Back in 2012, National University of Singapore (NUS) alumni – Quek Siu Rui, Marcus Tan and Lucas Ngoo – worked on developing the Carousell mobile app after a year-long stint in Silicon Valley, putting the skills they acquired to good use by envisioning a peer-to-peer marketplace where NUS students could sell things to each other.
Fast forward nearly a decade later in 2021, it reached unicorn status with a valuation of over US$1 billion. Today, Carousell has offices across eight locations in Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with “tens of millions of monthly active users and 80 million new listings annually”.
As the Group heads into its second decade, Carousell officially launched its new regional headquarters (HQ) at LaunchPad @ one-north last Friday (September 22).
The inaugural office, named Carousell Campus, is a facility dedicated to advancing Carousell Group’s recommerce capabilities as part of its goal to make buying and selling secondhand items more trusted and convenient.
“This space marks a coming-of-age for Carousell as a Group. Recommerce means bringing the best things that we know and like from e-commerce and availing it for secondhand products,” said co-founder and CEO Siu Rui.
At the launch event, graced by Singapore’s Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan as the guest of honour, Vulcan Post had the opportunity to tour the new HQ. Here is an inside look of the space.
When you walk into the main entrance…
On the right side of the main entrance is an Instagram-worthy tunnel named the “Mission Tunnel”, which serves as a reminder to the Carousell team of its mission to make secondhand the first choice for everyone.
The tunnel was initially part of the building’s main corridor, but instead of tearing it down and reconstructing it when returning the space, the Carousell team decided to reduce construction waste by repurposing the tunnel instead.
“This tunnel looks like a journey that is less than one per cent done, and is a reminder that despite where we are at today, we continue to strive to do better for our users and the earth,” said co-founder Marcus.
Right next to the tunnel is a wall that depicts Carousell’s journey from its early days back at BLOCK71 and its growth over the past years.
The wall also includes an artefact donated by one of its users — a Kodak Carousel projector, which turned out to be the inspiration behind the Group’s name.
We were inspired by how the Kodak Carousel goes backward and forward, and uses images to tell a story. We believed Carousell could become a community for people to share new and old things, and the stories behind them.– Marcus Tan, co-founder and president of Carousell
For the most part, in line with its sustainability mission, Carousell opted for secondhand furniture and repurposed old furniture from its previous HQ as decorative and functional artefacts for its new office.
As you walk past the wall with the Kodak camera, it would be hard to miss the impressive lighting fixtures that hang from the ceiling of the HQ. Upon closer inspection, these lighting fixtures actually resemble the Carousell logo — but what adds to their impressiveness is the fact that they are ingeniously crafted from repurposed office tables.
On the left of the lighting fixtures is the Carousell townhall and events space. More than just a return to its roots at BLOCK71, the move to set up Carousell Campus at LaunchPad was a deliberate choice to signal the Group’s commitment to being an integral part of Singapore’s startup ecosystem.
The townhall and events space, which is designed to house over 100 people, was set up to provide young startups access to world-class speakers from tech giants, facilitate connections and networking opportunities with startup founders, as well as provide a space to organise their own customer discovery events to find the right product-market fit.
Carousell Campus’ main office space
As the HQ is designed to be a hybrid workplace environment that facilitates a flexible work culture, the main office space at Carousell Campus is split into two key areas — the “Front of House” and the “Back of House” — which are tailored to allow various working styles of being productive and creative.
The Front of House is designed to foster open collaboration, while the Back of House allows for more privacy. Carousellers are free to sit and work at any of these work areas at any given time.
Carousell’s Business, Marketing and Sales teams tend to favour the Front of House area as their work requires cross-functional collaboration. The space is also equipped with rows of whiteboards, making quick creative brainstorms a breeze, while cosy booth seats allow for casual work discussions or lunch catch-ups.
The majority of meeting rooms are located at the Front of House, and much like its former HQ, these meeting rooms are named after key moments that define Carousell’s history, including the first items sold on the platform (a Kindle, a MacBook, an iPad), as well as user stories.
The Snorlax meeting room, for instance, is named after a user who accidentally bought three life-sized Snorlaxes instead of mini-sized ones. Amused by the user’s experience, Marcus bought one Snorlax off him, which is now kept in the meeting room.
The Retrogamers meeting room, on the other hand, is named after two Carousell users who became friends after discovering their shared love of retro games while dealing on the platform.
The pair of users have donated arcade machines to the Carousell team, which are now placed outside the meeting room.
As we toured the Front of House, the co-founders came to a halt before an inconspicuous bookshelf which was nestled between these meeting rooms. This unassuming bookshelf concealed a secret meeting room cleverly tucked away from plain sight.
The room, which is equipped with fully-functional video conference equipment, board games, and a trolley of alcoholic drinks, can be utilised by Carousellers for any purpose, from having meetings to winding down after a stressful day.
Additionally, a ping pong table is located at the end of the Front of House, which has accompanied the Carousell team across various office moves.
Meanwhile, the Back of House allows for quiet, focused work, where Carousellers can work undisturbed even when events are held at the Front of House.
Carousell’s teams that prefer the Back of House area are the Finance, Marketplace Experience, Tech, Strategy, and People teams. The startup’s Executive team also work alongside these teams in this area.
While the Back of House enables privacy, the teams who work in this area have created their own pantry of shared snacks at the couch area, where they lounge together during breaks.
It houses the Group’s first Capabilities Centre
Beyond just a HQ for its team, the Carousell Campus also houses the Group’s first Capabilities Centre, which brings the Group’s brands and subsidiaries into one single location to streamline operations and allow for more efficient collaboration.
Leading into the Capabilities Centre is a corridor that showcases its various recommerce programmes and partners who have been working with the startup across these programmes.
Nestled within the Capabilities Centre is the HQ of omni-channel fashion recommerce retailer Refash, which was acquired by Carousell last year.
The Capabilities Centre also allows Carousell Group to integrate its capabilities for authentication and inspection across its Certified programme. The Certified programme leverages shared expertise and technology from the Group’s various entities to authenticate and inspect secondhand items in the programme sold by Carousell Official Stores.
The authentication process of luxury items are more labour intensive — luxury bags, for instance, are authenticated by a team led by Carousell’s Lead Authenticator, who previously served for fashion luxury houses such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and Chanel.
While these authentication processes are sound, the Group has recognised that secondhand luxury shopping behaviour is inherently different due to its higher value. As such, it has set up a Luxury Showroom amongst these warehouses, which allows users to view these items in person prior to purchasing them on the platform.
Staying “laser-focused on execution”
As Carousell Group enters its second decade, Siu Rui said that the company remains on track for profitability.
Given that the company has made a number of acquisitions the past year — from Refash to Indonesia’s Laku6 — the company’s current main goal is to integrate these platforms into the Carousell platform, while focusing on its existing markets.
Looking ahead, the company plans to stay “laser-focused on execution”, and it can do exactly just that with the new HQ.
Centralising our Singapore-based entities at Carousell Campus has allowed us to strengthen our operations excellence. Our strategic focus on key growth product categories has streamlined our efforts to offer more compelling user value propositions and facilitate more collaboration opportunities to innovate on ways to increase circular economy adoption.– Quek Siu Rui, co-founder, Carousell Group
Featured Image Credit: Carousell Group
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