Behind every startup there’s usually a good story – often a very personal one. Online marketplace Kravve.co is no different.

The idea to develop a simple yet effective e-commerce platform came from co-founder Teh Yong Lin’s mother, who used to make pumpkin jam from scratch. Teh saw the potential in selling this homemade jam.

“I asked her, why don’t you try to sell [the jam] online and see if you can make extra income. I thought, how difficult was it to sell food online? It should be very easy,” says the 25-year-old.

It turned out to be not so easy. There were few places where food could be sold and Teh didn’t think existing e-commerce platforms, like Lazada or Shopee, were suitable because they aren’t associated with food purchases. Another idea was to use Facebook or advertise through WhatsApp groups, but that seemed tedious and time-consuming.

“You need to search for a Facebook group to join, wait for approval and advertise your product as a post. Then you’ve got to bump the post every two to three hours so it does not get lost in the various feeds,” he says.

Added to that is the process of checking the bank account balance for payment prior to production.

“What if you got 50 separate orders? You have to check 50 times,” Teh says.

The selling process does not end there. Teh says he knows of producers who dedicate days to delivering their products – time he says could be better spent creating new products or investing in new recipes.

A new online marketplace

Seeing the problems, Teh decided to come up with a solution. Kravve.co was formed 18 months ago as a one-stop digital marketplace where artisanal and homemade products can be bought and sold easily.

It takes care of all the supporting services, leaving the artisanal chef or producer to focus on their product.

Co-founder Jean Heah says the company wants to take some of the load off busy artisans. “Most have families or are single parents, so every little bit helps,” she says.

The 24-year-old former architect says Kravve.co allows producers to access their account at their own convenience to look at orders and payment updates, while also taking care of delivery.

A secure payment gateway is set up so customers pay upfront for an order. The food producer typically takes 48 hours to complete the order.

These are just a fraction of the many tools that Kravve.co offers sellers, who can also use the site to check customer information without having to manage individual queries.

Kravve.co has a team in place to address any questions from the buyers themselves. Kravve.co generates revenue by taking a percentage of each sale.

Teh and Heah say that as far as they are aware Kravve.co has no rivals apart from Facebook and WhatsApp channels.

They hope to always stay ahead of the competition by offering good value to their merchants.

Teh explains that Kravve.co’s 20-odd delivery partners are all experienced at handling food deliveries, dealing with fragile items such as mooncake, and seasonal items like pineapple tarts that are popular during Chinese New Year.

These small and large delivery and despatch firms are important in setting Kravve.co apart from the rest.

Heah says another value-add for producers is the online guides or courses for producers.

“We train them step-by-step, with photo guides to show them how they should package the items,” she says. “How [producers] should take photographs of the product to manage the expectations of customers.”

The two are proud to share that Kravve.co’s 400 artisans and producers are spread across South China Sea to Sabah and Sarawak, and all the major towns in peninsular Malaysia including east coast cities of Kelantan and Terengganu.

Kravve.co is a site that producers can rely on with support services they may not have if they went out on their own to sell in night markets or other social media channels.

“Many people start by selling to their neighbours, close friends, but they don’t all come with a business background,” Teh says.

The online marketplace also offers display tips for its producers.

“Even down to the product information on what kind of information should be shown on the product, to justify to the customer why they should be buying artisanal goods,” he says.

Kravve.co allows artisanal chefs and food producers to expand their customer base across Malaysia and has recently also enabled them to sell in Singapore.

The company has strict processes to ensure transactions are secure and has withdrawn errant producers who fail to meet orders.

“We’re here not only to help the artisan; we’re also here to protect the customer interest as well.”

E-commerce and empowerment

The business may be young, but already enjoy monthly orders of around 1,000 products, with sales peaking during festive periods.

Teh and Heah say that they have received positive feedback from producers, who feel their products now have an appropriate e-commerce home online.

“Our focus right now is to perfect the system with more tools, to make their [producers’] lives even easier, making it easier for them to generate sales,” says Heah.

New marketing tools, designing and labelling services, and food testing are all in the pipeline.

What makes running Kravve.co worthwhile for Teh and Heah is the knowledge that they are supporting online businesses.

“We know of high-flying corporate women leaders taking a career break to become full-time homemakers, but their self-confidence has taken a hit.

“Being able to run their own online business has empowered them, giving them not only income but financial independence,” says Teh.

Heah says these women developed their own online brand, have a huge following on social media and Kravve.co’s platform enables their entrepreneurial journeys.

Others pursue their passion for food, aided by the ease and convenience of an e-commerce site.

Once the workflows are established, artisanal producers are able to earn a healthy monthly income, which during busy festive periods can be as high as RM20,000 to RM30,000 (SG$6,660 to SG$10,000).

Kravve.co wants to celebrate entrepreneurial empowerment and creativity, as it strives to improve its workflows.

The team have started to feature new and innovative products like Torch Ginger flower jam, banana wine, nasi lemak sausage and vegan options like vegan mozzarella cheese or pesto.

“It is not like a traditional company,” Teh says. “The amazing thing is when the community is being empowered we see newer producers and that provides healthy competition because we’ve made it easier for them to sell.”

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