When travelling overseas, Vimal Kumar would constantly get requests from his friends and family to help buy things on their behalf. After all, if you’re not buying in bulk and the item is small, getting a friend who’s already there to get it for you makes much more sense. Shipping fees to Malaysia can be expensive, and some items aren’t even available online.
Vimal said, “So I thought, people are already doing this for friends and family, why not create a system and platform that enables everyone to get involved?”
He recruited Paul, his childhood friend, and three other people he’d encountered in his career, Terence, Mehran and Jolene. The team have a collective experience of over 50 years in multinational companies across various industries, including consulting, media, airline, education, technology and advertising agencies.
That was the birth of Yellow Porter, which enables buyers to purchase items internationally and have them shipped to their desired location at a lower price compared to commercial international shipping rates. How they work is by matching shipments to travellers, fondly known as Porters, headed the very same direction. For Malaysians travelling to other parts of the world, they can also earn money by signing up as Porters.
Porting Your Parcels Over
Vimal explained that the startup which launched mid-August 2016 got its name because, “Porter is exactly what we do. We ‘port’ items from location to location. Yellow is associated with joy, happiness and energy and what better colour to represent 5 energetic individuals facilitating the happy experience of purchasing items and keeping the cost low to obtain them? Plus it does help that yellow is the favourite colour of our one and only female co-founder.”
Becoming a Buyer is as simple as filling out a form on their website. Once the necessary information has been sent over, then the team will process the request and send an email with the local Yellow Porter address for the item to be sent to if it is being purchased via an e-commerce site and bank account details for the chargeable fees to be paid to. At the moment, the only categories of items that Buyers may purchase are books, cosmetics, electronics and fashion & clothing articles. Buyers can also choose for the Porters to purchase those items from physical stores, for an extra fee.
The Porters receive a shipping fee per shipment of RM35 from any destination. If the Porter is required to physically shop for the item, an extra shopping fee of RM30 is charged in addition to the item price and shipping fee. The fee collected will be shared between the Porter and Yellow Porter, with 80% to be paid to Porters and 20% to Yellow Porter. According to the team, “In Phase 1, the 20% revenue sharing to Yellow Porter will be waived and registered Yellow Porters will receive 100% of the total fee.”
The destinations currently available on Yellow Porter are deliberately targeted as there are at least daily flights from KL to those destinations. Vimal added, “The other 2 major factors that weigh into this are the cost of the conventional shipping agents as well as the appeal of the products that are available there. That is why we currently focus on the Australia, Japan, Korea and soon to be launched, UK.”
Dreams Of Growth
Being pretty new, the team is very excited for the things to come. Vimal shared, “Public response has been very good. Barely a month into Operations we already have orders up to 30 items to be fulfilled in the coming weeks. This does not include requests that we had to reject due to the locations of the items.”
Currently, to keep their costs low, all 5 co-founders are the only team members, but they plan to scale accordingly as the business grows. Terence the COO is the only one on full-time basis, with the crucial role of running their operations. The rest of the team members plan to slowly transition into full-time very soon.
They see themselves as being part of the crowdshipping industry, which is still fairly new to this part of the world. According to Vimal, the biggest player is Grabr, based out of San Francisco. He cited other regional players in SEA such as Airfrov and Tompang The World, both based out of Singapore.
He added, “We really welcome competitors as we need more noise in the market to create awareness to consumers on the availability of crowdshipping. The beauty of our offering is that we are the only player offering such service out of Malaysia. There are competitors out there, but their customer base is mostly in their home countries.”
The team currently described the 4 key areas where they differentiate themselves: (1) They are the only Malaysia-based crowdshipping platform at the moment; (2) Their pricing is fixed instead of being determined by a bidding system, hence there is a guaranteed pricing for customers; (3) They deliver within 7 days, because they have a steady flow of Porters; (4) Their team is very experienced and diverse.
The team has faced scepticism from the people around them on the validity of the idea. They’ve been asked if it could even work, or if they would be able to find Porters.
There has also been some hesitation by users to try out their service. As Vimal said, “We did have some queries from the Buyers at the beginning on the timing of the delivery as well as the condition of the item upon delivery. The only way to address those concerns was to prove that Yellow Porter is indeed a reliable service which delivers the item to them within 7 working days and in the exact condition in which the items are purchased. 30 odd days and 40 plus items later, returning customers have full confidence in our abilities.”
Right now, they are looking to partner e-commerce platforms to be a part of their shipping options as well as place their items on their platform and bundle them together with the shipping cost. This would definitely make their products much more appealing to the mass market of Malaysians. Vimal added, “We are also working on partnering with local Malaysian brands who are looking to sell their products in those overseas markets. We will also need to start expanding to other countries as our new hubs, once we grow and learn from Malaysian market’s experience.”
The team dreams to have all consumers be able to freely buy anything globally and ended with these words, “The world is your shopping mall, so shop away!”
Feature Image Credit: Yellow Porter