Two of Singapore newest and youngest online entrepreneurs have recently started an online concierge service to help Singaporeans pick out thoughtful gifts for one another. Singapore-based INeedGift (www.INeedGift.com), started by Niles Toh, 25, and Wilbur Suen, 25, looks at helping busy and time-stressed locals source for premium gifts and deliver it to their intended recipients – for a price, of course.
“We started this business with the mindset that everyone likes to receive gifts but with the ever-busy society in Singapore, it’s not easy to find the time to shop for one,” explains Toh, CEO of INeedGift. “People also often run out of ideas on what to buy.” They stumbled on the idea during Christmas last year as they were shopping for gifts. “It was just too difficult to shop with the over-crowded shopping malls and the lack of idea on what to buy.”
Using INeedGift is easy – simply use an online form to tell them who the gift is for and what occasion it is, and the service will select and buy a gift on your behalf. They’ll even deliver it to the recipient. Charges range from S$50 to $200, depending on how urgent you need to send the gift.
As far as online businesses are concerned it’s probably far from an innovative idea, but the founders hope that there will a niche for the service. Toh and Suen believes that the incumbents in the gift industry offer services and products that may be too limited or common. As expected, the founders target working executives who have plenty of disposable income but very little time.
Toh has founded various startups since the age of 17, including a nail-art business which landed some funding from his alma mater Ngee Ann Polytechnic where he graduated with a diploma in facilities management for business. Co-founder and CTO Suen also graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a diploma in information technology, and has spent a number of years in web development and consultation.
The founders admit that limitations to their programming skills means that their site is not as interactive as they wish it to be. But they didn’t want to let that stop them from realizing their dream. “We did the best we could with our current resources but we are investing our revenues back to our website to make it an even more interactive experience for our users,” Niles says.
It doesn’t help that they also face challenges in marketing. “We do not have the budget to reach out to the consumers in the easiest and fastest way,” Niles laments. “As we are still in the start-up stage, we are trying to expose our business.”
Singapore Startups Need Media Attention
Entrepreneurship, Niles and Wilbur concur, is definitely not an easy journey in this country. “Singapore is conservative in doing online business. You seldom see any news article or interview on TV shows about start-ups in Singapore,” Niles points out, adding that the cost of setting up a business in the country can be prohibitive due to high costs of living and sky-high rental. Even online startups, he says, can incur substantial expenditure due to the high costs in customer acquisition.
“Singapore’s media coverage on start-ups is still incomparable to the media buzz that the United States generate,” Niles says. “(The) media industry in Singapore need to give start-ups more opportunity to reach out to Singaporeans and pass the message that entrepreneurship is possible in Singapore.”
The founders agree that a “never-say-die” attitude is a prerequisite in any entrepreneur. “There are bound to be many challenges ahead… but you just got to persevere on and enjoy the process!” Niles complains that people focus too much about making money whenever they think of starting a business. “Money should not be the driving force behind every business,” he insists.
Money, after all, is just an entrepreneur’s way of keeping score.