Zalora’s new team not resting on laurels

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KUALA LUMPUR: Internet fashion retailer Zalora Malaysia has a new team at its helm, just one year into operations, and is ready to take on challenges ahead.  The outfit is now led by its managing directors Tan Zhiwei, an Australian and Marino Giocondi, an Italian after its Malaysian co-founders Leow Wee Jonn and Johan Surani left recently for personal reasons.Tan, previously with Zalora Singapore, has seven years of experience in private equity and finance, while Giocondi comes from a Rocket Internet venture in Europe. From its original team of only two people, Zalora Malaysia now boasts over staff of 200. In the span of a year, the fashion retailer now hosts more than 600 international and local brands, with over 30,000 products online. “It is quite exciting to reach the one-year mark ... I don’t think for a minute we want to rest on our laurels ... There are many challenges ahead but at the same time, we are looking to become much larger than we are right now,” said Tan. “Zalora is trying to grow in a sustainable manner. We are looking to grow exponentially over the course of the next one or two years to get to the scale we need,” he said. According to Tan, some of the items that sold very well were traditional and Muslim wear like baju kurung and baju kebaya. “We have great local designers, whom we work with, who cater to both the traditional and modern markets. They are markets with a lot of potential. We have successfully addressed the markets this year. We are looking to making a strong push to serve the need of these markets really well, especially in the run-up to Hari Raya.”Tan said Zalora aims to learn from the ventures that have done well for example, Zalando in Europe and Iconic in Australia, but to customise the content according to local demand.  Zalora launched its mobile-optimised site in late January, which marked the beginning of the company’s expansion into m-commerce.Zalora Malaysia joint MDTan Zhiwei says there aremany challenges ahead but as the same time, Zalora is looking to becomemuch larger.Zalora is Rocket Internet’s fashion e-commerce brand based in Singapore, with operations in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Berlin-based Rocket Internet is an online startup incubator. Its business model is to identify successful Internet businesses and replicate them in other countries. Zalora received a vote of confidence from German multi-sector retailer, the Tengelmann group, which had invested €20 million (RM80.8 million) in the online retailer. This came five months after JP Morgan Asset Management invested US$40 million (RM124.4 million) in Zalora’s sister company Lazada last November. Last September JP Morgan also invested in Zalora. Rocket Internet’s investor base includes AB Kinnevik and Summit Partners.Zalora Malaysia has over two million visitors every month and has recorded double-digit growth for monthly sales, the company announced this as part of a celebration of its first anniversary.  “We have scaled up our logistics and customer service functions to be able to handle the volumes. We have been working very hard. We guarantee satisfaction with follow-up calls,” Tan said.This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 25, 2013.