It has been a week since Tesla offered a discount of up to S$10,000 on their Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles (EVs).
Typically, a discount is something to cheer about. But not this time.
Following the announcement, existing Tesla owners wasted no time making their anger and disgruntlement known — online and in real life.
Here’s the thing, Tesla is not your typical product where a fall in price will result in heightened demand.
It is a car with poor reliability, but excellent branding. As for why people buy it, its appeal is contingent on the fact that it is marketed as a luxury product the masses cannot afford.
Tesla must know where its appeal lies, so why is it offering discounts to dilute its value?
Demand and supply, or something else altogether?
Basic economics tells us that when demand falls, companies will lower prices to stimulate demand. Even so, that might not be entirely the case with Tesla.
Call Elon Musk an eccentric genius, but Tesla probably dropped their prices because it was too high in the first place.
Moreover, it was never the aim of Tesla to remain a luxury brand forever. In the Tesla Master Plan released in 2006, Musk has this to say:
The strategy of Tesla is to enter at the high end of the market, where customers are prepared to pay a premium, and then drive down market as fast as possible to higher unit volume and lower prices with each successive model.
– Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.
Therefore, there is no need to catastrophise the situation with Tesla when it is simply following a strategy out of its playbook to achieve worldwide domination.
By self-correcting their overtly inflated prices to reach a wider pool of consumers, Tesla does hope to sell more cars. However, it is coming from a desire to achieve economies of scale in their production line and go mass market rather than a frantic solution to rescue a floundering company.
A strategic move that could be fatal
For many years, Tesla was able to justify its high prices because it monopolised the EV market.
It became a luxury car by default, not because of its superior craftsmanship or performance, but because few options could compete with it.
But since then, the EV landscape has changed drastically. Legacy car manufacturers, having recognised the immense potential of the EV, have poured in billions of dollars to develop their own electric fleet.
It is safe to say that Tesla is slowly but surely losing its competitive advantage. Even in Singapore, for Tesla to market itself as a high-end EV would mean competing with brands such as Audi and BMW.
Unlike phones, there aren’t just one or two super brands to choose from.
Cars are of different nature, ruled by highly individualised preferences. So while Tesla might be a titan in the EV market, it still has a long way to go as an automotive manufacturer.
Offering a discount will no doubt spur demand in the short run. But ultimately, Tesla is doing itself a disfavour by diluting its brand image.
Imagine if French couture houses start slashing prices. Will a Hermes handbag still be as appealing?
Maybe, it is as bad as we think
Of course, there might be no strategy at Tesla. This price cut is Elon Musk going all-or-nothing for growth.
After all, Tesla ended 2022 on a sour note after losing US$800 million in market value. Shareholders are unhappy, and as CEO, Musk has got to be seen to do something to turn the tide.
Perhaps by offering a discount, it is Musk’s desperate attempt to hang on to his market share and challenge the industry.
But for those of us who have been eyeing a Tesla for some time now, there is no better time to buy one.
Featured Image Credit: Business Insider
It is often believed that consuming abalone, pronounced as ‘bao yu’ in Mandarin, during Chinese New Year (CNY) would bring an abundance of good fortune for the entire year.
This is why abalones are a highly sought-after product in Singapore during the festive season, and it’s also not surprising to see that New Moon’s canned abalone products have become a staple at every household.
According to surveys conducted by AC Nielsen between the years of 1999 and 2011, New Moon has , which started off as a provision store along Singapore’s Rochor Road selling a variety of food and essential items.
The history behind Goh Joo Hin
Goh Joo Hin, initially named Joo Hin Wholesalers, was bought over by businessman Goh Yeow Gek in the 1940s as he saw potential in the business.
After acquisition, he renamed it to Goh Joo Hin and it was later joined by Goh’s family members who helped manage the provision store and expanded its business into imports and exports.
In the 1980s, the company went on to acquire New Moon and further expanded its product offerings.
Today, the business is helmed by CEO Goh Kai Kui (the grandson of Yeow Gek), alongside their family shareholders and four other senior managers.
Under the 58-year-old’s management, Goh Joo Hin has shifted from trading to developing a strong distribution network and brand portfolios. The company currently manages brands such as Mili, Skippy, SPAM, and Borsch Med, and has a market presence in at least 17 other countries.
