No Malaysian can forget the floods that wreaked havoc in the nation last year, and that includes Andrew Yap.
But before diving into all of that, let’s start from the company’s humble beginnings.
The first chapter
Andrew’s story starts over a decade ago in 2007, when physical books were already said to be dying. After all, Amazon had just released its e-reader, Kindle, in that same year, sparking concerns within the publishing industry.
While some bookstores have stayed afloat by upping the prices of books, Andrew and Jacqueline, his partner in life and business, have found a way to make print popular by keeping it accessible.
Likening the company to a “huge travelling circus”, Big Bad Wolf takes millions of books to various cities and sells them for affordable prices.
BookXcess, on the other hand, is their brand of permanent bookstores in Malaysia. Today, BookXcess is known for its sprawling “Instagram-worthy” bookstores in locations such as RexKL, MyTown, Lalaport, and more.
However, when it first opened its doors in 2007, it was just a tiny bookstore in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya.
But the company’s clear mission to make books affordable and accessible has empowered them to grow into what it is today—a team that has left its footprints in 34 cities and 15 different countries across the globe.
As an “old-school” company selling physical books, storage is extremely important to Big Bad Wolf. The company currently has two warehouses—one in Shah Alam and one in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
These warehouses are the lifeline of their business, Andrew shared.
However, that lifeline nearly snapped when the flash floods hit during the tail end of 2021.
“The flood that happened is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the company,” Andrew told Vulcan Post. “There are many times when parts of Shah Alam were flooded over the years, but nowhere near here. It was something that caught us very unexpectedly.”
Especially for books, floods are more damaging compared to fires because water gets into everything and leaves a lot of cleaning up to be done. Millions of their water-logged books had to be destroyed.
“What was really disheartening is that all these books are not easy to replace,” Andrew said. “Can you imagine, 4.5 million books?”
By the community, for the community
Andrew recalled being contacted by a security guard past midnight one day, informing him that some families were in the warehouse scavenging for books after the floods.
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” they told Andrew when he said they couldn’t just take the wet books. “They’ll dry in the sun; the kids got no books.”
Realising the gravity of the situation, Andrew told them to take as many as they could.
This anecdote is a reflection that when the flash floods hit, they didn’t just hit Big Bad Wolf’s warehouses—they also hit the communities nearest to it.
“We are a business. Yes, we are suffering,” Andrew said. “But these are families and these are their lives. We didn’t lose our homes.”
So, the company began a drive, starting with the communities around it. Andrew believes that this shows how Big Bad Wolf is staying true to its mission, as a mission-based company.
“It’s always the people first before the business,” he emphasised.
Thanks to Big Bad Wolf’s steadfast mission of cultivating reading habits through affordable and accessible books, the company has won over the hearts of Malaysians.
This came in the form of support rallies during the devastating flash floods and positive comments all over its social media platforms.
Driven by a core mission
Due to inflation, the cost of many things, including books, has gone up. However, Andrew shared that this isn’t the first time the company has encountered this issue.
But unlike most other businesses that consider the cost of their products first before adding a certain margin on it to determine the selling price, Big Bad Wolf and BookXcess actually set their prices first.
As such, the prices of their products have maintained a flat rate since they opened their doors 15 years ago. For instance, when BookXcess first started, a regular paperback book was only RM17.90—the same price as today.
To keep those prices low, however, the company was actually forced to grow into the size that it is today, as publishers would only want to sell them at a cheaper rate if the volume is large.
Regardless, the company pushed through with the decision, because of its goal to have people, especially those from lower-income households, buy books without ever having to worry about the price.
This includes not just communities in Malaysia but abroad, particularly in Africa. Seeing a huge void of reading materials within the continent, Andrew believes it’s the company’s duty to go into the market as soon as possible.
Bolstered by its plan to enter six more countries in Africa, the company aims to move one billion copies annually.
“If we can achieve that, I would say that the world will change by itself,” Andrew concluded.
This interview was done as part of our ongoing Vulcan Post video series, Open Book.
You can watch Andrew’s video interview here: