Singapore-based Norwegian builds up world’s largest fashion destination
”It has not been easy,” says Magnus Grimeland. But it has not been impossible either.
When the former soldier from Norwegian Navy Seals sets a goal, he is determined to achieve it. He is not afraid to think big either. So when he had the opportunity to become the Regional Managing Director and Co-Founder of online fashion shop Zalora in Southeast Asia (SEA), his vision was not only to make his company biggest in Southeast Asia, but biggest on the globe. Zalora, founded in 2012, is now only four years old, but has fast become the top online fashion destination in SEA with millions of customers.
“From day one I wanted Zalora to be big. To get there, constantly focusing on improvement is essential.”
Later, Zalora was acquired and merged into the fashion group Global Fashion Group (GFG) with the aim to be the no. 1 online fashion destinations for emerging markets operating across 27 countries globally – in Asia, the Pacific, South America, Middle-East and Eastern Europe.
So what do you do, when you start up a company in a country where no culture of online shopping exists? Maybe it is his military background, but Mr Grimeland has a talent for solving problems and staying in focus for his target.
Building Zalora over the past four years in countries such as Indonesia has not been easy.
“We had to invent a payment system, since only few Indonesians hold credit cards. We also called every single customer after delivering an order to get their feedback. It was a huge administrative job, but I wanted to measure all details. I wanted to see where we could improve and make the shopping experience even better.”
Now they distribute to all countries within SEA, where they introduce great international brands to Asian online shoppers through their website. Their brand selection also consists of local brands and designers from Asia and their own Zalora design.
“I am very excited about presenting local brands. That makes us differ from other international fashion web shops, but even better is it that we can promote locals’ work to the whole world.”
Zalora quickly became a success with their day-to-day delivery, customer service and product quality. In 2015 the fashion shop became part of Global Fashion Group (GFG), which now is connecting one third of the world population to leading international and local brands. GFG is only five years old, but prove their willingness to be the number one fashion destination in the world. Today they hold 16 warehouses operating in 27 countries, with more than 5000 employees serving more than 10 million customers.
Zalora alone has today shipped orders to 16,853 cities across the Asian region, and has provided more than 2000 jobs, of which hundreds are at the head quarter in Singapore. All these numbers and jobs is the result of hard work. You need to possess passion in your job.
“It is a demanding job to start companies on new markets, and even when you aim to be in the leading position of not only the regional, but the global markets as well. But to be honest, most of the time it doesn’t feel like “’work’. I think it’s really fun, I always look forward to Mondays,” says Magnus.
At the moment he continues to operate in Asia, Middle East, Russia and South America: “For the moment it’s more interesting to start up in emerging markets, especially because Scandinavia already has a great established fashion e-commerce market.”
On the other hand, Zalora is benefitting from its rivals in the emerging markets.
“New online shops are great, because it will generate new online customers, who eventually also will be our new customers.”
In late 2014 Zalora also launched their first ever a click-and-mortar store in Singapore, which combines the best of both online and offline shopping. Buyers can for instance scan prices via the Zalora app on their personal mobile phones. This gives them the option to add items to their online shopping carts or wish lists.
“Our pop-up shops are very exciting. It’s not physical stores as such, but rather temporary pop-up stores where the customer can shop online. These are stores in strategic locations – good malls – that we use as a customer acquisition tool. Basically a place where customers can come and look physically on our products, try them on and order online in the store. Then the same day or next day they will have the goods delivered to their home. It’s a way to bring new customers onto our site which are used to mostly shopping offline and haven’t tried online shopping before,“ comments Magnus.
As we speak, he is waiting for his flight to Sao Paulo for another business meeting, and when he returns to Asia after a business week in Latin America, he will head for the airport again, going to Indonesia. But this time, it will be for pleasure, not business. It requires a lot being in the leading position of the global online fashion market. Being a Norwegian, Magnus loves to do all kinds of outdoor activities, and spending a lot of time sitting still in airplanes or in work meetings, he looks forward to be active when he has time off.
“I do miss the Norwegian mountains. But luckily the options to do different sports are many. When I take a break from the business I usually go surfing, climbing, diving or running. On ordinary days I also find time to do a morning workout before I go to work. I like sport.”
Magnus is literary the definition on being the man on land, at sea and in the air – and online. But even if ZALORA and GFG have grown quickly, he points out how important it is to remain down-to-earth.
“It is easy to become overwhelmed on this journey, but I want to make sure I never forget the important things. In the beginning when our customers were few, we were extremely aware of them and could give them our full attention. We still want to do that, even if the numbers of customers have increased tremendously. It’s all about remembering to maintain one’s foothold in a fast-growing business.”