From canned abalones to sauces
New Moon is commonly associated with its canned abalones, but it has actually diversified its products over the decades.
According to Kai Kui, the brand has ventured into producing bird’s nest, chicken essence, fragrant rice as well as edible oils and sauces between the 1990s and 2000s.
“These products were well received by Singaporeans, and have earned multiple awards,” he said.
Since the 2010s, the brand has further expanded its food range to include chilled and frozen products such as frozen otah, popcorn chicken and mantou, to cater to the busy lifestyle of Singaporeans.
Premium local and Asian pastes such as chicken rice, chilli crab and rendang, were also brought in during this time period to give Singaporeans greater convenience when preparing meals.
We always take time in studying the market trends and develop our recipes before launching our products, in the hope of bringing something new to our consumers.
– Goh Kai Kui, CEO of New Moon
However, surviving and remaining successful throughout these decades was no easy feat. Over the years, New Moon had seen its share of difficulties including the 1997 Asian financial crisis, SARS pandemic, and the most recent COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite these economic headwinds, it has managed to survive and remain successful by managing its stock supplies conservatively and building strong relationships with partners.
Despite the difficulties, the brand has grown its e-commerce capabilities during the pandemic to reach its customer base. However, the rapid emergence of newer, trendier F&B brands in Singapore has proven to be a barrier for New Moon.
Kai Kui said that the younger generation is more inclined to try these newer brands, and New Moon may not be an “everlasting heritage brand”. To appeal to these consumers, the brand is looking to improve and innovate its products by offering healthier options and sustainable food and eco-friendly packaging.
By aligning with evolving lifestyle trends such as healthier options with less sugar, New Moon hopes to remain relevant in the F&B landscape.
Setting sights on global expansion
Besides evolving according to market trends and demands, New Moon has also collaborated with popular local celebrities and engaged them as brand ambassadors.
[Our collaborations with celebrities] have contributed to New Moon’s success as a trusted household brand and a top choice for gifting to loved ones.
– Goh Kai Kui, CEO of New Moon
Over the years, local celebrities such as Fann Wong, Kym Ng, Jeanette Aw and Stefanie Sun, have all been named as New Moon’s brand ambassadors. Most recently, renowned Korean actress Han So Hee has been appointed its latest brand ambassador in hopes of becoming a globally recognised brand.
In line with this ambition, New Moon has established itself in multiple Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Kai Kui asserted that the brand’s goal is to expand beyond Southeast Asia and become a “well-known and trusted global brand with a diversified range of products.” To achieve this, the company is looking to expand its team, as more manpower and different skill sets will be needed to introduce new products in the future.
Featured Image Credit: New Moon / @rontreechan via Instagram
Biogenes Technologies Sdn Bhd (Biogenes), a Malaysian biotech startup, has bagged US$5.7 million for its Series A funding from Pembangunan Ekuiti Sdn Bhd (PESB), according to a January 18 press release.
The fresh funds from PESB will go towards expanding Biogenes’ proprietary technology platforms across Southeast Asia, namely the Philippines and Indonesia where Biogenes has signed collaboration agreements.
“With this support, Biogenes will invest into a medical-grade manufacturing facility, advancing our technology portfolio,” said Tang KM, the co-founder and CEO of Biogenes, in the press release.
The startup targets to have the capacity to produce 10 million test kits per year and further develop aptamer-based diagnostic solutions.
Dictionary time: Aptamers are synthetic or chemical antibodies. Aptamer-based diagnostics are lower-cost, more accurate, and stable compared to antibody diagnostics.
On top of the Series A funding, Biogenes will also receive an approved grant of RM5.5 million (around US$1.2 million) through the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) 3 project.
RM3.3 million (around US$750k) of that grant will be provided by the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC).
Growing due to the pandemic
Established in 2015, Biogenes is a biotechnology company, specialising in molecular diagnostics and genomics.
Its key technologies include in silico design of synthetic antibodies, known as aptamers, as well as rapid point-of-care diagnostic solutions in infectious diseases and cancer biomarkers screening.
Dictionary time: “In silico” is used to describe experiments or research conducted or produced through computer modelling or computer simulation.
During the pandemic, Biogenes focused its efforts on producing biosensor diagnostic kits for COVID-19. As the biotech startup already had a technology platform for portable molecular diagnostics, the process of getting into the COVID-19 space was streamlined, Tang told The Petri Dish.
