Just days after securing a a $1.6 million Series A funding, David Jou , the CEO of the Thai online fashion retailer Pomelo, tells DEALSTREETASIA he plans to use the part of the proceeds to launch a sub brand next year, and the rest for expansion to other geographies. Jou says the company, which sells Korean fashion in the sub $100 range, had chosen to launch operations beginning with Thailand, as he considered that country to be the fashion capital of the region. The funding was led by Singapore’s Jungle Ventures along with Skype Co-founder Toivo Annus, 500 Startups, Fenox Ventures, Queens Bridge Ventures and an unnamed major hedge fund in New York. Edited Excerpts from the interview.
Take us through Pomelo’s journey so far.
Pomelo was launched last year to be an online fashion brand for Asian customers, who understand the value of the design and quality. Our office is based in Bangkok, Thailand but our products are designed and manufactured in South Korea. Our website currently has two million visitors per year and the number of the visitors increase by 30%-40% every month.
How do you plan to spend $1.6 million fund you’ve just received?
We plan for a few things. First of all, we will launch Pomelo’s sub-brand next year. The sub-brand remains to focus on the same target group, which are contemporary modern women, aged between 24-34 years, but the design of the new brand will be more casual. Not only do we add the brand, we will also expand our market to other countries too. At this moment, we sell only in Thailand and Singapore. In the first quarter of 2015 we will start selling in Malaysia and we are considering the expansion to Indonesia and Vietnam as well. Also, we will spend it on improving content videos and online lookbooks.
What do you expect after the investment?
We expect that the number of our visitors will rise from 30%-40% to 100% after we penetrate into other countries. Also, we introduce new clothes with new design and high quality every week to meet customer demands and we provide the best service to them. We are much like Zara and H&M in terms that we control as much of the value chain as possible so that we can provide in-trend fashion at the surprisingly accessible price since we do not have fixed cost like the rental space for the shops.
Your business model involves bringing Korean brands to the Southeast Asia – why only Korean?
There are three reasons that we choose Korean brands. First, South Korea’s fashion follows the international trend closely. Second, there are huge demand for trans-seasonal collections. And last, they focus on high quality and there are a plenty of good materials and mixing styles. We choose to set up our office in Thailand because it is the center of the fashion in Southeast Asia and full of talented people including fashion designers, fashion experts and photographers. Also, we see a very good prospect for online shopping business in this region.
What are the prospects for online shopping business or e-commerce in this region?
The main reason is that it has a big room to grow. Only 1%-2% of internet users in Southeast Asia buy things online, comparing to 18%-20% in Korea or 8% in China. The rate remains low because the infrastructure is not good and people still distrust the online system. But as long as it is a good website, I do believe more people will start to shop online. Like China, the number of online shoppers rose from 1% to 8% in eight years, and we believe that it will probably take shorter time to reach that rate in Southeast Asia.