Everyone knows Alibaba but not everyone knows its middle-eastern arm operating in Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Episode 34 of the Impulso Podcast, we invited Zori Zafirova, COO of Daraz, to talk about being a part of Alibaba Group as well as her personal journey.

In this episode, we have touched upon:

  • What are shared learnings among various Alibaba Group companies that have played a pivotal role in Daraz’s growth?
  • How onions helped Daraz gain traction in Bangladesh?
  • How to manage multimarket operations?
  • As we look ahead to the future, what opportunities and hurdles does the e-commerce world have in 2023?

Join this episode to gain intriguing insights from our guest on operating in the frontier ecommerce world.


Dalia  00:00

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Impulso podcast. First of all, let’s start with introducing our regulars: Jianggan

Jianggan  00:12

Hello, good morning.

Dalia  00:14


Yorlin Ng  00:14

Hello. Hi, good morning

Dalia  00:16


Siqi  00:17

Hi, Siqi here.

Dalia  00:18

And finally Zori. Welcome Zori. How about you introduce yourself briefly?

Zori  00:23

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me on the podcast. So the honor is great. I was fully expecting Jianggan to multitask. But he’s not multitasking from what I can see, because that’s what I’ve heard on the podcast before that Jianggan, always multitask.

Jianggan  00:44

My brain is always thinking about multiple things.

Zori  00:47

I can tell and I was expecting some bubble tea. But that’s also not here

Dalia  00:51

Will do that for the future, bubble tea for guests.

Zori  00:53

Bubble tea for guests. But on a more serious note, let me introduce myself my name is Zori Zafirova. I am the COO of Daraz. Looking after a few different areas operations, customer experience, strategy and planning, HR as well as our financial services and payments. And but I guess not a lot of people know about Daraz. So I’m also happy to tell you a little bit about about Daraz as well.

Jianggan  01:27

I think let’s start with their Daraz. What is it? And it’s part of Alibaba. But of course, when people talk about Alibaba, I mean, very few people actually mentioned about it. So. So this year, a lot of talk has gone into the whole restructuring of Alibaba, the International digital commerce business, been part of it? And of course, I mean, it hinges on Lazada even though like I think AliExpress is a bigger and then Lazada. But there are other businesses like Daraz I mean, can you explain more on that?

Zori  01:56

for sure. Yeah. So I think in our region, everybody talks about Lazada. And everybody knows about Lazada. And some people know about AliExpress, as well. But actually, there are two other businesses in the Alibaba international commerce group, which I think are arguably sort of even more interesting. And one of them is Daraz. I might be biased there. But so the two other businesses that not a lot of people know about. One is actually a Turkish business. It’s called Trendio. They’re only active in Turkey, they’re now starting to internationalize a bit, but for all intents and purposes, they’re only in Turkey. And they’re valued at $17 billion. So it’s a pretty, pretty successful business for one that is just in one country, right? And then there’s Daraz, the rise is definitely the smallest of the lot. We’re like, I don’t know, 10 times smaller than Lazada on a lot of the metrics. But we are in some super interesting market, super frontier. So we are in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal. But yeah, and we are actually one of the largest tech businesses or even the largest tech businesses in most of these countries. So it’s, for me, it’s always so nice, actually, to travel to Pakistan and to Bangladesh, because in Singapore, when I tell people, I work for Daraz, nobody knows her. And I’m like, Yeah, you know, it’s like Lazada. It’s the same business model. And it’s also owned by Alibaba. But when I go to Pakistan, I land and at the airport, you know, they ask you why, what, why, what are you doing here? You might be wearing like the Ross Jersey, and then everybody from the immigration officer to anybody that you meet, they’re like, Oh, my God, you work for Daraz. I just bought something there. And it’s so cool. So yeah, they’re a different feeling.

Jianggan  03:58

Yeah, it’s interesting. You mentioned about trend do versus daraz. And, of course, I mean, Turkey is a significant market, and it’s also middle middle income market. Yeah. And an operating a single market is always easier than operating multiple markets

Zori  04:11

Exactly. Oh my god, it’s so easy if you if you’re operating in just one market.

Jianggan  04:16

And we’re talking about Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. So historical is part where it was part of the same region. But of course, this markets are very different from each other. So what why did you guys decide to operate in so many different markets? I mean, we know that when Lazada came about operating Southeast Asia is already quite difficult, right? Yeah. But but at least in Southeast Asia, most of the capitals are within like, one or two hours flight from China. So we can sort of connect very easily. But how is the situation in your part of the operations?