“The pandemic kicked in just in time as we launched our commercial in silico design and validation platform for new aptamers in diagnostics and therapeutics,” Tang said. “The pandemic opened doors for us.”
Support from the government
Biogenes was the first startup to complete the NTIS Sandbox Fund 1. It participated in the programme to conduct validation trials for COVIDSENS, its rapid test kit for COVID-19.
Spearheaded by Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), the NTIS Sandbox was first announced as a part of the Short-Term Recover Plan (PENJANA) on August 19, 2020.
The programme’s main goal is to allow researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs to test their products and services in a live environment.
To fast-track the development of innovation, NTIS relaxes certain regulatory requirements. In November 2020, Biogenes received funding from NTIS Sandbox 1 worth RM250k.
According to The Edge, the NTIS provided enough backing to Biogenes so it could approach collaborators such as the University of Malaya.
Aside from MTDC and MOSTI, Biogenes has also received support from another government agency, Platcom Ventures.
Biogenes was also a recipient of CIP Accelerate, a funding programme from Cradle Fund in 2021, for another one of its digital rapid COVID-19 test kits, APTSENS.
A unicorn in development?
In 2020, Biogenes secured its seed funding with an investment from Antler, a global venture firm.
With the recent cash injection from PESB, Biogenes’ valuation is reportedly now at RM125 million (around US$28 million).
“We strongly believe that Biogenes is disrupting a large market and we want to support their vision for growth towards potentially entering unicorn status,” stated Shekh Jamaluddin, the executive director of PESB, in the press release.
PESB is a multi-asset management firm that focuses on alternative investments. It manages funds for “sophisticated investors”, aiming to help its clients achieve long-term risk-adjusted returns.
With the grant and Series A funding, Biogenes will continue its efforts to commercialise its healthcare diagnostics solutions.
Featured Image Credit: Adrian Joseph, Co-Founder & Chief Commercial Officer of Biogenes Technologies
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed below belong solely to the author.
Two news stories in the recent week have caught my eye, subtly showing how Shopee is adjusting to the new, more challenging, market circumstances in pursuit of profitability (or at least, financial self-sustainability).
While they may sound relatively minor in isolation, the shift they provide hints about is fundamentally important to the entire company and suggest a departure from earlier growth strategy.
Last week, quite overnight, news broke that Shopee would ditch its last outpost in Europe, Poland, on January 13. According to reports, the abrupt decision took both merchants and customers by surprise, given the significant investment the platform has made in the country.
It wasn’t the first withdrawal from a European market — as it earlier ditched France and Spain — but the difference is that it has never gave much attention to either market, likely only testing the waters. It did launch localised websites in French and Spanish, but beyond that, it didn’t run significant campaigns or recruit local staff and suppliers like it did in Poland.
In its announcement, the company mentioned “macroeconomic uncertainties” in the region and will focus on Asia and Latin America instead. It seems, however, to be just a case of cutting losses amid global, not regional, pessimism.
This is in addition to the fact that when it launched its service in the country, domestic competition in Poland is far stronger than whatever it has thus far faced in less developed markets.
In other words, Sea took on a much bigger challenge at a considerably less favourable time.
The company was definitely dedicated to growing the platform in Eastern Europe, as it built up its local office and recruited hundreds of suppliers — likely with the ultimate goal of not only serving Poland, but using the country as an outpost for European expansion.
Shopee spent millions running ad campaigns across all possible platforms. It employed a number of local celebrities and ran TV and radio ads day and night for many months, but it must have now become clear it is incapable of translating it into enough growth to justify the expense.
Sea has managed to cut its losses in half by the third quarter of 2022, but it still meant losing half a billion dollars per quarter — a sum untenable in the current economic reality, as it can’t hope to raise more funding after its market capitalisation collapsed together with most of the global tech
So despite huge outlays and etching itself in the minds of Polish customers with its annoyingly catching advertising tunes, it decided that it has to extract more from the markets it is already doing well in rather than seek success in new ones.
Leader in live selling
One of the examples of how it is trying to accomplish it, is its relative success as a platform for live selling in Southeast Asia, as it came first in Ninja Van’s study of the market published a few days ago.
Out of 1,186 live selling merchants polled, 27 per cent reported using Shopee, followed by Facebook and TikTok, with Lazada coming in a fairly distant fourth.
