I speak with Ms Wendy Liu to get her views on management, leadership, and find out more about ezbuy.
Singapore’s first and largest global shopping platform was founded back in 2010 by an enterprising group of entrepreneurs who came together as they had a unified mindset about bringing quality products conveniently to locals. By setting their mark as a global marketplace for online retailers where customers have access to millions of quality products worldwide, ezbuy today has more than three million customers from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Ms Liu herself is quite the mover-and-shaker. Operating out of both Singapore and Malaysia, her core duties include overseeing the marketing and global marketplace departments. Back in her university days, she was hit by the techno-preneur bug and thank goodness for that as this made her pursue extra modules that further piqued her curiosity. Ms Liu previously worked as a product engineer at the Global Foundries (formerly known as Chartered Semiconductor) before co-founding ezbuy (formerly known as 65daigou) in 2010. Armed with a Masters’ degree in industrial and systems engineering from the National University of Singapore (NUS) as well as a First-class Honours in electrical and electronics engineering with a minor in business from the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU), Ms Liu is effectively bilingual in both English and Mandarin (no surprise there).
I could go on about her but I am going to take a backseat and leave it to the chief executive officer (CEO) Singapore and co-founder Ms Liu to tell you more about the company in this interview. Trust me, she tells it much better.
Sadie-Jane Nunis (SJN): There is a constant debate that management and leadership are different. What are your thoughts?
Ms Wendy Liu (WL): Management is to manage both people and things. Leadership is the spirit, personality or belief, and attitude that is being admired or followed. Leaders are meant to demonstrate positive influence to their followers, which might be intangible but can have great impact on their followers. Managers, on the other hand, do not necessarily influence people, as long as he/she is able to manage the team and deliver results to meet organisational goals. However, a successful manager normally has good leadership skills. We all know that managing people can be difficult, especially in organisations, managers deal with all kinds of people with different personalities, thoughts, and so forth. Hence, in order to manage them well, good leadership is required.
SJN: What is your management or leadership style like?
WL: I believe that people are of core importance. I always tell my staff that I hope to give them the opportunity to learn and grow, together with the company. I hope that one day when they want to start a new journey, they will always be proud of their time with ezbuy. I hope they can outperform others with the skillsets and experiences they have gained here.
SJN: What strengths should an effective leader have?
WL: Passion, vision, love, and an eagerness to be even better.
SJN: How do you stay motivated?
WL: Support from our loyal customers, as well as perseverance. The world is evolving so fast and I think it is all about how we can stay hungry and have the eagerness to learn new things. For us at ezbuy, achieving success was no easy feat. Anyone starting a business from scratch will know that it is no easy task and comes with lots of challenges and setbacks. It requires a strong idea, financial esources, building of process and methodologies, and all of your energy and time. Businesses everywhere are aware of the stiff competition in the E-commerce industry which makes things even harder but their perseverance and dedication towards their business model kept them going. Hence, I strongly believe that if you stick to your vision and provide customers with a value-added service coupled with an unwavering desire to overcome challenges, nothing is impossible. Always put customers first, because they are your ultimate motivation to improve and cheer you up during the downs.
SJN: How big is your team and how do you manage and motivate your team?
WL: About 100 staff. I do not need to manage everyone. Identifying good candidates to become team leaders and managers is part of my responsibility as CEO of ezbuy Singapore. Different teams will be managed by good managers and leaders. I will need to demonstrate good leadership to influence them and give them the right direction and target. I will also need to know when they need help and to be there for them, sweeping away obstacles, and pointing out the direction to go. Letting them feel my support and understanding is very important. My leadership will influence them and as a result, they can influence their team members.
SJN: Tell me more about ezbuy and how it came about.
WL: During my university days, I took additional business and E-commerce related modules out of curiosity and I found it more interesting than my engineering subjects. This was when I understood the concept behind the convenience and savings consumers enjoyed from online shopping and I knew there was potential to revamp and enhance the E-commerce industry in so many ways. This was definitely something that I would want to explore in future. During a visit to China, I was impressed by the unlimited product varieties that E-commerce platforms in China offered. When my friend, the current co-founder of ezbuy, Mr He Jian, came to me with an idea of replicating the same level of convenience and efficiency for consumers in South-east Asia (SEA), I couldn’t say no!
Ezbuy is an idea I came up with together with my co-founders. We literally started from nothing in Mr He Jian’s apartment. Fast forward to today, eight years later, we have a total of more than three million loyal fans and 10,000 sellers across six marketplaces. We are still seeing a year-on-year growth in all areas and we hope to continue growing.
SJN: What role do you see ezbuy playing as a disruptor?
WL: As a pioneer in Singapore’s E-commerce industry, our role is especially crucial as we have the greatest insight, knowledge, and experience. Things that were relevant five to 10 years ago may not relevant today and we have to evolve alongside it. Our hard work and efforts to lay the foundation coupled with various challenges faced at the start have been crucial for many other players in today’s E-commerce scene.
Ezbuy’s 5th anniversary.
SJN: What are your expansion plans for ezbuy?
WL: You will have to wait and see *smiles*. It is definitely on the cards to not only expand our services to more places, but to bring new marketplaces and an enhanced consumer experience to our customers.
SJN: How do you see ezbuy disrupting markets around Asia, or even globally?
WL: Ezbuy has been bringing the best variety of products at the lowest prices to customers living in countries or regions with limited access to them. We are making their lifestyles better while helping sellers worldwide reach a global consumer market.
SJN: Where do you see ezbuy in the next five years?
WL: We recently completed our pre-Series C funding where we raised US$17.6 million. This is currently being used to offer quicker and more reliable modes of localised services to customers, as well as expand to countries outside SEA.
SJN: Where do you see E-commerce in the next five years?
WL: The E-commerce industry has certainly evolved from being a non-existent business model to being one that successfully meets the ever-changing needs of modern day consumers. The industry is extremely competitive but we think there is still an opportunity for E commerce businesses like ourselves to evolve and create an enhanced experience for our customers.
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