I’m not sure about you, but as a tech-amateur myself, finding the right IT product is even more stressful than falling asleep on the priority seat in trains.
While we often know what we vaguely want, we tend to rely on recommendations before deciding on a purchase. This is especially true for those who look at important tech specifications only to go: “Oh crap, what does all these mean?”
Even for the tech-literates, finding the best deals can be challenging.
You either have to trawl the web for the cheapest yet reliable sources, or squeeze with the masses at the occasional IT fairs. Some also turn to popular ‘IT malls’ like Sim Lim believing that it’s where you get the best IT deals.
However, unless you are very well-informed, how sure are you that you’re not being ripped off by promoters who are there to sell their brand to you?
A group of self-professed Singaporean geeks understand the pain, so they got together to build their own solution.
PearlBlue Tech – The Next Amazon For Southeast Asia
Leveraging on their years of expertise as promoters in the IT trade, a trio of Singaporean geeks built PearlBlue Tech with the aim of making it the next Amazon for Southeast Asia.
As a relatively new startup, the team is committed to giving customers their best. So much so, they are even willing to forsake some of their profit margins.
While they pride themselves in bringing in major brands at affordable prices, they never compromise quality and ethics.
At the end of the day, they carry products and brands that they believe in personally.
Their hard work has evidently paid off. What started as a humble 200 sqm warehouse in 2014 has grown into a 2,000sqm warehouse today.
We spoke to co-founder Yukai and he shared with us more about the story behind PearlBlue Tech.
Tell us more about how PearlBlue Tech came about.
Joe and I started off as printer promoters back in 2012. One night, Joe shared his thoughts of setting up his own company retailing IT products. I was initially sceptical due to several concerns: where do we get funding, how do we find sales, and what if we fail?
No success was ever achieved without failure, and since we were already equipped with the knowledge, we decided to try it out.
We drew up our business plan and our friend, Nicholas, came aboard as our investor.
We started with Fuji Xerox Managed Print Services before branching out to retail. While kick-starting our own e-commerce website, we also started collaborating with top marketplace sites like Qoo10 and Lazada.
Why “PearlBlue Tech”?
We chose “Pearl” as pearls are timeless jewellery pieces and a symbol of luxury and prominence, which are essentially our aims for the company. We want our tech collection to be timeless and for our customers to have a premium experience with our customer support.
To match our “Pearl”, “Blue” represents the calm ocean. It’s also a colour we chose to bring front these values that we, PearlBlue Tech, strive towards: Trust, Reliability, Tradition, Quality, and Depth.
How much did you invest to kickstart this business, and how long did it take for you break even?
We started with $40,000, which is literally all our savings combined.
The start-up journey was tough as we were relying on regular customers from our days as promoters. We were taking home very minimal salary and took 1 year to break even. Even then, we were still bootstrapping our startup and earning very little.
Do all three of you have any prior experience in technology?
Having been printer promoters for 3 years, Joe and I have extensive knowledge on printers in general. We picked up knowledge on a lot of other IT products along the way, and that helps in expanding our current product collection.
Can you briefly describe what PearlBlue Tech is about?
We aim for PearlBlue Tech’s website to be a concierge platform for all consumers – a place that will cater to most of their needs.
What is each of you in charge of?
I’m in charge of business development and overall operations. Joe used to be in charge of corporate sales, but he has since left to pursue his other interest.
We currently have a dedicated team of 8 managing this business, which includes 3 digital executives just to handle our marketplaces sites, PearlBlue website, and social media platforms.
How do you set yourself apart from the rest?
Singaporeans are generally kiasu. They want cheap, good, and most importantly convenience – which are everything PearlBlue Tech can offer.
As a startup, we don’t have much overhead, so we let our customer enjoy these savings through very competitively-priced offerings. Our customer base has increased exponentially with such a business model.
We also offer our professional advice as opposed to just promoting.
Being experts yourself, what should we look out for when sourcing for an IT gadget?
I recommend customers to first identify what features they require before looking at price. You can then shortlist products with such features. Then, look at the warranty coverage. This will give you a much better idea on the value of what you are paying for.
There are many variables that come into play like the features, length of warranty, type of warranty coverage (limited local, or worldwide), and etc. These are considerations that we often advise customers to think about when we guide them in selecting a product that fits their budget and ticks their checkboxes.
How is PearlBlue Tech the perfect place for us to shop at?
PearlBlue Tech has a young and vibrant team who is eager to assist customers in any way. Our website has detailed information of every product we carry and it’ll satisfy even the geekiest people who like to do in-depth research.
In areas that we may be losing out to other long-established brands, we more than compensate with our value-for-dollar offering, commitment in providing the best customer service, and state-of-the-art logistic structure.
Customers can also enjoy the perk of convenience – you can just buy what you need online and have it delivered to you free (for Singapore orders).
What are the key business challenges that you have faced so far?
Online space is becoming more competitive and we have to constantly change our strategy at a faster pace.
We only provide the crème de la crème for our customers. We don’t bring in waves of products without having full knowledge of these products. So our challenge is being able to offer a wide range of items yet being stringent in what we carry.
Building business processes is also a challenging part of our business as we scale up to cater to bigger group of customers.
Do you think there has been sufficient government support for young startups like yourself?
There are things like the PIC grant, however that requires at least 3 employees paying CPF. Most startups don’t have the luxury of meeting this requirement within the infant stage.
I believe there’s more the government can do for startups.
The government should aid local startups in compensating for their talents’ remuneration loss from if these talents were to join MNCs. Instead of time spent worrying about raising funds, founders can focus more on executing business strategy.
How would you describe your profit and business growth so far?
There has more than 3,000% total growth on our online platforms, including marketplace sites, from 2015 to 2017.
What are the future plans for PearlBlue Tech, and what’s your long-term goal?
Our long-term goal is for our website to be a concierge platform that will cater to the needs of all consumers. We will also continue to embrace our strong partnerships with marketplace sites.
Some of our plans include:
A Website Upgrade – Incorporating more user-friendly features.
Express Delivery Options – We are experimenting with same day delivery and even delivery within X hours. By September 2017, we aim to fulfil all our customer purchase within the day of their order.
Exciting Brand Partnerships – We are partnering with exciting brands to bring more value-for-money deals to our customers.
Loyalty Reward Program – We are currently doing pilot testing on a consolidated loyalty reward program. In the future, customers will earn points from purchases, which can be used to exchange for various rewards like vouchers, movie tickets or even holiday trips.
We are also working closely with other local start-ups to bring in more rewards.
Any business mantra that you live by?
Our motto which we live by since the start of our business: “We don’t brag, we work”.
Bragging brings in sales but it will not sustain. Customers get turned off once you fail to deliver your promises. I encourage my team not to brag, and to just do our best for our stakeholders. Once we’re recognised as problem-solvers, our reputation will soar.
Looking to get a printer or any other IT-related product?
Don’t miss the good deals you can get at PearlBlue Tech here. (There’s even free delivery for all Singapore orders!)
This article was written in collaboration with PearlBlue Tech.
Featured Image Credit: PearlBlue Tech