INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Making Ordinary Malaysians Look and Feel Good Affordably
We talked to CK Changr about Oxwhite, a luxury lifestyle brand specializing in quality essentials tailored for Asians and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
CK Changr: We are doing good. My family and I are doing all we can to keep ourselves safe and healthy. We take extra precautions with hygiene and are exercising indoors to keep ourselves healthy. In fact, in conjunction with our Oxwhite Performance X launch recently, we have partnered with Anytime Fitness Eco Sky to produce a 10 minutes workout video that Malaysians can safely follow at home. We are also following that routine in our daily workouts currently.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Oxwhite.
CK Changr: I started Oxwhite because I wanted to be a good example for my two sons. When I was teaching my eldest son to ride a bike, he fell, and I told him not to give up. That made me realize that if I wanted to raise resilient children, I would need to be a good role model for them to follow. At that time, I was working for my uncle. All the success stories were my uncles’ and not mine. That was the moment I realized that I needed to resign and start something on my own and make it successful.
When I worked in luxury retail, I traveled a lot, and I always wanted to look good and feel good. However, I can never afford that as a lot of international brand apparel sold off the rack are not made for the Asian physiques. Usually, the sleeves and shirt lengths would be too long. Getting them customized would be way beyond what I could afford. The Asian brands, however, lacked quality.
Based on my experience in retail, I know that luxury items are not expensive to make. They are just expensive to sell because of all the middlemen costs involved in the distribution channel, such as agents, brokers, distributors, and wholesalers markups. I also knew that most of the manufacturers of luxury goods are based in the Asian region.
Hence, I thought, if I were to customize the sizing to fit Asian physics, source the products directly from the manufacturers that make luxury apparel, then sell them directly to the customers, I would eliminate the middlemen cost and transfer the savings back to the consumers. That way, I would be able to enable Asians like me to look good and feel good at a price point that our wallets can afford.
How does Oxwhite innovate?
CK Changr: We are an e-commerce first company. This makes us more agile and able to customize our offerings to suit our customers’ wants and needs fast. For instance, we have a Facebook group called Oxwhite Community, and close to 24,500 people follow it. There I will personally communicate with our loyal fans to get a feel of what our customers want and how our product will fit into their daily lives. As such, before launching any products, we will seek the opinion of our followers first. If the feedback we receive is positive, then we will launch the product. If the reception is lukewarm, we will not launch it. Additionally, we also stick to our brand DNA of making people look good and feel good affordably. Hence in every product that we launch, we will ensure that the quality is good, comfortable to wear, and affordable for ordinary Malaysians.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
CK Changr: Although sales tripled threefold during MCO, there was some impact on our business as we had a higher target initially. We increased our inventory size and expanded our SKUs prior to the Chinese New Year. Fortunately, many of these products arrived before MCO kicked in, as, during MCO, when borders all over the world were closed, business activities came to a halt, and the whole world stopped moving. Everything from buttons, to the thread, to raw materials to packaging fell short. As such, we could only sell what was in our inventory then and did not meet our Q1 target even though we had a three times increase in sales.
During MCO, purchasing patterns changed as people stayed at home more. Hence, instead of selling dress shirts, we started selling more tees, innerwear, and towels. These are the things that people would buy when they stayed at home more often.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
CK Changr: Yes. Oxwhite started with the vision to make RM400 import-quality dress shirts customized to fit ordinary Malaysians at an affordable price. This means selling the shirts at RM80 or less. Yes, we are able to bring the price down drastically by cutting off all middlemen costs. However, the factories will require a minimum order.
As most people would have read, I only managed to raise RM300,000 from my own savings and friends and family members when I first started Oxwhite. This would mean that I could either use all that money to make the product or for marketing – without a physical product in hand to sell. I chose the latter because I will be stuck with a lot of product in hand and with no money to market if I had chosen the first option. However, the second option is something that very few have done successfully before as it would mean that customers have to pay first and wait 6 months for the product to arrive.
It was a tough and risky call, but it paid off! We received about 6,000 orders a day as we promised no question asked 365 days return policy then. So what I learnt from here is not underestimating the power of social media and that consumers need to hear a very genuine and honest voice from the brand to trust them. If you are asking for something like buy now and get your product 6 months later, you have to give something back that is of equal value, such as 365 days no question asked return policy.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
CK Changr: As Oxwhite is considered a startup company while growing rapidly, I would spend 80% of my time on work while 20% on the family. My weekends are reserved for family. Hence, my wife played an important role in balancing it out.
Also, I sneak out from my house after my kids go to bed and take a 20 minutes slow walk to clear my mind. After that, watching the show on Netflix before going to bed. That’s the most relaxing time of the day for me.
On top of that, I am also very much into sustainable living. This translates into the way Oxwhite operates, and that gives me peace of mind. For instance, all our packaging is recyclable, and all our household products are made from naturally derived ingredients. Our towels are made from bamboo fiber, and our laundry detergent is made with naturally derived ingredients from plants and fruits. We have also eliminated harsh chemicals and known allergens such as sulphates, parabens, petrochemicals, chlorine, phosphates, dyes, and optical brighteners. This is because my family and I use these products too.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
CK Changr: Apple. To be competitive with them by producing compelling and quality products instead of buying Apple, consumers should spend on Oxwhite.
Your final thoughts?
CK Changr: Also, you need to know your customers. No entrepreneur can succeed without customers. As such, you need to know where to find your customers, what they do, what their lifestyle is like when they will make their purchase, and who will likely repeat the purchase. Hence data is important, and e-commerce provides a convenient way to gather and harvest these data.
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