Hubert Burda Media

SET TO CONQUER

Meets the two enterprising mothers behind BabyDash who turned a night and weekend project into an unimpeachable source of daily necessities for babies

if anyone were to ask my opinion on Babydash, the rapidly growing online retailer that is on its way to dominating the Malaysian market, I would easily reply with one word, ‘welcoming’. And mind you, my answer came about long before I met Lavinie Thiruchelvam and Tay Shan Li, the founding mothers of the popular site, www.babydash.com.my. Notably, my first impression was heavily influenced by the purple, green and orange colour scheme (I used to love watching Barney & Friends as a child) and its official logo, which depicts an adorable baby carriage seemingly on the run. Despite having limited knowledge on early childhood care, I have to say Babydash is a really simple and straightforward e-commerce company that covers all the bases concerning essential baby products.

Founded in 2011, Babydash’s core existence is to offer an easy and convenient platform for all the frustrated modern working parents out there. “Back then, I was running a dance studio for 11 years, while Shan was working at Pricewaterhouse Coopers for five years before moving on to CIMB for another 12. Though we were committed to our full-time jobs, we were also young mothers nursing our then infant children,” narrates Lavine, highlighting that parenthood can be more demanding than any career. “The constant juggle between your personal and professional life is endless. And even though you just came back from a long day at work, your role as a parent never ceases.”

With all the exhausting late-night store runs and unrealistically long queues at the supermarkets – for diapers and milk – Lavinie and Shan decided to seek help from the greatest technology ever developed by humankind – the Internet. “You see these technological advancements being invented every day but there is not one invention that has been designed to counter such basic ‘chores’,” comments Shan, clearly annoyed by the different views people have on the needs and wants. Sadly, though online shopping was greatly trending, Malaysia proved to be a big disappointment even when e-shopping was already widely recognised as a substitute for the physical marketplace. “I guess the idea of buying diapers and baby formulas online (or any general items for that matter) was still bizarre and unheard of here. And although it might seem ancient, Lazada and Tesco delivery services were only brought into Malaysia in 2014.”

Yet, instead of admitting defeat, the duo took it as an untapped business opportunity. Coincidentally, in 2010, the success story of the then five-year-old US-based site diapers.com being acquired by Amazon.com for US$545 million lit the duo’s determination as well. “At that point, our children were already off diapers. But from both of our past experiences, we strongly believed in its potentials and decided to plunge into it,” Lavinie replies excitedly, fondly describing how their houses were once fully stocked with boxes of baby products during the first year, carefully stacked and piled up from floor to ceiling. “I even made my husband use his fancy camera to snap product pictures for us,” she heartily laughs.

As soon as the website was officially launched, orders were flooding in faster than expected. “Parents from all over the country were visiting Babydash. Through word of mouth and careful marketing, the whole concept just took flight itself,” they share coherently. And it wasn’t long before people were asking ‘who is Babydash?’. “We wanted something catchy yet, at the same time, easily understood by everyone that we carry baby products,” explains Shan. As it was crucial to have the word ‘baby’ there, ‘dash’ was thoughtfully added to signify quick action. “Think of it as us doing the dashing around for you,” the two friends gleam to each other.

Presently closing in on its sixth year, looking back, both ladies are truly grateful to be where they are today. “We have 11 staff all working together with us under the roof of our now 4,000sqft warehouse. From just diapers and baby powder, we’ve grown to include nursing products, strollers and skincare products as well as organic and natural options. And we’re still expanding,” Lavinie exclaims with pride. True to its roots, Babydash vows to continuously serve the parents better through each visit. “Even today, we are still learning and improving,” Shan thoughtfully adds, noting that regardless of what you do in life, every day should be taken as a learning experience.

Of course, the success of Babydash is not only limited to the reasonable prices and excellent customer service. “Anyone who shops with Babydash is in for a holistic experience. We aim to be more than just a faceless portal,” Shan explains, while Lavinie nods in agreement and continues to reveal that Babydash has become a point of reference for existing and new customers wanting to know more about baby products. “In addition to that, we frequently host private workshops and events to engage with our supportive community of parents and suppliers. We’ve managed to build a certain level of trust that you can’t get anywhere else.”

However, Lavinie states that 2017 is going to be all about scaling up and growth for Babydash. Through crowd-funding platform, PitchIn, interested individuals can now purchase shares in the company via equity financing. “We’ve been throwing intimate soirées since February to spread our excitement. We aim to raise RM2 million at RM10 million valuations and as of now, we’ve raised RM1.5 million,” says Shan before disclosing that they have recently received excellent news from super angels on their willingness to top up the remaining amount to RM2 million. “Thus far, nothing has been confirmed but we’re hopeful.”