For Malaysian serial tech entrepreneur Bob Chua, starting a fashion e-commerce venture was the logical next step after three exits in the data industry. In January 2018, the 45-year- old Malaysian and his team launched Blinq, a Singapore-based luxury fashion digital marketplace focused on South-east Asia. Last March, the company raised US$2 million in funding, and is gearing up for another round.

Aside from partnering fashion retail companies such as Yoox Net-a-Porter to carry major luxury brands ranging from Givenchy to Gucci, Blinq also stocks smaller Asian designers under a dedicated category called Asean Houz.

What really sets the platform apart, however, is its proprietary augmented-reality technology that allows users to virtually try on clothes on a photograph of themselves. According to Chua, this virtual dressing-room feature has an accuracy of 98 per cent, and has helped Blinq to maintain a product return rate of zero since its launch – an astonishing figure, considering that the return rate for online retailers is typically reported to be at least 20 per cent.

(Related: Smart shopping: how brick-and-mortar retail is changing)

 

Gosha Rubchinskiy, Dolce & Gabbana
(Left)Gosha Rubchinskiy denim jacket, (Right) Dolce & Gabbana low-top sneakers

In the looking glass:

“Three megatrends set me on this path of Blinq. Firstly, South-east Asia has a strong, growing affluent population. Secondly, luxury retail in this part of the world is worth about US$500 billion right now, and it’s growing at 12 per cent. Thirdly, there’s e-commerce. By 2022, e-commerce is going to represent about 60 per cent of retail worldwide. In South-east Asia, e-commerce is still around eight per cent of retail. The potential to move online is huge.”

 

Regional focus:

“Our business model is mainly based on dropshipping – when somebody buys a retailer’s product through Blinq, they ship it out of their own facility, using our packaging and protocols. We believe that marketplaces are the future of retail; Amazon, Alibaba, Farfetch – they’re all marketplaces. That’s where you can enjoy economies of scale and offer consumers more options from different brands.”

 

Independents’ day:

“We have five main product categories. To help smaller, medium-sized Asian designers and retailers, we created a category called Asean Houz. It’s a way to help small luxury brands that people don’t necessarily know, and that don’t have the funds, marketing prowess and tech know-how to create an e-commerce platform and gain awareness.”

 

(Related: How retail brands are utilising technology to lure shoppers back to brick and mortar malls)