Zori  04:52

Yeah, so geographically. I guess my geography is really bad to be honest. But I think geographically is not so bad. However, the biggest issue that we do have is that bit like from Pakistan to Bangladesh, people who are Pakistani nationals and people who are Bangladesh nationals, they can’t really travel to the other market. Because of the history that the two countries have, they don’t, they don’t issue visas, it’s, it’s like super, super difficult, almost impossible to get a visa. And that for us, it’s tough, right? Because actually, these are our two largest markets, 85% plus of our GMV revenue, whatever metric you look at comes from these two markets. And also most of our central team sits in Pakistan. So we do have people here in Singapore, we have people in China as well, engineers, but the majority of us and 75% of our central team sits in Pakistan, and they can’t even go to Bangladesh. So that’s definitely something that we have to navigate around

Jianggan  05:59

a bit of history for our listeners who are not familiar with the region. So, of course, many of these countries used to be part of the British India. And during the partition in 1947, I think India was divided into two halves, right, the Hindu majority India and the Muslim majority Pakistan, which back then consisted of two parts East and West Pakistan. And of course, um, east and west were separated by India, and and with very different cultures, very different sort of local customs, etcetera, etcetera. I think in 1971, East Pakistan managed to secede from the country to become Bangladesh. So that explains a little bit of the historical historical context. And why. I mean, they don’t get a visa to travel.

Zori  06:45

Yeah. And also if you’re so if you’re from India, you also don’t get a visa to travel to Pakistan. Right. So the funny story there is that jangan is, as you know, actually, my husband is from India. And I travel to India regularly. So I’m always very scared whether when they see all my Pakistani stamps in my passport, then the Indian immigration would not let me in. But so far it’s been okay.

Jianggan  07:11

We know that for certain European countries, you’re actually able to get two passports two active passports because of these constraints. Maybe you can check with your embassy.

Zori  07:19

Yeah, not possible for Bulgaria. Unfortunately, I would love to do it. Yeah, absolutely.

Jianggan  07:24

Yeah. Okay. Back to this markets on, you know, a few years ago, I think 2015 2016 People talk about Indonesia, as if it’s like, no, you’re building infrastructure. You’re building ecommerce, European first set of like, tech platforms in a region. And a few years later, I think some people started looking at the South Asia to say that, okay, of course, a lot of money had gone to India, and which pushed the infrastructure along. But in the other markets, I mean, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Just give people a sense of how big these markets are, and and what really frontier these markets are.

Zori  07:57

Yeah, super frontier, which is one of the reasons why we don’t have a lot of competition at the moment. So in terms of population, our markets are about half a billion people. I think that’s only slightly smaller than Southeast Asia, right? Southeast Asia is about 600 million. I thought, Yes. About that. Yeah, yeah. So almost the same size. However, in terms of GDP, per capita, our biggest market Pakistan, it’s about 1500 USD, while Indonesia is three times that. So imagine a country which is essentially three times more than, than Indonesia. And also, the other interesting thing is that penetration of E commerce is super low, right? So it’s only low single digits. So it’s like three 4%, in, in most of our countries. So it’s a huge potential for growth, because you have that half a billion, I think that’s why Alibaba has been interested in our business and supporting our business for since 2018. Because you have this half a billion population, and the penetration is below 5%. In terms of ecommerce, so huge potential for growth, but, but definitely a lot of work to be done and infrastructure to be built. As you said, Jianggan, we now do, for example, more than 70% of our deliveries ourselves. And that’s not because, you know, that’s very clever strategy or anything like that. It just because when we started the business, you know, there were some three PLs, but they were not that great or they didn’t cover the whole country. So we had to build a lot of this ourselves.

Jianggan  09:45

So I think Lazada when it first started in 2012, in Southeast Asia, they also build logistics themselves, because at that time, you just didn’t have a player which is good enough to cover the service levels. that platform would require, but of course, the journey in Southeast Asia later would evolve with I mean, people putting significant investment into companies like Ninjavan. Like J&T. Quite a lot of money went to in that. But in those markets, is that is the reason why you had to do it yourself. Because no investors actually investing in third party, I mean, companies, which are actually trying to build this. Oh, is that because he must assess that Okay, in this market might be too early? Yes. Wait and see.

