It doesn’t matter which company you work for; corporate gifts are everywhere. It’s not hard to find a T-shirt or a pen with a company’s logo on it, or a USB drive shaped like a company emblem. Corporate gifts are part and parcel of each company’s marketing plan, and it’s baffling as to why the process of making corporate gifts hasn’t been perfected yet.
Enter GiftMarket, a Singapore-based startup started in late 2013. It’s dedicated to digitizing the corporate gifts industry that has been stagnant for the last decade. Inspired by a bad experience with corporate gift vendors as undergraduates, where getting a quote took as long as a week, the three founders — Danny, Calvin, and Reny — wanted to find a way to make the experience of shopping for corporate gifts much better.
Each of the founders are experienced entrepreneurs: Danny used to run a tuition matchmaking site called Tuitionking, Calvin ran a T-shirt printing company, and Reny runs ‘Notesworthy’, a non-profit academic marketplace. But despite the experience they had, the process wasn’t easy. According to Calvin, the team had to go door to door through the whole Tuas Industrial Estate to cold sell their products for one and a half months before they got their first client.
When asked why they chose the life of an entrepreneur, the answer seemed natural: if there’s a problem, we should fix it.
“We love to bend the rules and we know we won’t be able to survive well in the corporate world,” said Calvin. “Whenever we see a problem, we question, and we want to solve it. This is a huge taboo in the corporate world. Most importantly, we know we can achieve much more and at a more efficient rate if we were to run our own show.”
The GiftMarket process is simple: the website has a feature that allows you to set your target quantity and price — based on those, it will automatically provide a list of recommendations. Selecting an option would then send an enquiry to the team, who will then create the necessary artwork and send it over for approval. This is the first time an online price checking system has been made available by a corporate gift vendor — a terrifying prospect in a world where anything from private islands to durians can be bought online.
If I can buy my groceries online, why should buying corporate gifts be so difficult?
This transparency seems to have made all the difference: despite being around for just two years, the local startup has already landed huge clients like Singtel, Google, and several banks like OCBC and Standard Chartered. They’ve even made 2,800 pieces of Bluetooth selfie sticks for Facebook for their F8 Facebook developer conference in San Francisco. I was surprised to find out that I actually had some of the products that they produced from an event I attended before.
You’d also be surprised at the variety that GiftMarket offers. While you will see the odd pen or T-shirt here and there, corporate gifts available on their website also include USB humidifiers (why do we need humidifiers in Singapore?) cutlery sets, and even Fish Eye lens that you can attach to your smartphone camera. And you can’t say no to a foldable mouse.
Their personal favourite is the Garnier 3D USB, which looks eerily like the actual Garnier men facial foam bottle.
They’ve definitely come a long way since going door to door in Tuas Industrial Park, but the company seems to have hit the ground running. When asked what the lowest point of their startup journey was, Calvin replied that they simply haven’t hit it yet.
“We have not actually met with the lowest point in our entrepreneurship journey. I guess if there is really a lowest point, it was during the period when we had to squeeze our brain on how we can provide so much value to our customers to make them choose us compared to our competitors. We modelled after the belief of: ‘Provide value for your customer and your customer will reward you. Always think from a customer’s point of view, if you were the customer will you choose yourself?'”
Ultimately, GiftMarket provides much needed transparency in an oddly stagnant industry, and until all other players adjust to provide the same price-checking mechanism and responsiveness, GiftMarket is set to continue to grow exponentially to meet this demand for trust and reliability. And that’s what we call disruption.