Budding prospects


Penny Choo, co-founder of BloomThis. As the company strives forward towards its goals, Choo emphasises the fundamental importance of talent in the business. — ART CHEN/The Star

THIS past February, festive calendars aligned in such a way that Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year witnessed an overlap, falling within the same week. For many, the two occasions’ proximity meant double the celebrations. For floral delivery and gifting businesses around the country, it meant navigating a number of obstacles on top of keeping up with an influx of orders.

“I would say it was definitely busy because it was two peak seasons converging,” admits Penny Choo, managing director and co-founder of BloomThis. As one of Malaysia’s leading on-demand gifting e-commerce platforms, making sure its orders were fulfilled and customers satisfied required significant planning months in advance.

“With two celebrations clashing, we were not just competing in terms of manpower resources as some people were taking their holidays, but we were also competing in terms of raw materials and supplies, and dealing with logistical challenges,” she continues. “To create the flower products is one thing. Sourcing the flowers is a whole separate matter, as is getting them delivered.”

Despite the hectic rush of the season, Choo brightly notes that the two coinciding events, on the flip side, signify “double the happiness”. Such an outlook is apt, considering that the brand’s central mission is to create moments of happiness.

BloomThis was founded in 2015 by Choo and her now-husband Giden Lim, out of the desire to revolutionise the flower and gifting industry. “Back then the industry was very fragmented, there was very little innovation in the space, so there were not many choices for the consumer and often, you couldn’t see the product you’d be getting,” she explains.

“There was this gap in the market and we wanted to do something to improve the customer experience and give them the luxury quality they deserve — products that both the sender and the recipient would be happy with and proud of.”

Today, BloomThis’s presence and reach extends to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru and Singapore with a growing range of gifting items on offer, from handcrafted designer flowers and gourmet food, to live plants and artisan-crafted gift boxes.

However, Choo reveals that BloomThis was in fact the founding couple’s third attempt at establishing a flower e-commerce business. Previous ventures within the field had not taken off, and looking back, she names timing as a crucial factor.

“The ecosystem and consumer behaviour were very different back then, and the market was not ready for this kind of thing,” she says. “But by 2015, there were a lot of initiatives happening. External funding, capital injections, the VC (venture capital) scene was rising — these things spurred the development and people’s adoption of e-commerce.”

Rooted in tech

Bringing a modernised, digital-era approach to a largely traditional flower and gifting sector, BloomThis has, since its inception, set itself apart with its embrace of technology across its operations.

“When we started BloomThis, we had already envisioned ourselves as a tech-enabled company and set ourselves up as such,” Choo states. With the adoption of tech-centred processes, the business is able to ensure consistent quality and scalability.

“We can’t be a scalable business if we’re writing orders on a piece of paper, and pumping delivery orders one by one, line by line — that just wouldn’t work. So we focus on tech and we have built our proprietary technological platform to help us scale and give us the operational capabilities to handle large amounts of orders.”

While the use of technology undoubtedly reaps benefits outside of production and operations, such as an efficient and enjoyable online shopping experience, the co-founder maintains that at the end of the day, the quality of the products and services is key.

“Apart from the front-facing aspects, it’s really about the outcome. The website can be beautiful, but can you deliver the product on time, to the right recipient, at the right address, with the right message card?”

As the head of product development, Choo observes that customer expectations are constantly being raised. To stay competitive, the business remains steadfast in consistently providing high quality products.

From ideation to prototyping to launch, the process of designing a new gifting offering is often anything but simple. Before the expertly arranged bouquet can seamlessly arrive at your doorstep, tedious months of planning and coordinating with various departments have to first take place.

“The supply chain side needs to know what and how much to buy, the production team needs to know how to craft the product, the logistics team needs to know how to deliver them, and customer service needs to know how to answer the FAQ,” she expands.

Further aiming to meet the demands and preferences of the ever-evolving consumer, the platform offers customisable features such as the option to upload photos alongside personal messages, which can be printed and attached with the gift delivery.

“We are entering an era of more personalisation,” she notes. “It’s these small touches that add a sense of thoughtfulness and make it personal.”

Blossoming enterprise

As BloomThis approaches its 9th anniversary this April, Choo reveals that the company already has major plans underway. After eight years largely focusing on e-commerce, it opened a physical store at its headquarters in Petaling Jaya and an outlet in collaboration with KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital.

In March, the brand launched yet another storefront in Subang Jaya Medical Centre, further extending its signature floral and gifting offerings in the healthcare sector.

“This year is about channel expansion for us, as we want to give customers a physical experience and increase our touchpoints,” she shares. “We will also be expanding to other cities that need our products and services.”

In addition to growing its physical footprint, the co-founder says the brand aims to be the premier name in the local floral and gifting scene. “We want to be the name that comes to mind when people ask about where to get flowers and gifts for each occasion.”

As BloomThis strives forward towards its goals, she also emphasises the fundamental importance of talent in the business.

“We are run by our three Ps: People, process and platform, and people is always the number one element. As much as we are tech-enabled, we are still an industry that is labour intensive, as our products are very much handcrafted and require skilled people.”

Given that the company’s speciality is crafting special moments, we ask Choo about the most fulfilling moments throughout this nine-year journey. One point of pride is the community of ‘bloomies’ — customers, partners and followers connected through the brand. Another is the blossoming impact each of its floral creations have contributed to.

“When I look at these beautiful flowers, I think about who might have received these flowers and the smiles it might have brought,” she says.

“Secondly, who crafted these flowers? That leads me to think about the job opportunities we have created for the community and in the gig economy, and the florists and riders that have benefitted. We have watched team members join us and who have just flourished in their time here. It’s very fulfilling to see that."

This article first appeared in Star Biz7 weekly edition.


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