Lazada Seller Stories #3: Chun Siew, Pherotools

My Lazada business is growing 30-50% every month and I have plans to grow it even further. I love what I do. It's a dream come true waking up and doing what you truly believe in and love.

Born in PJ and moved to England when I was 7.

Educated and grew up in England but still a kampong boy at heart.

Graduated from Imperial College with an MSC in Entomology. I'll be very impressed if anyone can guess what that is. It is the study of insects. People will ask "what's entomology?" "I study insects" "you study incest?" "No, insects. bugs. not incest".

I think I'm one of those people that built a career around what I studied and passionate about.

I worked in the UK as a technical and business development manager, developing and educating farmers on the concept of Integrated Pest Management, where you try and solve their pest problems with a holistic approach. Try to get farmers to use less pesticides and prove to them that it's possible.

I was technically very capable of solving pest problems in agriculture, but I didn't want to be stuck in the office. I want to go out there, educate and solve problems for people. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives.


Chun Siew, Founder of Pherotools

In 2013, I quit my job and started my own business. Pherotools was born. I wanted to make a difference in the way we grow our food. I went into this with no money and some not so reliable people. This went horribly. I was very, very naive. How hard is it to start a business, it can't be that hard. BOY was I wrong?  I went through 6 months of pain but in those 6 months of pain, I learned a lot. My dream was put on hold in 2014 when I helped manage a Research Centre at Imperial College School of Public Health.

A good friend of mine came and visited in the UK. After I told him about what I've been through and my vision, he said why not do it in SE Asia? We partnered up and now I'm here. Pherotools, version 2.

Life was very good before I moved back to Malaysia. Had a respectable job with quite a good salary and was enrooted for climbing the 'corporate ladder', but it was not something I want to climb. My parents moved to London with nothing but 2 suitcases, leaving behind everything including their 3-year-old kid (me) to build a better life for me. I would say my parents are my true inspiration. Failure was never an option for them and I am very proud of what they have achieved and for giving me the best start to life. Seeing how my parents worked from nothing to building up what they've got now, I want to do the same and walk the same journey.

"Why you come back to Malaysia? Wasn't life good in the UK? You siao or what?"

You can never achieve anything if you do not take that first step. When you have a vision and it's something you truly believe in, sometimes you need to just go for it. I don't want to live life with regrets and be on my deathbed thinking "I wish I did this". I want to be on my deathbed thinking "damn I've had a good life, now on to the next adventure".

I had a lot of naysayers and doubters telling you it's impossible, it's very hard, you won't make it etc. Even some very close friends saying, "you don't know what you're doing". Honestly, that didn't bother me. If simples' word like these can break your dream, where is your integrity? I made a promise to myself that I will make it work and to prove everyone wrong. If there's a problem, I will find a solution to it. Isn't that what entrepreneurship is? The desire and drive to make the impossible possible.

It has been a tough journey and I would say selling on Lazada has opened my eyes to the potential of e-commerce. Primarily we have always been a B2B business. I looked down on commerce - why do I want to spend so much time and effort on making 5-10RM from each customer when I can make thousands from B2B? Also selling to the public, they are stupid, they'll never understand. MAN was I wrong. The public is pretty smart about what they want, I've actually learned a lot from them. They know exactly what they want and know what price they want to buy it at.

It was at my lowest point, I joined Lazada in August 2017. I remember at one point, I had RM4 in my bank account. This was not even enough for a roti canai and a teh tarik. What do I do? My confidence broke, and I was very close to breaking. I did not want to burden my loved ones with my problems and carried the burden all on my own. This was when I decided to swallow my pride and ask for help. I realized it was my pride that was holding me back. I refused to ask for help and let people know that I was struggling. But I'm glad I did.

Starting your own business is a difficult and lonely path, but I am lucky to have my loved ones that give me the strength to fight the world every day.

Since I was dealing B2B I had a lot of samples left over in the storeroom, so I thought why not put it on Lazada to test the market? This is my first SKU, a humble fruit fly trap. I remember getting my first order after 1 month with 1 SKU. It was very exciting, but what to do? After numerous attempts to drop off my parcel to the courier, I did it. I made RM21 that month on Lazada! Now I must wait 14 days before they pay me my RM21. That exact moment, I felt like a rich man.

I wanted to learn more about Lazada, so I made some effort to attend their workshops and meetups. I learned so much talking to other sellers and found out that selling on Lazada can be a good business. These sellers didn't have to impart their experience and knowledge to me, but they did. It's from their advice I am able to get to where I am today.

They say when opportunities present itself you have to jump on it. You bet I jumped on it. January 2018, I begged and borrowed money and used whatever money I had and bought my first pallet of goods to sell on Lazada. It was literally all or nothing. It was exciting and also incredibly scary. What if people don't want to buy my products? What if my supplier has ripped me off and sold me the products at a high price? Lots of what ifs.

Joining Lazada gave me a new lifeline.

I took onboard what another successful seller told me and spend effort on the content and product description page.  Many hours were spent in front of the computer generating content for Lazada. From 1 SKU to having 10 SKU. In February, I made a grand total of RM300 and I've just spent 10k on stocks. Anyway, I persisted. Trying new things to see how to improve conversion and adopting whatever tools Lazada was developing. Today, by no means am I a big seller, but I've definitely come a long way.

People need to treat Lazada like a business. Like any business, you need the fire and stamina to endure pain and to keep figuring out how to sell more. Many people think selling on Lazada is easy, you put products up and you'll be a millionaire. No sir. It is like any business, it requires blood, sweat and tears.

I talk to many new sellers and they complain about not getting enough sales etc. I tell them the things they need to do to improve, they tell me it's handwork and I haven't got any time. You need to make time, we're all entrepreneurs. we need to make the impossible possible.

One thing I've learned with Lazada is I know it's a lot of effort to adopt their tools and in generating good content, but trust me, in commerce, all the little things you do will eventually be impactful.

My plan is to make my Lazada shop a place where gardeners, commercial farmers and people come to for all their plants and pest problems. For me, there's no other platform where I can have an impact on so many people's lives. I would never dream of sharing a good conversation with a passionate gardener in Kelantan solving his/her plant problems. We are at a point where suppliers come to us to help them sell on Lazada. Back when we started, we had to beg suppliers to take a chance with you.

My Lazada business is growing 30-50% every month and I have plans to grow it even further. I love what I do. It's a dream come true waking up and doing what you truly believe in and love. By no means am I a rich man, but I'm very optimistic about the future and really see the potential of e-commerce. I'm confident I'll get there.

Watch this space and remember the name "Chun Siew".



This article is written by the seller & provided by Lazada Malaysia.


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ecInsider News: Lazada Seller Stories #3: Chun Siew, Pherotools
Lazada Seller Stories #3: Chun Siew, Pherotools
My Lazada business is growing 30-50% every month and I have plans to grow it even further. I love what I do. It's a dream come true waking up and doing what you truly believe in and love.
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