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If you’re still stumped on holiday gift ideas, Popmap may be able to lend a last minute guide: This startup connects independent shops and niche brands around the world with online shoppers looking to purchase something unique.

Popmap features items from local and boutique stores on its site and app. Customers can purchase items from these shops —  think watches, accessories, clothing, shoes or home decor — from anywhere around the world.

Popmap is currently working with over 700 shops in 53 cities worldwide, a figure that Co-Founder and CEO Idris Sersoub plans to double in the next six months.

The concept for Popmap sort of, well, popped up from Sersoub’s first business idea.

“Initially, I had the idea to do an events platform that mapped out what was happening in each location. But it’s a concept that is hard to scale [beyond Hong Kong], as events need to be updated every single day,” says the 31-year old Co-Founder, who moved to Hong Kong three years ago, after living in the UK for three and a half years.

Launching the initial events platform meant that as prep work, Sersoub was going out onto the streets and talking to organisers and stores in Hong Kong. While doing the legwork, Sersoub came across interesting stores located in places he wouldn’t normally think to look or even know how to search for.

Also Read: 10 things to know before starting your e-commerce venture in Southeast Asia

E-commerce in Hong Kong and Asia

“Hong Kong is a city with a massive amount of boutiques, but you don’t know where to find things. The stores are hilly and might be on the top floor of a high rise. You don’t know where the shops are, and if you’re new to a city, you might be discouraged and settle for a mall,” Sersoub tells e27. 

The French native was also perplexed that there wasn’t a single platform that listed the location of independent stores in Hong Kong, a concern for many like himself who wanted to purchase thoughtful gifts but abhorred the idea of getting sucked into the vortex of generic malls and shopping centres.

This resulted in the launch of Popmap in mid-2015, which provides an opportunity for brick-and-mortar stores that might not otherwise offer online or international shipping options for potential consumers. It also functions as an aggregator of local shops around town.

“I think there are a lot of unexplored areas and opportunities in retail that needs to be tested, especially in Asia,” says Sersoub.

Sersoub sees huge buying potential in online retail, a number that surpasses markets in the US and Europe, according to his market research. Sales volume in Asia alone is expected to reach US$783 billion in 2020, with the US coming in at a predicted US$512 billion in 2020.

For Popmap’s business model, vendors are charged 15 per cent.

Express delivery service is available in Popmap’s home base, meaning that Popmap will provide one-hour shipping from any store in Hong Kong, should the shipping address also be local. For the holiday season, Popmap is currently offering free shipping site-wide.

Here’s a fun infographic from Popmap showing the importance of e-commerce in Asia:

Popmap

Also Read: SCMP Group tries on retail e-commerce with Hong Kong’s MyDress