I think this is quite an accomplishment given that social media platforms are designed with video delivery in mind and are frequently the main medium of interaction with fans and followers.
Excluding Thailand, where it’s been beaten by large margins by Facebook and TikTok, it is the platform of choice for up to one-third of merchants (e.g. in Singapore or Vietnam).
This is what I mean by qualitative growth — extracting more value from the customers the business already has, in markets it is well-recognised in.
Rather than trying to reach more people, it now needs to make its current ones a habitual, repeated buyers, as it would permit a decrease in marketing expenses on user acquisition.
Once someone grows used to using one solution, you no longer have to advertise to them as heavily as before and their lifetime value increases.
And as Sea is hoping to reach profitability this year, “less” may really mean “more” in the end.
Featured Image Credit: stLegat / depositphotos
While most entrepreneurs seem content to share snippets of their lives and business through long Facebook posts, fashion entrepreneur and influencer Vivy Yusof has gone on to write a book.
But just because she’s taken the time to chronicle 10 years of her life and business in a few hundred pages (which is no easy feat) doesn’t mean that it’d actually make for an interesting read… right?
If you’re on the fence about picking up The First Decade: My Journey from Blogger to Entrepreneur, let us help you inform that decision.
Here’s a look into the autobiographical title, sans (major) spoilers!
What does it cover?
Published in December 2022, The First Decade chronicles Vivy Yusof’s journey, particularly as an entrepreneur, exploring chapters of her life such as founding Fashion Valet, winning MyEG’s Make the Pitch, starring in a reality TV show, and growing inhouse brands.
These are only the “wins”, of course. The book also covers the rougher parts of Vivy’s entrepreneurial journey, such as losing loyal brands to other competitors, most notably Zalora.
Those who’ve been enraptured by the drama Vivy’s been involved in, such as with her plagiarism controversies and accusations of having “backdoors”, will be happy to learn that she touches on these issues in the book, too.
Is it a good read?
Undoubtedly, The First Decade is actually a very well-written book.
A seemingly candid look into her life, Vivy uses a friendly and relatable tone with little hashtags thrown in because, #shescoolwithit, you feel?
On a genuine note, Vivy’s writing chops really shine in this book. Her way of unravelling and examining life experiences feels earnest, allowing readers to feel what it’s like to be in her shoes.
This relatability does somewhat feel curated or like a conscious effort from Vivy’s part. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it makes Vivy’s achievements seem inspiring and achievable.
On the flip side though, her retelling of topics to certain mishaps or low points during her journey may seem a tad biased and even defensive at points.
But it is her book telling her side of the story, so it shouldn’t be surprising that she’s shaped the narrative in a way that favours her.
So, we’ve established that the book features quality writing. But, more importantly, are the insights themselves of quality?
An entertaining and inspiring read
If you’re looking for a very serious book, then this one is certainly not for you. The First Decade is a bit more lifestyle-focused. Considering Vivy’s background as a blogger, this makes sense. Plus, it’s a lot more mass-friendly.
That isn’t to say seasoned or budding entrepreneurs won’t have anything to learn from it, though. Because, like her or not, Vivy’s wealth of experience is not something you can get anywhere.
She approaches all the topics through personal accounts, mostly focusing on her perspective and her feelings, rather than trying to expound everything that happened.
If you’ve begun reading to get all the tea but have made little headway, let’s just say you should keep reading. Vivy’s emotions all come to a head in Chapter 12 (which is my favourite chapter for that reason).
For those who are slightly interested in the book’s contents but don’t want to pick it up for yourselves, stay tuned for more in-depth pieces that spotlight certain parts of The First Decade.
- Learn more about Vivy Yusof’s “The First Decade: My Journey from Blogger to Entrepreneur” here.
- Read other articles we’ve written about Vivy Yusof here.
Featured Image Credit: Vivy Yusof
Just a few months later, she fulfilled a greater ambition and opened up Zen by Mel, a fine dining establishment that caters to Japanese fusion food enthusiasts.
This, she aims to bring onto lists like Asia’s Best, Tatler, and Michelin.
A throwback to their beginnings
CC by Mel began with a dream to launch a cafe infused with floral concepts, a subtle nod to the founder’s ex-profession.