Zori  10:29

Yeah, I think so. I think so. I mean, there are some third party logistics providers, but not nothing as big and as professional as, as Ninjavan of the world. There was quite some investment going into Pakistan specifically. But after that political and economic situation of Pakistan deteriorated very rapidly and a lot of the startups went bankrupt, a lot of the money was pulled out of the of the country as well. So Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been really struggling economically in the last year or two. So not a lot of investments have been going into those countries. Bangladesh is interesting, because Bangladesh, actually the GDP per capita of Bangladesh is now higher than India. It’s a smaller country. But in terms of, you know, individual wealth, it’s actually growing growing very fast. So Bangladesh is interesting, and there’s a lot more investment in Bangladesh these days.

Jianggan  11:32

And talking about these two markets. Do you think that it’s easier to build things in Bangladesh? I mean, at the current sort of time.

Zori  11:41

I mean, look, every market has its own challenges, but from an infrastructure point of view, Bangladesh is anyway easier because it’s a denser country. So it’s just smaller distances. However, Dhaka is suit like, if you think Jakarta traffic jams are bad. Go to Dhaka. Seriously, you would wish you or you would wish you could go back to Jakarta. It’s it’s actually the world’s most densely populated city. Okay. Dhaka Yeah. And delivering anything is a nightmare or getting anywhere is a nightmare. So very tough.

Jianggan  12:22

That’s interesting. Yorlin spent what, two and a half years in Jakarta on and off and, and she’s from Malaysia, where everyone spends like 80% of your time complaining about traffic. And and after spending some time in Jakarta, she when she came back to Malaysia when people complain about traffic to them, you have not seen the real thing. And now we know that there’s something beyond Jakarta. Dhaka interesting, but in Dhaka, how would you deliver when the traffic is bad to use loss of that means it for instance? I mean, if you look at Vietnam, right, use lots of motorbikes to to deliver because the streets are narrow, because because the traffic is bad. And how to do that in in Dhaka.

Zori  13:05

Yeah, I think we use some water motorbikes. But we use normal vehicles as well. It’s, it’s, it’s very densely populated. It’s not the distance is actually not very, very large. So it’s painful, and it takes time. But yeah, you just sit in traffic and wait and wait. And eventually, in a few hours, you’re able to deliver, we don’t do your like, you know, delivery within two hours or four hours we focus on and we believe that at least for our markets, that’s actually, you know, it’s just so inefficient that if it’s not food delivery, obviously, which is very time sensitive, it doesn’t make sense. However, we do focus a lot on getting as much as possible delivered same day or next day. So within 48 hours, essentially.

Jianggan  13:54

The point about densities is interesting, right? I mean, we’ll look at the journey in China, a lot of times a lot of business models were made possible because of the infrastructure and also the density of the city and the density of the consumption power. I’m going to turn to Dalia and Yorlin a bit. So of course, you guys come from different places. Yorlin is from Malaysia, which is relatively affluent is Southeast Asia, but less dense compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. Dalia, you’re from Elista? Where is Elista?

Dalia  14:24

Elista is the areas actually in southern western part of Russia.

Jianggan  14:29

So how’s the ecommerce like there?

Dalia  14:33

I think yes, ecommerce is actually quite popular in there. The city is quite small town is actually quite small. And I would say there are not many business and the last time that I traveled home I just realized that whatever they’re offering in stores, I can order online at a lower price and yes, with a pretty much same delivery order.

Jianggan  14:57

Out of curiosity, which platforms do people use?

Dalia  14:59

Yeah, it’s actually really yeah, there are quite big ones. I would say the biggest one would be Wildberries. And I think it’s very popular because it’s offering the best delivery time. For example, I ordered something like two years ago, it was delivered within two days. Two days to the pick-up point, which why I think Russian standards is actually a really, really good and other one would be OZON. Okay. Yes, which I think offers a bit more of items that are not only fashion items, clothes or makeup. I think they also deliver actively electronics or even big items like washing machines and stuff like that.

Jianggan  15:41

So two day. so basically has to travel from maybe a major distribution point to the city and it’s probably not goods, which are already sort of stocked in the city, right? Yeah, I

Dalia  15:50

I don’t think they stock in the city.

Jianggan  15:53

Yorlin, Malaysia. Temu was there!

