So Lim teamed up with two friends, David Wei and Richard Li, to form a per­fect three-piece suite for fur­ni­ture dis­rup­tion.

Lim had a back­ground in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, Li came from man­u­fac­tur­ing home­wares, and Wei was an op­er­a­tions ex­pert who sold his first busi­ness to Groupon.

To­gether they iden­ti­fied that the key to suc­cess would be a com­bi­na­tion of cre­at­ing a seam­less, cu­rated cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and cut­ting out the costly lay­ers that came with deal­ing with whole­salers and set­ting up brick-and-mor­tar stores.

The team launched Brosa.com.au in Fe­bru­ary 2014 with nine pieces af­ter ap­proach­ing de­sign­ers di­rectly. Now they carry more than 4000 pieces, with mak­ers in Aus­tralia, Europe, In­dia, China and Viet­nam, and are grow­ing at 20-30 per cent month-on­month. In July 2015 they raised $2 mil­lion from AirTree Ven­tures, and while rev­enue is more than $10 mil­lion, they are more fo­cused on growth and scale than month-to-month prof­itabil­ity.

What sep­a­rates Brosa from other fur­ni­ture com­pa­nies is the ob­ses­sion with tech­nol­ogy, Lim says.

“Tech pow­ers the busi­ness,” he says. “A lot of fur­ni­ture mak­ers are very man­ual, very pa­per-based, which means there are a lot of costly, in­ef­fi­cient lay­ers. What we are do­ing with our tech­nol­ogy is ver­ti­cally in­te­grat­ing and au­tomat­ing the sup­ply chain. Ev­ery­thing from the craft­ing process through to pack­ag­ing, la­belling, ware­hous­ing and de­liv­ery is man­aged via our tech­nol­ogy stack. We are con­tin­u­ally look­ing at what pro­cesses we can au­to­mate, how we can man­age tim­bers, fab­rics and com­po­nents for our mak­ers. Trim­ming out those ex­cess costs means we can cut hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, off the price of fur­ni­ture.”

Lim says that by au­tomat­ing much of the process, Brosa is able to re­lease three or four new col­lec­tions a week, with up to 50 pro­to­types in de­vel­op­ment at any stage.

The team at Brosa in­tends to keep work­ing on the sup­ply chain but also to hone the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. So far, most of its cus­tomers have come via search or word of mouth. It plans to grow its so­cial me­dia pres­ence but is also keep­ing an eye on what ma­jor on­line re­tail­ers such as Ama­zon think about cre­at­ing a great buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We want to make sure the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is pris­tine,” Lim says. “Fur­ni­ture is big and hard to ship and cus­tomers buy a va­ri­ety of items that they want de­liv­ered at the same time, so mas­ter­ing that cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is so im­por­tant. Tech­nol­ogy can help make that ex­pe­ri­ence great if we can get the prod­uct range right, the de­liv­ery right. We want peo­ple to have a great time buy­ing from Brosa.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.