Want veggies online? Try Malaysia's first virtual grocery store

Summary:If you think business to consumer (B2C) is heading for the trash heap as far as Malaysia is concerned, you better think again. A Malaysian entrepreneur is trying to make this type of e-commerce trendy in the country.

If you think business to consumer (B2C) is heading for the trash heap as far as Malaysia is concerned, you better think again. A Malaysian entrepreneur is trying to make this type of e-commerce trendy in the country. And he wants to do it with perishables like fish and vegetables. You may think he is a little behind time as far as B2C is concerned, considering the fact that B2C has not really soared to the level of expectations many people in the West had harbored in the early days of Internet commerce.

But Pasarborong.com CEO Nik Rushdi Nik Hassan is upbeat that his venture will be able to attract Malaysians to congregate on the Internet and order fish and other household essentials from his Web site. It is probably the only one of its kind in Malaysia which sells and delivers groceries to the customers' doorsteps, claims Nik Rushdi. Operations began in the third week of July and the Web business services several townships like Damansara, Bangsar, Kelana Jaya and several areas in Petaling Jaya. Nik Rushdi says currently Pasarborong has a consistent customer base of a hundred households which translates into about 200 registered customers.

But why B2C when it is being avoided like the plague here and abroad? Nik Rushdi is convinced B2C has gotten a lot of bad publicity and if handled carefully and competently, it can work--even in Malaysia. He doesn't buy the notion that there is not enough critical mass for an Internet play like Pasarborong to thrive on.

"I think as far as critical mass for our business is concerned, we have it," Nik Rushdi says with a gusto of resolve. "In Malaysia, it's all about the confidence game. Once you gain the trust of your customers, they will keep coming back."

"Why we say we have critical mass is because of this factor; we did a survey of about 300 households prior to starting this business and about 70 percent of the respondents said they would give Pasarborong.com a try," he claims. The issue here is that one have to customize operations specifically for local needs, Nik Rushdi points out. He is targetting another 3,000 households in high-populated areas like Subang Jaya and Ampang by the end of this year.

For example, Malaysians are very averse to the idea of releasing credit card information over the Internet. Shoppers can simply click on the items they want and upon delivery the next day, shoppers can pay the deliveryman cash on delivery. Nik Rushdi says this is one way he and his team is getting around the issue of e-transactions.

"And when we started out in late July, we inevitably faced teething problems and there were admittedly, some late or wrong deliveries. But we went back to the customers promptly, apologized, and even threw in a fruit basket."

"If the fish is not up to the customer's expectations, we'll give him or her a bigger fish! Customer service is key in this business and even though Malaysians are not really noted for their personalized service, we intend to change all that," he noted.

Topics: Malaysia

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