Aha! Moments - A chat with Ryan Chioh, Managing Director of FarEastFlora.com
FarEastFlora.com rooted from humble beginnings as a little florist, with Ryan’s father and two uncles (its founders) peddling eggs and flowers from the back of a van carting their goods around Singapore in the ‘60s.
Ryan Chioh, grew up in this environment and literally went through the school of hard knocks – assimilating the nuts and bolts of running an orchid farm in Yew Tee, Singapore. School holidays would typically mean helping out with sales and delivery of flowers.
Today with Ryan’s in-depth knowledge in IoT and awareness that the way to move the business forward and align with changes in consumer purchasing behaviour, Ryan successfully created an e-commerce platform –
FarEastFlora.com. The launch of this platform saw the business capturing a wider target market not just within Singapore, but Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Ryan speaks to us on his aha! moments in propelling his business into a leading online florist within this region.
What was/were your aha! moment(s)?
There were many aha! moments for me. The one that I truly relish was when I returned from the States and realised that the traditional hardcopy catalogue-based business model is not sustainable and we needed to transform.
My exposure in the States where e-commerce was booming back then got me thinking and gave me the idea to push this idea through – a total shift to a full-swing e-commerce florist with much wider outreach spanning across three markets i.e. Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The other aha! moment was when we had to re-invent our call centre to a remote collaboration model. As business was booming and with the increased number of inbound calls, it got me thinking on how best and easily can I expand my call centre team without being limited by office space.
I did a fair bit of research and stumbled into a call centre solution that enabled my call centre team to answer calls from home, equipped with the right IP phone and laptops. Looking back when Singapore had to move into a ‘circuit breaker’ our service to our customers was seamless – as our call centre team was already working from home.
What was or were the challenges that you had that compelled you to re-think on how you could bring your franchise forward into an e-commerce platform?
When I returned to Singapore upon completion of my tertiary education in the States, I realised that the business was pretty much dependent on walk-in clients and catalogues – reaching out to target market via expensive hard copy brochures were quite limiting.
In the States back then e-commerce was booming and this prodded me to re-think our business model; to shift to an e- commerce platform and be one of the first movers as there were not many such services then within this space.
In migrating your business model from a traditional in-store florist to an online e- commerce florist what were the key enablers that you think would make it a success?
I believe lots of gumption, hard work, good teamwork and right technology/devices are pivotal in ensuring the success of any business model.
We ran many marketing campaigns to drive traffic to our e- commerce portal and being tech savvy I was quick to embrace new technologies, new platforms that I see will bring value to the business. Focus was on growing the business and if there’s opportunity to ‘outsource’ operational tasks which is not our core activity and competency we leveraged or subscribed to the right solutions.
FarEastFlora.com subscribes to Rentalworks Group’s leasing solutions. How does it help your franchise from a cashflow and operations perspective?
At one point of our aggressive growth path, we needed to get enough computers fast for the team to work on. Sourcing and procuring these computers outright would entail substantial capital outlay and not to mention maintenance costs.
We were fortunate that we were introduced to Rentalworks’ integrated leasing solutions. We did not have to haggle with getting the right specifications and most importantly no huge capital outlay. This has enabled us to focus and deploy our capital for business expansion.