Yorlin Ng  15:55

Yes. Temu just entered. Yeah, I was just telling my parents about it. So they are quite excited. They’re quite happy. So okay, so context. I don’t my parents don’t live in KL they live actually in explain what is KL? Sorry, they don’t live in Kuala Lumpur, this capital of Malaysia. So they live about an hour drive from the from the Capital. So they’re actually a lot less dense compared to the Capital. So my, I think my parents are today to pick up ecommerce during COVID. And since then, my dad especially has been a avid buyer from Pinduoduo, as well as Tmall and Taobao in China. I think during COVID I think the fresh delivery business also picked up there was this company called Grow For You, which was started by a friend in in Malaysia. And  they actually could do like next day delivery of fresh goods in Malaysia into certain bands, the place where I’m from my parents are from as well.

Jianggan  17:00

I think I think when we talk about two days, we’ll talk on next day and anybody from China said And why can you do anything? Like half an hour? Yeah, but But it’s all like macro perspective, right? I mean, the infrastructure and and also the density and etc, etc. So it’s,

Yorlin Ng  17:15

and besides, I think, I think for Malaysia, I think we’re a bit like, maybe it’d be like the US where the places the places big is its, its places apart from each other. So my parents would actually drive to a big hypermarket before COVID, to just stock up on goods for about one, one or two weeks beforehand. So they don’t have this habit only order when they need something.

Jianggan  17:42

How would a typical consumer in Bangladesh buy things? Like plan their I don’t know, what what what kind of stuff do they buy regularly? And how, how does the platform organized the sellers for this kind of goods? Because just because I think most of our listeners probably have never been to these countries, just out of curiosity.

Zori  18:03

Yeah. So I think as ecommerce in many places, first usually starts with things like electronics, right? So that’s very much the case, in our countries as well. And Electronics has historically been a big category. However, what we noticed is that now with things like social commerce, and after COVID, when people have started as Yorlin was also suggesting, you know, people from all walks of life have started using E commerce a lot more. Now, people buy things like fashion, or makeup or toys for their children, or home and living. So we do have all of these categories on our platform. And an interesting one is always in a more difficult one to crack is always groceries, especially fresh. And there, we do have fresh groceries in some of our locations as well. But the way we think about it is more. It’s a destination for your weekly shopping, rather than daily shopping. So that’s that’s how at least we currently organize it.

Jianggan  19:19

So interesting, because I think groceries globally has been a tough nut to crack for for for many businesses. I think even China nowadays we do when we talk to investors, about groceries, every investor we talked to, I said, Oh, we have been burned probably more than once. Yeah, but you must in groceries. And I mean, sometimes it’s not because the companies are not trying their best. It’s just because this is hard.

Zori  19:44

It’s very tough. And that’s why we actually quite careful and we are we don’t have like your full end to end everything. Any fresh item you can find on the platform just just because the logistics and the supply chain are pretty hard. However, I will tell you if a funny story, which I didn’t even witness myself, but I always hear this story from my CEO. So in Bangladesh, so Daraz just like what Lazada is actually a rocket startup. And and I think this was before the Alibaba acquisition, if I’m if I’m not mistaken. But in Bangladesh, we had, you know, foreign managing directors and they were really struggling to get the market to sort of pick up. And then finally we found a local guy. And he’s still the managing director today. But how he turned around the situation he he said, guys, forget about everything about forget about electronics, forget about your promotions, forget about marketing, we’re going to sell onions. Because everybody needs onions every day in Bangladesh, you cannot cook anything without onions. So what we need to do is we need to get people to just, you know, get excited about Daraz and just know that you can buy stuff on Daraz. So now we’re going to find the cheapest onions, subsidize them, whatever it takes, we’re gonna start sending onions and then people will get to know about us, and they’ll start shopping on Daraz. And that was how the whole you know, Daraz in Bangladesh really kicked off.

Jianggan  21:16

Wow. Well, I think I read somewhere that, that people used to use the price of onion to gauge the inflation in India. So basically, because it’s part of the everyday cuisine, in South Asia, just like people used to use pork price to gauge the inflation in China. So and of course to subsidize onion will not cost as much as if we subsidize the electronics. Exactly. Yeah. Because people do to buy frequently, right as well.

Zori  21:45


Jianggan  21:45

Yeah. Interesting. I mean, people, people, people finding growth hacks, right? I mean, especially with people who know the market. And that’s probably a low cost way of acquiring new users and get used to comfortable as too comfortable to, to actually make repeated purchases on a platform. And afterwards, you can introduce them to other categories.

