The Covid-19 pandemic might have put a halt on many things, but not online shopping. According to a report by MasterCard Economics Institute titled Recovery Insights: Commerce E-volution, lockdowns during the pandemic have led to an increase of $900 billion in global online spending.
The entrepreneurs on the Retail & Ecommerce category of this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list have taken note and are catering to the growing demand in the region and beyond. Notable this year was the number of female entrepreneurs leading the way and growing their niche lifestyle and fashion brands slowly but surely, despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Take, for example, Australians Natalie Khoei and Shadi Kord. The duo met in 2012 and bonded over their love for fashion while each pursued B.A. degrees in architectural studies at the University of New South Wales. The next year, they cofounded Meshki initially as a small e-commerce business to sell accessories. Each invested $155 in the venture. Thanks to a loyal Instagram following, their business took off and they started designing, producing and selling a full fashion line in 2015. “We realized there was a gap in the market for pieces that are unique and luxurious yet accessible,” says Khoei.
Meshki, which means black in Farsi, alludes to the cofounders’ shared heritage. It is now a fully fledged e-commerce business with over 750,000 customers worldwide and 50 employees. Its trendy, body-conscious designs have been seen on celebrities including Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lopez, and are popular with social-media influencers. As a testimony to the strength of their original social-media marketing, approximately 50% of Meshki’s sales still come from Instagram, where it has close to 2 million followers.
Another Australian entrepreneur with a growing lifestyle brand is 27-year-old Priscilla Hajiantoni. Founded in 2019, her Melbourne-based skincare brand Bangn Body quickly made a hit with its multi-purpose firming lotion, which fans sometimes call a “yellow tube of goodness” for its natural ingredients and iconic yellow-colored packaging. The startup has since branched into making and selling lip balm and skin scrub. It claims to have generated $8 million in revenues in its first two years of business.
Nutrition is another area where entrepreneurs are seeing opportunity Down Under. Best friends Jade Spooner and Amal Wakim started their Sydney-based nutritional business, Equalution, in 2016 after they lost a combined 50kg by following a flexible eating plan. The startup offers personalized meal programs that combine healthy and favorite foods and an app that tracks nutrients consumed. Equalution ranked No. 14 out of 50 companies for revenue growth over three years on Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Australia list last year.
Indonesia’s brands on the rise
Home to a population of over 270 million, Indonesia is one of the fastest growing retail and e-commerce markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
Tapping into the country’s massive demand for gold products, Jennifer Heryanto’s SKK Jewels has become one of the fastest growing gold jewelry brands in Indonesia. The company is a leading gold product development and manufacturing facility with over 250 workers and managing two award-winning jewelry brands (Hala Gold and Sandra Dewi Gold). A self-made entrepreneur, Heryanto is also the founder of The Wisemen & Company, a brand management firm focusing on consumer goods, beauty, luxury, and lifestyle.
Aiming to provide affordable and comfortable fashion, Stefanie Tan founded Jakarta-based fashion brand Jolie Clothing in 2014. The entrepreneur says the fashion industry’s focus on clothing designed for models inspired her to make clothes with daily life and all body types in mind. Tan holds a master’s of arts degree from Singapore’s Raffles Design Institute.
On the beauty front, Jessica Lin‘s Deca Group is best known for the Everwhite brand, which she cofounded in 2016 after the entrepreneur’s own skin problem prompted her to look for complexion brightening products at affordable prices. The Jakarta, Indonesia-based startup has since expanded into making acne treatments and anti-aging serums.
Catering to women
A growing number of entrepreneurs in Asia are rethinking female hygiene products and catering to health- and environmentally- conscious women who wish for better offerings.
To that end, Hyeeun Bu and Dojin Kim founded Happy Moonday, a South Korean startup that makes sanitary pads using organic cotton, eco-friendly bioplastics and paper packaging. Bu and Kim started Happy Moonday in 2017 after controversy erupted in South Korea over potentially harmful chemicals in sanitary products. The startup also offers a subscription service that delivers pads tailored to customers’ menstrual cycles. In August, Korean beauty chain Olive Young started selling the pads. So far, the company has raised $2 million through government funding and venture capital firms.
“Our mission is to redefine attitudes towards menstruation in Asia to create positive social and environmental change.”
Hong Kong-based New Zealand-born Olivia Cotes-James is on a similar mission. She founded LUÜNA, which makes menstrual care products such as toxin-free pads, liners and period cups. The startup also conducts webinars and workshops to provide women healthcare tips and help reduce the stigma associated with menstruation in Asia.
“Our mission is to redefine attitudes towards menstruation in Asia to create positive social and environmental change,” says Cotes-Jones, who was voted Young Business Leader of the Year by the Shanghai-based International Professional Women’s Society.
To see the full Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in Retail & Ecommerce, click here.
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