Interview with founders: Zhong-Ken Ong and Sue Jinn Ong
Kenneth Ho 7 Mar, 2018
Imagine being able to wear something different everyday.
In short, Zarrel lets one choose from a myriad of clothing styles, and ships up to 3 outfits directly to the subscriber for a flat fee of just RM168 monthly. They currently only operate in Malaysia.
Subscribers have the full flexibility to make changes to their future selections any time before delivery of the next parcel.
Outfits can be returned anytime, and replaced with a new selection, which will be collected and re-delivered directly to the subscriber, hassle-free.
Our team recently had the opportunity to interview Zhong-Ken and Sue Jinn on their journey of starting Zarrel, on how they started and grew the business into what it is today.
Below is the interview:
1) How did you get started with Zarrel? What was the primary driver for starting this whole venture?
Without any background in the fashion industry, the first marker was when Sue Jinn (co-founder) told me about how affordable and vibrant fashion was while she was visiting Bangkok.
It was from then which I put my attention into this market and realized how fast the ecommerce for fashion is booming in Malaysia. The thought at that point was, "how do I come into this space with a competitive edge?".
Logically I will need new value proposition. Looking into examples like Netflix and the concept of a shared economy, it was a no brainer before I Googled 'infinite clothes subscription'.
And there you go, existing businesses from US such as Rent the Runway, Le Tote, Ms. Collection and even in Asia, AirCloset from Japan. This was when my hustling began as I believed in the opportunity.
2) What are some biggest obstacles you face in running a business like yours?
Myself having no experience in the fashion space, technology space, last-mile fulfillment know-how or even transacting with people's credit card online (of course now Zarrel is a fully secured site with Braintree, Paypal subsidiary, for payments).
Furthermore, since there were no predecessors or similar businesses in Malaysia, I had no mentor or examples to use as reference.
3) Zarrel has a very special business model which is subscription fashion. What are some challenges you face compared to normal fashion e-commerce?
Very good point. I will answer from the angle of the business cycle.
For normal fashion e-commerce, their cycle begins by launching a collection (a range of design for specific season/period). The collection gains them x revenue and they begin launching their next collection as they feel the sales begin decreasing.
In Zarrel it is not about launching collections - We hustle to consistently have new launches (almost weekly) in order to keep the closet growing for our subscribers.
Would you stay subscribed to Netflix if you have watched it all?
4) What are your tips for newer founder/startups that are starting out and raising funding?
Pivoting is crucial but stay focused on the value proposition you are building for your market.
5) What is your plan to grow Zarrel in 2018?
I place my focus on customer experience and our products.
I love exponential growth. However if my infrastructure is not solid, it will be where Zarrel will fall quickly.
In 2018, we will invest into building even greater user experience involving the start of allowing users to Setting up their closet on Zarrel, Receiving & buying apparels, to returning parcels efficiently.
Concurrently we will bring in more designs to excite our customer base and convert potential interests.
Zarrel is still very young and I admit our product range is still lacking.
6) Best piece of advice you can give to entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs.
There are many successful entrepreneurs with advises a thousand times more valuable than mine.
What I will say here is that it is important to have fun and keep it going. Do not ever get burned out.