Zori  22:04

Exactly, yes.

Jianggan  22:05

I think let’s turn the story a little bit to, I mean, how to manage this kind of multi market operations. I worked for Rocket for two years, and we used to benchmark the different regions, that Rocket was operating in Latin America, I mean, geographically, very sparse, moving from one city to another city can take like 10 hours to fly. But if you said, Okay, um, I need some experience to handle a operation in Colombia, we used to send someone from Argentina and the person goes there can function because he can communicate with a local team, listen to the same pop songs. And of course, the regulations and the political landscape, the consumption power might be different, but you can function. Middle East, the narrow says the Middle East, you send someone from Jordan or Egypt to, to work in, say, Saudi Arabia, the person can function, you can actually just communicate the team and work with the team to to figure out things. Africa. It’s very complex in terms of infrastructure. But but most of the countries are English or French speaking. Right? If it became easier, Southeast Asia was was nightmare. Right? Each, each country is different. And and I used to I mean, I used to encourage the people to say that okay, that’s hard Malaysian Chinese to work in Indonesia, because they speak English. They speak good Bahasa, which is very similar to Indonesian language. But Yorlin, was all challenging to get Malaysians to work in Indonesia, why?

Yorlin Ng  23:48

I can give you my personal point of view. And I think it’s more of a culture, culture thing that I think is really the Malaysian that I grew up with. We are English educated. So we’re always looking to, to the west, to the west, we’re looking at Australia, you can get a UK you can get a us to to, to progress your career. And I think this has something to do with the pop culture that you grew up with. Right, I think was only in recent years. I think you had a Chinese culture yet Korean culture that encouraged people to also want to work there. So I would say that’s one of the key reasons. I think most Malaysians I know, want to come to if if they were to choose a place in Southeast Asia, they will come to Singapore because of the exchange rate. But Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, to us. I mean, without this exposure, I would say that these are like frontier countries, I wouldn’t even consider them. Back in the days when I was a bit more ignorant. I wouldn’t even consider them tourist destinations in a way because you always you’re always looking at the Australia to Japan and us as tourist destinations, so I think it’s um, it’s only recently, last 10 years, it has been maybe because of COVID because of rising prices. Now people are now looking more in their backyard for this to go to Southeast Asia as a tourist destination.

Zori  25:16

Very interesting. And all Europeans want to go to Thailand and Indonesia

Jianggan  25:22

To work or just tourism?

Zori  25:23

well, just for tourists. Yeah.

Yorlin Ng  25:27

And I think it’s really the misinformation that we have been taught growing up, because because I think in Malaysia, there is actually an inflow of foreign workers coming into Malaysia. So this is what people in Malaysia will see, oh, this is actually what Indonesia is like. Just like people. If you’re in Malaysia, only you see that oh, intellect, I can see lots of domestic helpers coming into Malaysia. And this is what you said that the foreign people’s perception about conscious perception, which is not true, it’s only when you are when you have like a bird’s eye view only when you go to Jakarta, when you when you go to Manila, they realize, oh, wow, it is very different. It’s very vibrant. And it’s actually, and there’s a reason why so many people decide to stay in Indonesia to work. And this is done only when you take the step. Then you will realize that I want to give Jakarta a try.

Jianggan  26:15

I would love Jakarta. Because I mean, it’s large, it’s chaotic. And but but it gives you like a positive vibe, right? I mean, go there and interview. So many people who, who who try to solve problems, who try to make things work back to South Asia? How’s the perception there? And what kind of aspirations do people have? And how do you make this, I mean, people from very different backgrounds to work together.

Zori  26:41

Yeah. So actually, one thing that I love about working at Daraz and in with our markets is that, unlike Southeast Asia, language is a little bit less of an issue. So most people, especially, you know, professionals, people you would work with in the office, they’re way more comfortable with English, in places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, then, for example, you know, in a, in my previous life, I worked with people in Indonesia or Thailand. So the level of English is actually really good. And that already helps. Because once you speak a common language that that that takes, takes away a lot of a lot of barriers. Being on the ground, when I first joined, I thought that, you know, there’s a time difference with Pakistan, it’s three hours. So I thought if I schedule a meeting for 10am, Pakistani time, that’s perfectly reasonable. And then I went to the office to the director’s office at 10am. And there was no one. And then I realized, okay, though, these people, they just start their day really, really late, and then they stay late as well. So if you are in the office, 7pm 8pm, they’ll still be a lot of people. But you know, those little things. And because I was, you know, very senior people would still try and accommodate even if it’s 9am their time, but it took me going to the office in the morning and realizing that, okay, the culture here is to start much, much later.

