In A Sea Of Dying Subscription Boxes, These M’sians Have A Model That Might Just Survive
Tee May Tan
“6 out of 10 women have bought ill-suited or the wrong cosmetic products in their shopping experience. It’s a scenario that happens daily.”
As much as we might like a product in the store, or as much as the salesperson or online reviews recommend it, we often don’t know it will affect our skin until we actually try it ourselves.
But then there’s an issue. Do we buy the full-sized pack, which might be wasted if we don’t like it? What if we want to sample a wider range of products first before settling on the one we like best?
A startup called Pandorabox wants to solve those problems by providing a subscription service that sends a box of sample products for RM49 a month.
The box contains a mix of 4 to 5 samples of hair, makeup, skincare, and fragrance, which switches up every month.
Called a Beauty Test Box, they come with a male or female range.
“The purpose of the Beauty Test Box was to help users match their preferred skin care and grooming products.”
Originally from a banking industry, Tyler Yew founded Pandorabox in 2015 with Joey Chai.
A question they asked was, “In this tech-driven era, a lot of famous giant companies came from all around the world but why don’t we have a Malaysian startup of that level?”
Therefore, they did their research and realised that manufacturers didn’t have a suitable platform for them to distribute their sample goods. The problem? There was no middleman. So Pandorabox set out to be just that.
Their product range is more than just the basic necessities—they have categories for anti-aging, blackhead removal, oil blemish control, and men’s special care as well.
When it comes to skincare, you can never be too careful about quality.
“As one of our interviewees told us, she tried to buy a skincare product online due to the cheaper price from a popular online website, only to discover that after using it she was faced with serious skin issues. She had to pay a heavy medication cost which hurt her confidence to buy online after that.”
The items in their box are selected by their testing team, to ensure product quality. They also try to include a range that spans popular favourites to brand names you’ve never heard of before.
“We are still working hard to choose the best brands for our platform especially those with core values in solving problems and improving skin care.”
They’ve sustained themselves for 3 years by riding on the wave of the online e-commerce scene and are looking forward to see how much more they can grow.
Their most significant milestone was when they launched the monthly subscription box early this year. Having already delivered to more than a thousand users, they hope to increase their reach by focusing on deliveries around ASEAN.
The Pandorabox team revealed that their sales comes to around US$25,000 per month (about RM102,650 with current conversion rates) and the profit margin ranges around 5% to 20%.
As with most startups, lack of funds was a big pain point for them. They were extremely careful in their expenditure, treating every penny spent as precious as gold.
“The motivations for starting Pandorabox came from wanting to do something different. No matter if we succeed or fail, at least we can say we tried.”
“In our dictionary, obstacles are the best teacher.”
Tyler echoed many other startup founders when he called their journey a lonely and difficult path.
“I was influenced by my grandmother’s traditional teaching. She taught me that as an entrepreneur, I have to possess loyalty, faith, filiality, and righteousness.”
“When I applied those elements to my company in its early stage, whenever we had difficulties, someone would always come and boot us up. I think that’s our little secret and those are important values I carry.”
Subscription box models are known to be difficult to sustain—mostly because customers may not like all the products they receive and conclude that it’s not worth to subscribe long-term.
However, Tyler maintained that Pandorabox’s value is helping people to get suitable skincare products. Once they find what they like, Pandorabox also sells the full-sized product individually on their website.
In terms of future plans, they want to include a feature for customers to consult a professional doctor’s for any skin problems they may face after using the product.
They are also planning to add another twist: customers can have the freedom to choose what kind of brands they want, alongside the option of mystery.
“Pandorabox doesn’t just sell products online; we stay focused on users’ interests and help them to get personalised products suited for them to improve their beauty and confidence.”