This was a daring move as the pandemic-driven MCO 2.0 had caused Melanie’s previous floral business to suffer. But she took a gamble and ended up making revenue of RM200K per month within the first year, she had shared in our previous interview.
Taking her dream to the next level, she relocated CC by Mel to a more spacious area, where the brand also elevated itself to a “premium semi-fine dining” restaurant. Despite the price increase this caused, customers still flocked to its doors and Melanie began thinking of franchising the business.
Hungering for more
But not long after the expansion of CC by Mel, she realised that the premium casual dining restaurant had its limitations. “We were bound by the cost price to sell within a set range,” Melanie explained.
There had to be some way to go beyond the price tag, to explore more premium ingredients and let their imaginations run wilder. The experience gained from managing CC by Mel made her more interested in breaking the barriers of local fusion cooking.
“There is plenty of room to do more than what we can do. Especially [when it comes to] fusion food, combining different cultures requires a lot of good ingredients. And our loyal customers are hungry for more exciting food,” Melanie said.
Thus, she opened a sister brand to accompany CC by Mel. This time, she went all-out and ventured into the omakase fine dining scene.
You might have noticed that there’s been a growing trend of new omakase dining spots populating the Instagram feeds of Malaysian foodie sites and bloggers lately.
The word “omakase” derives from the phrase “omakase shimasu”, which translates to “I trust you, chef.”
What this traditionally means is that diners leave the tedious task of figuring out what to eat to the chefs. Each dish is specifically tailored to the palate of the diner. The room for creativity allows the chefs to do what they do best, while also being more sustainable as fresher and seasonal ingredients are used.
That said, there are variations of omakase that slightly differ, such as where a fixed menu is curated by the chefs with a small room for adjustments upon request. This is the approach that Zen by Mel took.
Sometimes playing it safe could pay off
Melanie stuck to familiar territory, so Zen by Mel is currently located in Bukit Jalil. Surprisingly, it’s also within walking distance of the founder’s first venture.
When asked why, she explained that she believes it’s a booming town and wants the Mel Group to be a flagship brand in the area.
“We would like to tap the middle to upper market in this area. [Other] affluent neighbourhoods have plenty of choices and they are flooded with fine dining [spots]. [There is] less competition here.”
In terms of the food, Zen by Mel sticks to the founder’s philosophy since the beginning of her venture into the F&B industry—mixing Japanese cuisine with local flavours for more accessibility.
“We are constantly thinking of what we can offer more to our customers. And Zen is a place where we add a Malaysian twist into it (Japanese fusion) to suit our Malaysian taste buds,” Melanie said.
Although there have been quite a few cafes with fusion food popping up lately, Melanie feels that there remains a gap in the market as the concept is still new in Malaysia. She hopes that her restaurant can help to bridge that gap and expose the cuisine to more locals.
The Japanese fusion that Zen by Mel offers Malaysians is about the blending of ingredients, food cultures, and techniques. “We fuse [the local] with the Japanese [culinary style] and bring the best out of them,” the founder explained.
Concept-wise, she described the Japanese cooking style as more direct and basic than Malaysia’s variety, so fusing the two was challenging and required a lot of effort.
To meet the aspirations set for Zen by Mel, two specially-trained chefs were handpicked to run the show. Chef Jordan has eight years of experience working in a Singaporean Michelin restaurant, while Chef Mohd Shafik with a background of 27 years in European cuisine acts as Chef de Cuisine.
Together, they work hand-in-hand to bring the restaurant’s quirkily curated menu to life right in front of diners.
When talking about the differences between running her two businesses, Melanie shared that her team had to accustom themselves to managing hard-to-source ingredients with shorter shelf lives.
“Handling the ingredients (for Zen by Mel) is even harder than CC by Mel as most of them are air-flown. A simple mistake in handling would end up in high wastage too. All of the dishes have to be prepared on the same day or on the spot, which takes a lot of time.”
With Zen by Mel catering to the premium market and CC by Mel targeting the semi-fine dining crowd, it seems that Melanie’s got her hands quite full.
Yet, she is determined to continue expanding in the F&B industry. The Mel Group has plans of launching a modernised kopitiam with baked goods called MEL’s by mid-March this year.
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see what fusion twist this passionate restaurateur will bring to the kopitiam scene next.
Featured Image Credit: Zen by Mel