Jianggan  28:14

And you schedule a meeting, probably, and probably nobody will tell you that, hey Zori it doesn’t work. This is just waiting for you to experience yourself.

Yorlin Ng  28:26

I have, aside from being on the ground, right? I can share my perspective from a startup as well as in my previous life in a corporate, I would say that meeting regularly helps. But more importantly, I think the culture of that company is to be aligned. So I think when I was at HSBC in my previous life, it was actually a massive organization. Right. And I It has its weaknesses. But what I really liked about the company, and I was there for six years, was that the people that would that they brought into the company that we interacted with, at least in the Singapore and Hong Kong office, they were genuinely nice people. And I think I think is a culture that they they build within the community. And people there do want to work with you and make things happen, even though it is a really complicated organization. And it’s you have people from different different countries, and people don’t actually have never had never met before. But it’s really that you have a same culture, and you have a way of communicating. So I think I think and I never really appreciated as much as until I went to a startup that I realized that when you deal with people from six or seven organizations, and you’re thinking, Oh, processes are so boring, I don’t really want to go and perform. But I think this is something that I appreciate it that HSBC taught me is that you need to have these kind of operating operations and processes and it’s worrying or mundane as you think it is. It is actually a form of communication to actually align different countries to what the company wants to do in the longer term.

Zori  30:02

Yeah. But yeah, the processes and this is this is one of my favorite topics like processes and how do you go from a startup to scale up? And how is that different from a corporate? And I’m gonna try and keep it short because I can go on and on on this topic. But in our markets, actually, because there’s so frontier, the best talent where people aspire to work is in large corporates. To the extent you have large corporates in those countries. So this will be your banks, your telcos and your big FMCG. Companies like Unilever and p&g, so a lot of the senior talent that comes in works for us, they actually come from those companies. It’s not cool yet in Pakistan, for you to work for a startup, right? I think it’s very cool in Singapore and in Southeast Asia, even in India, because there has been so much investment in India. Somebody recently told me, You’re not you? Do you guys know that in India, people have special CVs to get married. CVs like a matrimonial CV, okay? And apparently these days, it’s very like it really works very well. If on your matrimonial CV, it says that you work for a startup. Interesting, but not in Pakistan, right. So in Pakistan, or in Bangladesh, it’s not so cool to work for a startup. And people come into the US with their corporate backgrounds. And when they sort of heard that I’m joining the organization, and part of my mission is to introduce some processes, they are also excited, and they were giving me examples of the processes they had, that they had in their, you know, bags that HSBC is of the world and telcos and so on. And I was like, No, guys, we are not gonna have five approvals for each hire, and you’re not gonna have, you know, 35 different trainings, because we are too small for that, you know, we do need to have something in place, but it has to also keep the agility and enterpreneurship. And things are going to be a bit messier than in a big organization, but they should not be as messy as in, like 30 people startup because we actually 4000 people, so Daraz is actually quite big in terms of people.

Jianggan  32:09

And of course, so Doris is part of Alibaba Group. And of course, Alibaba has a very, very deep understanding about e commerce, and through his experiences in China, and now multiple markets, how easy or how difficult, it is to to turn this understanding into, I mean, some operations that you do in this market is because I realized that I think the market condition will probably be very different. But but some of the things like you know, in the product sequencing, like know, what are the possibilities of stacking different features together, and and that offers useful reference points, right.

Zori  32:46

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Look, I mean, in many ways, China is like, millions of years ahead of our markets. And as and as a result, a lot of things are quite different. But there are also learnings and things that we can share both from Alibaba directly as well as others in the group. So Lazada, AliExpress, or Trendio, right. And recent example is, I saw that somebody called it team Temu by Lazada. But you know, Choice, which I think some of some some of us know. So Lazada, has launched this program called Choice, which essentially gives you some everyday products at like, ridiculously low prices. We also put and this is essentially facilitated in the background by Alibaba. And they are sort of links with the Chinese manufacturers. And we are now we are also we also have Choice, right? So Daraz also has Choice. And yesterday, I saw a customer review saying that I’m shocked that something can be so cheap. Right. So yeah, so there are definitely ways to collaborate and to learn, we also use some of the Tech stack, we call it mid platform. So sounds familiar probably. So yeah, no, it’s it’s it definitely helps to be part of the Alibaba Group.

