Retail is a huge market in Asia. But the diversity of Asian countries make it a challenge to properly address it. Let’s hear the study of Bruno Zysman, who’s been in the frontlines for the last 25 years. I bet you have a few things to learn!
Hi Bruno, so what’s your story?
I am 58 and I have been in Asia for 25 years. Given my age I can’t say I’m a startupper, but I’ve always been an entrepreneur.
I created my first company back in France to plug hard drives on the first computers like Commodores, for those who you remember. The hard drives had a capacity of 5MB and they were the size of a coffee table!
I met a client who was looking for a magnetic cards system for Carrefour (one of the largest hypermarket chains in the world). When searching for solutions I met GemPlus and I joined their Value-Added Resellers network. This is how I entered the retail industry, with loyalty cards.
Funny anecdote: I won the award for the best eWallet system worldwide, back in 1993. I had built it for Club Med and the idea was simple: enable tourists to pay everything in a resort with a dedicated magnetic card. Today it doesn’t seem extraordinary, but it was a first!
After the award, Marc Lassus, CEO of GemPlus, invested in my company. He was my first investor ever, and I don’t even remember how much he invested.
With this I developed markets like Malaysia or North Africa, until GemPlus advised me to try and produce low-cost. I traveled to find the right country, and this is how I moved to Indonesia in 1995.
What have you been doing in Indonesia?
I worked with Ingenico for a while, running the tests for the payment terminals for Mastercard and Visa. The company grew to 150 people.
Fast forward to 2009, when the iPad came out. I immediately saw this as the future of cash registers in stores, and more broadly as a way to transform advertising in malls.
I created DominoPos to address this opportunity and we worked on securing the connexion between the Ipad and payment terminals. We have many patents on this.
Funny anecdote: I first raised 200k among friends and family for the MVP and I was looking for an additional 800K in my first round. But an Indonesian investor told me I probably needed more than that and offered 2M.
This investor also advised me to launch a more scalable, digital product in the space: GoToMalls was born. It’s a complete omnichannel advertising platform.
The problem we’re addressing is simple: today if you want to use coupons in a mall you have to use the app of the mall, so you end up with multiple apps on your phone that you rarely use.
Our platform is a directory of all the malls and brands that offer coupons to consumers. But the way we propose coupons is very unique. We’re not another Groupon. We have a very strong content strategy: we publish 300 lifestyle articles every week and this is how we promote the coupons -and this proves very efficient.
For brands, the value proposition is very powerful. Our premise is to increase their footfall (the number of people who enter the store) if they propose coupons with us.
We also provide a lot of data (like the percentage of men and women) so they can improve their RoI. This is invaluable for them, and we take a cut on the sales.
What is GoToMalls in numbers?
Today we have 50M visitors in Indonesia and we’re adding 1.2 M unique visitors every single month. I am impressed myself! We used paid acquisition in the beginning but today we don’t need it anymore and we grow organically.
Indonesia is a great market for us: ecommerce is not very developed since logistics is complicated, and most people have several mobile phones. There are 450 malls in Indonesia and we have onboarded 432 of them!
Frankly we don’t really have competitors. We had 2 in the past but they both died. We clearly have a first mover advantage, and with the traction we have, every day it makes it harder for others to catch-up.
Today we can open a country in 8 days: we crawl their site, then we verify it, we call the malls and reference them, then we go and meet with the brands.
How about the business in Singapore?
WhenI opened Singapore I decided to literally immerse myself into the ecosystem. I have been to all the malls here, but also all the co-working spaces, to understand the dynamics and the true behaviours of younger people. We did several events, like the one last year with La FrenchTech.
Today I know that brands are just at the beginning of their journey in digital and data.
There are 2 problems; online-to-offline and in-store. Today we’re addressing the first problem, now I want to work on the other one. The Internet Of Things is a huge opportunity for that.
Travel Retail is also a huge opportunity I’m looking at -everybody eyes on the hundreds of millions of Chinese people who are starting to travel!
Last question: what do think it takes to be an entrepreneur?
To me it all comes down to one thing: being a good listener.
Sure, you need to be resilient, creative in solving problems, etc. But the one quality you need is to truly listen to your staff.
I learned it the hard way. I have been in both situations as a CEO and the performance is radically different. When you really listen to your people, people are engaged and you collectively have better ideas. It’s as simple as that.
Being the boss doesn’t mean you’re right. Being 58 years old, I always hire people younger than myself and I find them awesome. When I sit down with them I constantly take notes, I keep learning. They know and I don’t, period!