Layoffs, pay cuts and overall boredom have turned many Malaysians into entrepreneurs, selling handmade and homemade products on Instagram, Shopee, Kravve and other platforms.
At the end of the consumer, we are spoiled for choice. If I wanted delicate earrings, I have them Cindertoella or Gravel + Herbs to choose. For houseplants there is more than a dozen marks to single out.
This boom in turn opened up online markets to help inexperienced vendors gain customers and increase their online availability.
He is one of them Poptron, portmanteau of the words POP-up, TRust and ONline, which also uses its platform to portray the stories of the vendors behind their products. This is intended to mimic the experience of browsing the bazaar and interacting with vendors behind the booths – an experience that is stopped by locking.
And it was all thanks to the leather shoes.
He had glass slippers
It started when founder Brian Lowe came across a pair of leather shoes while inspecting the pop bazaar in Audience, KL back in 2019. “I clearly remembered that it was one of the finest Italian-style shoes I’ve ever seen with really flawless workmanship and details,” Brian told the Vulcan Post.
The humble salesman was also the owner and shoemaker behind the brand, and Brianu carefully explained his creation, the manufacturing process, the types of skins used, and so on.
Brian recalled: “It was touching to hear his story and understand the true passion and pride that go into what he created. I tried on the shoes with a lot of anticipation, and as the saying goes … it fit me like a glove! “
With a price tag of RM499, Brian was sold, but got into trouble – he didn’t have enough cash available, nor did the seller offer cashless payment options. This was a prepandemic and a time when small bazaar vendors were not equipped to have such systems.
Brian decided to finally make a purchase through the seller’s website. As a few weeks passed, he was hit by another problem, unable to remember the brand name. He searched high and low on social media and put relevant keywords on Google, to no avail.
“This experience has given rise to the idea of addressing a fundamental problem that, although small businesses may be present online today, can prove challenging to find or direct traffic to someone’s platform unless suggested by a detection algorithm or if we already knew the brand name ”Shared Brian, who launched the platform in September 2020.
So Poptron solves this by listing the microbrands from Instagram that the team has reviewed or recommended by their sales partner to ensure they share like-minded people.
Customer acquisition is also ensured, as existing followers of the brand are also embarked on Poptron. This builds awareness of Poptron’s website, while also opening up customers to a new market with products and brands that might interest them.
It therefore reduces the cost of acquiring the brand – which is otherwise 40% of their revenue from displaying ads on social media – while increasing their business, according to Brian.
We grow together
While browsing, I noticed that many of the brands at Poptron were environmentally conscious and were selling fairly high quality products. It was part of Brian’s goal, to inspire a sustainable lifestyle that will amplify the positive impact on society and future generations to come.
While the platform emphasizes its support for microbrands, Poptron will not throw out brands that are growing bigger and that they will no longer need in the years to come.
This is because other retailers would still benefit from the traffic brought by the larger brand, and each new product added to the site will find its niche.
Vendors at Poptron are inspected and must go through a verification process to ensure legitimacy and reliability. Some of the basic criteria that sellers must meet are:
- Have a registered business entity and Instagram business profile;
- Owning our own products / brands;
- Be market ready with a transparent return policy;
- Possibility of delivery via courier services and delivery on request.
The founder also admitted that there were cases when sellers were rejected, even though they had a lot of followers because they were shipowners or did not have a business entity.
For now, Poptron does not charge transaction fees or fees to their partner brands and only transfers the costs incurred from the payment and shipping processing partners.
They run the business Seed financing of one million US dollars from a few months ago and they are investing more to increase the site regionally.
“Eventually, we’ll introduce a monthly subscription at competitive prices for sales on Poptron,” Brian shared.
To date, Poptron hosts over 100 domestic brands with more than 1,400 different products. In the next two years, Brian plans to expand his presence to Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Earlier, Brian also said Poptron wants to raise $ 1.6 billion in market share in microbrands with 600,000 microbrands that will generate their global revenue in 2025.
Bringing him back to the near future, he wants to host the Poptron Festival when it’s safe. This is an engagement with their community of users and retailers in a festival environment consisting of music, visual arts, film, F&B and, of course, pop-up bazaars.
- You can learn more about Poptron here.
- You can read more of the Malaysian startups we’ve covered here.
Credits for featured paintings: Brian Lowe, founder of Poptron