Singapore-based fashion e-tailor for women, Dressabelle, is in talks to raise Series B funding, its chief executive Jeremy Khoo admitted without disclosing details. The company which had raised $750,000 last year in a round led by Sovereign’s Capital is also planning to expand operations to Indonesia, followed by Philippines and Vietnam, Khoo added in an interaction with DEALSTREETASIA. Edited Excerpts.
What does a Series B investment mean for Dressabelle? Does it mean you plan to go for an IPO at some point in the near future?
We didn’t set out to sell a company but build an enduring brand. Of course, whenever you raise fund, there’s got to be an exit on the horizon, and it could be an IPO or M&A. We’re not putting labels on it right now. My current priority is building a great brand. Eventually, everthing will take care of itself.
What do you reckon are the prospects for Dressabelle in international markets?
The first thing is that we’re an online fashion marketplace that cater’s to local women’s trends. We’re more local than regional, but the trends are looking good. The prospects in Indonesia are positive, especially with a population comparable to the US in size.
The potential of Indonesian Internet business must be explored. However, the Internet infrastructure, internet penetration and middle class in Indonesia are insufficiently developed, given its emerging market status.
With the Indonesian market, its the volume and resonance of products. They must resonate well with Indonesians. And having the Singapore brand grants us leverage when entering a regional country, especially when considering market entry into economies like Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Singapore fashion brands – are they too local or do they have to potential to gain international traction?
I believe for certain that the potential exists to gain international traction. But the onus is on the entrepreneur to look beyond current markets, deisgn a scalable business model and build a business structure that can support these operations. You cannot call yourself an international brand simply by shipping overseas. You have to build traction and engagement in specific markets to build a community of customers overseas to build that stature
After Indonesia, what’s next?
After Indonesia? We’re looking at the Philippines and Thailand as the next markets for expansion.The main issue is going to be product-related, in terms of attaining a decent product-market fit. ASEAN as a whole has very fragmented markets and fashion is very specific to country and culture. So that’s going to be our key concern when we expand.
What were the greatest challenges involved with building traction for Dressabelle?
One of the greatest challenges is building traction for a business. But the main challenge that’s emerged is that a lot of methods out there don’t actually work anymore. The thing to remember about marketers is that they ruin everything.
One particular way of growth hacking can be effective one day. But marketers can ruin it, due to the high uptake and use of that specific method. This makes the method or campaign no longer as effective as it used to be. Our current growth hack is making use of every single customer an affiliate and ensuring they have a platform to recommend a brand and accrue points. Doing this, they’ll be awarded a free dress by getting sufficient points.
We made it simple for people to recommend their friends, but every company does that now. The outcome is that it’s less effective than in the past. Still, a good product often sells by itself by leveraging on the referrals it generates.
Given your dual roles in Dressabelle and MegaFash, do you feel that there’s a conflict of interest?
My main role in Dressabelle is as a co-founder with executive responsibility for operations and strategy. Megafash isn’t dealing purely in women’s fashion but going into the creative industry as well. We deal with products, designers and other things associated with the creative sector.
With Megafash, I was just a co-founder. I don’t have a role to play in operations but do deal with our strategy. Megafash is going to be very localised, in that we deal with the makers and doers of the local creative markets. We’re just a drop in the marketplace.
What insights from your role with Megafash have you applied to Dressabelle?
It’s actually the other way round. What I learned from Dressabelle applies to Megfash. There’s no real operational role I serve there, but Megafash is a single brand. It helps me to understand the pain points of a merchant and gain insights into the operations of merchants and other vendors in the creative space.
There are things that a merchant feels and requires. MegaFash addresses the pain points of the community of fashion merchants, enabling them to to resolve their problems with our solution(s).
What aspects of your service as an RSAF officer impact your business strategy and conduct?
As an air force officer, we have core values that are crucial and are reflected in the business. There are intangible things like integrity and professionalism, which are crucial. As an air traffic controller, we’re trained to multitask and handle stress at the highest level.
A lot of the issues I deal with are real-time problems. Decision-making is real-time and what the air force has done is to groom me in rapid decision-making and multitasking as an entrepreneur. This experience and the values that were taught to me during that timeDressabe guide my decision-making today.