Quidsi – does the name ring a bell? Yes, the startup acquired by Amazon at US$560M a few years ago has made quite a mark. What is so special about Quidsi, you may ask. Following the success of Diapers.com, the firm established sister websites such as Soap.com and BeautyBar.com, establishing a cross marketing business model that is till date used as an example.

While Quidsi’s business model hit the bull’s eye in the West, can it work its magic in the maturing South East Asian e-commerce market?

In a freewheeling chat with Harprem Doowa, CEO and Co-founder, WhatsNew, a startup that aims to implement Quidsi model in South East Asia, e27 seeks to understand if Quidsi’s impact and effectiveness can be emulated.

WhatsNew? We ask…
Thailand-based startup WhatsNew wholly owns and operates Petloft.com, Venbi.com and Bodyden.com. All the websites are interlinked and consumers can use one login and one shared checkout to shop from all three websites.

Harprem Doowa

Harprem Doowa, COO & Co-founder, WhatsNew

“When users register under one common account, we can send emails for other sites and cross-market our products,” said Harprem Doowa COO and Co-founder, WhatsNew. “The essential target audience for all the sites is essentially same; however, by creating different websites and still linking them allows us to customise marketing for each site, while being able to offer a huge variety of products to our customers.”

Petloft deals in pet products, while Venbi sells baby products, and Bodyden focuses on health and beauty products. WhatsNew has a vertical e-commerce structure. Funded by Ardent Capital (Ensogo Brothers), all the three websites share common logistics, payment gateway, customer service, and live chat systems.

The bottleneck
Doowa claims that WhatsNew is the only startup to adopt Quidsi business model in South East Asia. However, it has not been smooth sailing. The founders faced a number of challenges. “There were both, technical hurdles and sourcing hurdles,” shared Doowa.

The technical hurdles included allowing one login and a shared basket throughout all domains. The coding took time; however, once cracked, it eased the process as same coding was used for all websites. The sourcing hurdles involved dealing directly with brands in Thailand that were not used to selling directly to an online website and still preferred offline retail stores.

“Each site has its own identity, yet you know that because they are all part of the same conglomerate, you can expect the same level of service, price, and product variety,” expressed Doowa. Even then, while consumers are getting used to the interlinked buying process, there is still a huge sect that needs to be educated in terms of using a shared basket, which requires time and money investments.

Expansion streak
WhatsNew currently follows the ‘buy low, sell high’ business model. According to Doowa, 2014 will be a very crucial year for the organisation. WhatsNew plans to expand with two more websites in Thailand and two other verticals in an undisclosed country in South East Asia. The firm is looking at raising a funding of US$3M to get the expansion going.

According to a report by e-marketer online (released in June 2013), Asia Pacific will contribute the most new dollars to business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce sales in coming years. With the segment in the region slated to boom, WhatsNew seems to have a bright future if the Quidsi model picks up.

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