Big on beauty

Home­grown e-com­merce web­site Hermo is the nex t big thing, writes S yahir ah M okhtazar

New Straits Times - - Flair - Syahirah.mokhtazar@nst.com.my

IREAD a re­cent on­line post that went vi­ral about women asking their boyfriends or male friends to iden­tify what a beauty blender is. The re­sponses were nat­u­rally hi­lar­i­ous, with­men not­be­ing able to tell whatthe egg-shaped ob­jec­tis and whatit­does.

Some thought it was a clown’s nose. An­other thoughtit­was an ap­ple.

The post­con­firmed the age-old sus­pi­cion: most­men are woe­fully ig­no­rantwhen it­comes to beauty prod­ucts and ac­ces­sories. Why would they bother any­way, right?

Bu­tit’s a dif­fer­ent­case for Ian Chua and his busi­ness part­ners Ian Mok and P.S. Chong. If you ap­proachthem and ask them to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween BB cream and CC cream, they may just­blow your mind with the cor­rect an­swer, even fur­nish­ing you with­ex­tra de­tails.

How is that so? Well, the trio are the founders of one of Malaysia’s lead­ing e-com­merce beauty web­site called Hermo.

While Chua is chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Mok is chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer and Chong is vice-pres­i­dent.

GO­ING FOR IT

In an in­ter­view, Chua re­called pay­ing mul­ti­ple vis­its to beauty stores like Sasa, in the early days of Hermo, to learn more about beauty prod­ucts.

“It­was tough. There were so many prod­ucts in the store! I didn’tun­der­stand why there are suchthings as nigh­tand day cream. I didn’t know the dif­fer­ence,” he said.

Hermo was es­tab­lished in 2012, withthe founders in­spired by the grow­ing beauty on­line busi­ness in China.

Dubbed as a one-stop plat­form for all things beauty, the on­line site makes shop­ping for beauty en­thu­si­asts a breeze as ithas a wide range of beauty prod­ucts from var­i­ous coun­tries.

“We knew we wanted to star­tan e-com­merce site butwe didn’tknow ex­actly what to fo­cus on. So we started by short­list­ing the cat­e­gories.

“We know women love to shop. So it­was di­vid­ing the cat­e­gories into fash­ion, clothes and ac­ces­sories. Later, we set­tled on cos­met­ics,” he said.

While the Hermo head­quar­ters is in Jo­hor, ithas an of­fice in Kuala Lumpur as well. Ithas also ex­panded its of­fices to Sin­ga­pore and In­done­sia.

“We wantto reach­more on­line cus­tomers as we be­lieve thatthe fu­ture of re­tail is driven by e-com­merce. We source for good prod­ucts with­af­ford­able prices to pro­vide more value to cus­tomers.

“Be­ing Malaysians, we want to sup­port­lo­cal brands too, so we’re look­ing into bring­ing sev­eral lo­cal brands on board,” said Chua.

To date, Hermo has part­nered with in­ter­na­tional brands like L’Oreal. Most re­cently, it­broughtin NYX, an­other fa­mous and af­ford­able brand.

“It was quite a chal­lenge to get th­ese brands on board as you need to give them the as­sur­ance that it gen­er­ates a lot of users.

“The firstin­ter­na­tional brand to come on board was Naruko from Tai­wan. We paid a visitto its of­fice mul­ti­ple times to con­vince itto say ‘yes’.

“Be­sides L’Oreal, we have pop­u­lar Korean brands like in­n­is­free, Laneige, Yadah, 3CE and Ho­lika Ho­lika. They have the best-sell­ing prod­ucts on the web­site.”

ON­LINE VS OFF­LINE

So how does an e-com­merce beauty site com­pete with­phys­i­cal stores?

“Whatwe pro­vide atHermo is a user­friendly ex­pe­ri­ence. We pro­vide one to three days of ship­ping, which­means it’s easy to get prod­ucts from abroad which aren’tavail­able here. Plus it­saves time,” said Chua.

“I be­lieve that­ev­ery­one will ul­ti­mately nav­i­gate to­wards buy­ing beauty prod­ucts on­line.

“As a home­grown com­pany, our ul­ti­mate goal is to be­come the num­ber one cos­met­ics e-com­merce site here.”

When asked about­the nextbig beauty name that Hermo will be bring­ing in, Chua just smiled and said “it’s a se­cret”.

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