You’d think that startups would be better managed by someone who understands the industry and the products straight up.
Like a mechanic or car enthusiast would fare better handling an automobile related startup. Or a doctor, medical professional, or someone in the healthcare industry would understand what it takes to manage a health startup.
And that’s why Malaysian beauty e-commerce startup Hermo is such a puzzler—it was started by two men who did not even understand what eyebrow gel mascara was. So we caught up with Hermo, to see if we can discover other lesser known interesting secrets about the platform and the team behind it.
1. Hermo Could Have Been A Site For Sneakers
Co-founders PS Chong and Ian Chua started out by selling in-demand limited edition sneakers on Lowyat when they found inspiration to start what would soon be known as Hermo.
“The ‘Aha!’ moment kicked in when a friend of mine sent us a video about Jumei.com, a popular online beauty site in China,” said Ian Chua.
While all of that was happening, the founders noticed that many websites at the time sold a great deal of products at knockdown prices but most of these were either replicas or of low quality.
“We wanted to create an experience of users buying beauty products at affordable prices and also offer stuff that is not available locally in the market to users which are higher quality and in-demand,” the co-founders said.
2. Hermo Was Started By Two Guys With No Experience
Ian and PS met as classmates in secondary school and started Hermo with only a dream and the knowledge that group-buying sites were mushrooming. At the time, they were only 25.
But through the inspiration from the Jumei.com video, they set off to Kuala Lumpur and rented a cheap room there to get started. They did eventually move back to Johor after that.
There were many times when their families tried to persuade them to do Hermo part-time, especially during that first year of their journey. Not only were they inexperienced, the startup world was so volatile and really, what did two guys know about beauty?
But they persevered, and when Ian Mok joined as COO a year after they set up Hermo, things looked up. With his 10 years in business management plus PS and Ian Chua’s resilience, two became three, three became 100+, and Hermo managed to grow into the premier beauty site that it is now in Malaysia.
3. The Name ‘Hermo’ Has A Spanish Heritage
At the time, the founders were thinking along the lines of merging the words “Her” and “Mall”. But Hermall never came to be when they stumbled across the word “Hermosa”, which means beautiful in Spanish.
The founders were keen on the word, but they did think that the word “Hermès” sounded classy.
So they shortened Hermosa into Hermo, and finally the name came to be.
4. Hermo’s Office Is Actually Really Swanky
Even though their biggest client base is located around Klang Valley, Hermo is actually based in Johor. And their brand spanking new HQ could make even hardcore Klang Valley-ites consider moving there.
Each of the rooms in their HQ has a different theme such as the tech house and the den, all splashed in different colours. The rooms have different music played in them according to themes, and they even have a slide in their office to go from the top floor all the way down, just to de-stress and avoid the stairs.
There’s even a telephone booth (modelled after the British phone booth) for staff to use when they need a little me-time or peace and quiet on the phone.
5. There Isn’t A Secret To Their Success
The biggest secret about Hermo is perhaps… there is no secret.
Hermo is currently one of the top online beauty sites in Malaysia, but if one were to ask them what their secret was, their first answer would be simply grit and determination.
They attribute a lot to the team as well, whom they cultivated and allowed to make mistakes as they understand that making mistakes is how people grow.
“We made mistakes, we are still making mistakes and we allow mistakes to be made. If we never made them in the first place, how can we learn from them?” asked the Hermo co-founders.
Another key to their success is to really get into the heads of their customers. Hermo as a team emphasises strongly on customer needs. They try to understand what the customers want, and then work backwards from that to give the users just that.
In the beginning, they were even going to retail shops to purchase the orders the customers made and sold them without profit. This is because Hermo believes that building trust with the customers is crucial, and delivering orders fast is one way to grow that.
6. Hermo Actually Has A “For Him” Section
If you try to visit it right now, it is still under construction but the Hermo team is definitely working towards a website that even the boyfriends and brothers of Hermo’s current clientele could enjoy.
This all comes just in time for Christmas, if your gift ideas aren’t sorted yet.
While Hermo has always carried a large variety of products, some of which are suitable for men, this will be the first time Hermo will actually be trying to curate a section that men can browse for themselves to find what they are looking for.
Perhaps it is about time Hermo added a section with products that the co-founders themselves could find useful.
7. They Get Their Hands Dirty Once A Month In Johor
The #HermoLaju movement is a little treat by the team for Johorians who order from the site. It is a once in a month initiative where Hermo staff will personally deliver an order to the lucky recipients of the day.
This is a user outreach program by Hermo to spread the Hermo love to the customers and to also help them understand the customers better. It helps both customers and staff to put a face behind the orders on their site, and also tallies with Hermo’s modus operandi of understanding exactly what their customers need.
Plus, it’s a nice surprise.
8. The First Build Of The Hermo Website Only Cost RM2,000
Before Ian Mok joined the party, Ian Chua and PS Chong paid a freelancer RM2,000 to develop the first version of the site. Back then, Hermo looked more like a Groupon flash deal site rather than what it is today, only that it sold beauty products.
But the biggest capital they invested in back then was trust.
On top of the subsidy scheme, Hermo facilitated full refunds with no questions asked. Customers then could even get a refund after they opened a product.
The team hoped that with this policy in place, customers would trust them more and build their reputation even more with word of mouth.
9. The Founders’ Odd Yet Useful Habit
In make-up and beauty, products come in and out of style seemingly at the snap of a finger so the founders are constantly in research mode even up till today, so that they continue to understand what their buyers want.
“We secretly always check out our friends’ home toilets, make-up bags and skin care bottles,” the founders said with a laugh.
“Of all the make-up bags, friends’ toilets and dressing tables I have inspected, I have counted that an average woman has at least 20+ products at hand,” Ian added.
We hope that their friends are at least used to these shenanigans by now.
The Hermo 12.12 Sale
And this is a big one. Hermo has sale after sale on their site because they believe that one can never get bored of having so many beauty products.
The 12.12 Beauty Takeover is Hermo’s largest sale makeover of the year, happening from December 12-14.
The team has worked hard to make this year’s sale a success and they aim to make it larger than Single’s Day and Black Friday.
“We continuously strive to bring the best beauty products to your doorstep. This year, our mass campaigns include 612 (our anniversary sale), mycybersale and now the 12.12 beauty takeover sale, which we plan to roll out on an annual basis as a means of expressing our gratitude to our loyal fans thus far. Without them, we couldn’t have come this far today.
For us, it is all about the customer experience and journey and we thank them for being here since our inception in 2012,” the team concluded.
This article was brought to you by Hermo Malaysia.