This story was first published in Prestige Malaysia May 2019 issue
In 2011, dance studio owner turned online entrepreneur Lavinie Thiruchelvam founded Babydash with her then-partner Tay Shan Li as a simple solution to aid the woes of working mums. Frustrated by the long, snaking queues and taxing midnight store runs, they leveraged on the rise of online retail and launched their own e-commerce platform stocking essential baby items from diapers to formula. Eight years later, Babydash has grown its range of offerings to include natural and organic products.
There is no doubt that the online retail landscape has evolved tremendously since Lavinie first started out. She shares that now 80 percent of shoppers shop through their mobile devices as compared to 2011 when purchases were made online using desktops or laptops. “At that time, many brand owners were sceptical about placing their products online and we had to spend a lot of time convincing the brands why e-commerce was the way of the future,” Lavinie shares on the earlier challenges she faced with the business. But that is no longer the case today as the Babydash team receives calls and proposals every week from a new brand requesting to list its products on the online platform. However, Lavinie stresses that she is very selective of whom they take on board as there is a huge value of trust placed upon them by their customers.
The mumpreneur takes pride in the quality of Babydash’s customer service and personalised care which gives them an advantage over their competitors. As they have numerous employees who are also mothers, this makes it easier when it comes to dealing with customer requests for product recommendations as the employees have prior experience with childcare.
Earlier in February, Babydash also launched its Singapore site to tap into the market though the preparation process was lengthy and tedious. “It’s challenging as we have to start from scratch and establish ourselves in new territory. We pride ourselves on having great trust and loyalty among the mummy community and this can’t be built overnight,” she says of their regional expansion plan.
A law graduate with no IT background, Lavinie jokes that she has learnt so much over the past eight years that she could potentially write a book. “A few things I could highlight would be the exponential learning curve of building an e-commerce company, refining my negotiation skills with suppliers, building a team that truly works well together, familiarising with the process of pitching and fundraising, and learning about valuations and growing the business to maximise shareholders’ value.”
A firm believer in giving back to the community, Babydash also organises on- ground events and workshops to further strengthen their relationship with their customers. Educational events such as sleep therapy for babies, parenting skills, photography skills and their very first celebrity mum panel discussion held last year are all part of the events organised by Babydash.
Moving forward, Lavinie aims to continue to stay ahead of the game and be Malaysia’s number one online baby site. She is also looking to expand their range of good quality and unique brands not available locally by bringing them in for their customers. “We are very focused on customers’ experiences and we are always innovating our technology and services to make parents’ lives so much easier.”