A while back, my wife took on a new assistant at work – a young female university graduate to help share some of her increasing workload and take some of the pressure off.
After a week in the job, I asked my wife how her new subordinate was shaping up.
“Incredible”, my wife enthused. “She’s intelligent, she works hard and she gets things done. I’m beginning to wonder how I ever coped without her”
But the joy was shortlived. After completing a full month’s work and picking up her first paycheck, the wonderful new assistant quit.
Sod that, I'm off!
When she looked at her salary figure and weighed it up against a time-consuming daily commute and lunch and clothing expenses, etc, she decided that a company office job just wasn’t worth the hassle – and she went back to running a fledgling online business that she had started only six months earlier, but had had to give up when the opportunity for full time employment came a-knocking.
She’s a prime example of a fast-growing number of young Thai entrepreneurs who are turning their backs on the nine-to-five, Monday to Friday rat race, and finding a more lucrative niche selling stuff online and of course, enjoying the less stressful lifestyle that accompanies it.
Shopping online is the way to go
I was chatting to a friend recently about online selling (he’s far more knowledgable about it than I am) and he said “If you can hit it right. Thais make great online customers. I’m constantly amazed at how much they are willing to spend for the convenience of having goods delivered to their door”
It’s perhaps not surprising when you consider Bangkok is a gridlocked city of almost ten million people and it takes too long to get to the shopping mall, too long to find a parking spot and very often the stores never seem to have what you are looking for.
It’s perplexing to me, but I think the more shopping malls that Bangkok seems to open, the more disagreeable shopping becomes. Many of us don’t have enough time for all that nonsense. Little wonder online shopping is becoming more and more commonplace.
Business is booming!
Back to the university graduate who quit her company job after just four weeks. Fast forward twelve months and she has just opened her first shop in Chonburi Province – selling nearly new, brand-name sports shoes. I’ve seen the photos on her Facebook page. The new shop looks fantastic!
The online business started with just her (and possibly a family member) driving a pick-up truck to the Cambodian border, where she would meet with the seller and buy a load of second-hand sports shoes. If you’re number-crunching, she sells a pair of the latest Nike or Adidas trainers for around 700 baht (at least 80% cheaper than they go for brand-new in the official retail outlets) And believe me – they almost look brand-new! I can’t tell the difference.
In the business’s early days, she would post a video on her Facebook page for each pair of shoes, allowing the viewer to examine them close-up and almost ‘feel the quality’. It helped of course that the young lady was strikingly attractive and I’m sure for many hot-blooded male viewers, that was all part of the appeal, but hey! - if life gives you lemons……
I love hearing these stories from my wife about young Thai entrepreneurs going down the e-commerce route. What I love most of all is that often times, these guys don’t have any exceptional talent or qualifications, but what they do have is an unbridled passion for their product niche and what they do.
Here are two more terrific online success stories that my wife recently shared with me.
The Egyptian jewelry manager
The first story is interesting because it involves a middle-aged Thai lady who was already clearly doing well in life. According to her Facebook profile, she was a manager at a large multinational company in Bangkok. Judging by the family photos she occasionally uploaded, her husband wasn’t doing badly either in the career stakes.
But life changed when this lady went on a girly five-day break to Cairo in Egypt, a city she had always wanted to visit. Whilst wandering around the souks and bazaars, she was taken by some of the exquisite, hand-crafted jewelry on offer, not so much the small stuff like rings and bracelets but the elaborate costume pieces that a hi-so lady would only wear on very special occasions.
The Egyptian costume jewelry wasn’t cheap but how much could she sell them on for in Bangkok? Was there a market for this stuff? She decided to take a punt and bring just a couple of pieces home in her suitcase to test the water.
Back home in Bangkok, photos of the elaborate necklaces were uploaded to a Facebook page and they were both sold the same day. In fact, she could’ve sold them ten times over.
She made several returns to Cairo over the next few months and each trip meant she gained more experience. She became ‘Cairo street savvy’. She built good relationships with a handful of trusted suppliers and negotiated the best prices for one-off jewelry pieces. Back in Thailand, she was probably doubling and tripling her money.
Plus of course, she was no longer wasting time wandering blindly around the markets of Cairo. From airport arrival to hotel to supplier – she knew exactly what her objectives were, leaving more time free to treat each business trip as an enjoyable mini-vacation at the same time.
Before long she made the easy decision to call it quits on the full-time job at the multinational company. The jewelry business had grown to the point where it was more than just something to tinker over in the odd spare hour at home.
She had found the life she had always yearned for. She had cast off the work-a-day shackles and now enjoyed doing something that was not only more lucrative but meant she could spend more time indulging her passion for travel and spend more time with her family. The best of all worlds!
The Jack Russell social media superstars
The second story is perhaps more modest but no less intriguing. It’s about a young Thai girl and her four pedigree dogs – Jack Russell Terriers to be exact. Now Jack Russells are not my favourite breed of dog (horrible bloody yappy things) but there are obviously plenty of Thai dog-lovers out there who adore them.
The young girl would regularly post photos on Instagram and Facebook of the four dogs dressed up in superhero outfits, wearing silly hats or perhaps just clenching a colourful flower between their teeth.
All four dogs, as well as having their own name of course, started to develop their own personalities.
The Thai social media crowd lapped it up and begged for more. Likes and followers went through the roof.
It was then that the dog owner realised she could be on to something. First came the crocheted Jack Russell key-rings. Which dog do you want? Or why not collect the set of four? Then came the presentation boxes of cookies, each cookie decorated with a smiling Jack Russell wearing sunglasses.
You get the picture. The young lady had built up a brand from nothing. All she did was own four ordinary pedigree dogs but somehow she managed to turn them into social media superstars.
I love the stories behind these Thai netpreneurs because they illustrate that in today’s world, anyone, regardless of status or background, has an opportunity to make their mark in the world of online business.