Jianggan  34:12

I think just just to explain a bit about Choice, right? I mean, it’s Yeah, somebody put it as Temu by Lazada. So, so essentially, is the platform will facilitate the logistics and everything for the front end promotions and logistics and fulfillment and everything for for manufacturers. So so if you think about the cross border, ecommerce per se in the past, is that okay? The platform would would say, okay, here are our customers. You come on board and you manage the stores yourself, you upload the images, product description, and you handle customer service, and we can help you. So we recommend not just providers, but you arrange to yourself, right. So so What choice does or essentially what Temu does is that is consignment right the the platform handles everything. And and that ready? I think a few things I mean, that went out at scale offers customers something really, really cheap that I’ve never seen before because the whole thing so efficient. And also it gives some manufacturers a peace of mind. So. So there’s lots of talk about no team squeezing manufacturers in China. But but I’ve recently spoken with a few bosses of factories that are happy.

Zori  35:29

Yeah, exactly. And also, because you actually the manufacturers you work with, you give them a lot of volume. And so yeah, so it made their life super easy, because they now have a lot of volume. And they don’t have to worry about the logistics and all of that. And another interesting collaboration that we did with with Lazada is that for you to do this, you cannot do it for all your products and all your SKUs right you should you need to find the ones that really sell and then focus on those. But we didn’t know necessarily, you know, what sells so well in our markets. But it’s also available with the manufacturers and we are very small again compared to the scale even of Lazada. So what we did is we collaborated with Lazada, where we looked at what are the products that sell for them, and then we can kind of bundled them together to some extent and, and leverage scale in that way in the Alibaba Group.

Dalia  36:29

Yeah, I think for the second part of our podcast, it will be just really interesting for our listeners to get, you know, a bit more personal. And I know now that you have quite an international background, right, I think growing up in Netherlands and then also studying at INSEAD. And then finally working where you’re at now. What I’m really curious what was there before Daraz? Can you share it with us?

Zori  36:54

Yeah, I’m even more international than that. So I didn’t grow up in the Netherlands. Actually, I grew up more in your part of the world Dalia in Bulgaria in Eastern Europe. And I have this very distinct memory when I was growing up. I was growing up in a small town in Bulgaria. And for some reason, and I think that’s why eventually I ended up at INSEAD, which is a very international and diverse school. But for some reason growing up I was always super interested in getting to know different cultures and talking to foreigners. But unfortunately for me in my town, there was zero foreigners there’s not even one foreigner and so the only opportunity to talk to foreigners was in summer when we would go to the seaside and then there would be some you know, people from Russia or Poland or East Germany because back then it was your the communist bloc on the beach, and I only barely spoke English but I was always you know, trying and rehearsing in my mind some sentences and I was like, maybe I can go and say, Hey, how are you? And so imagine a 10 year old girl coming, coming to you and trying to speak to you in broken English.

Jianggan  38:02

Trying to sell me something?

Zori  38:05

wasn’t even quite creepy. But But yeah, that’s my sort of background

Jianggan  38:09

That was like what Jack Ma used to do when he was young, like loitering around 100. Westlake try to talk to foreigners to practice his English.

Zori  38:17

Oh my god, I might be the next Jack Ma. I didn’t know that story.

Jianggan  38:20

I don’t know you have to be rejected by KFC.

Zori  38:23

Well, I was never rejected by KFC, but I did work in Burger King at one point, flipping flipping burgers. So that was when I was in university in in Sofia, Bulgaria. They had these summer programs where students from Eastern Europe could go to the US and work you know, in in Burger King or McDonald’s or supermarket or in some money and then go back. So I did that. That was my first proper experience abroad. My parents were a bit disappointed that like, all your you know, classmates are doing some internships and whatnot, but they were mostly in Bulgaria, and you’re going to the US to like be a waitress. That doesn’t sound very educational. But to be honest, I feel that I actually learned a lot more from those experiences than I would have, you know, just staying back in Bulgaria. Right. And then I did a master’s in the Netherlands. And yeah, the first part of my career I used to be a company lawyer in the Netherlands. So very different from what I’m doing now. I then came to Singapore to study at INSEAD. And that’s where I met jianghan That’s where I met my husband as well, by the way. And yeah, now it’s more than 10 years later and Singapore is home. In those 10 years, I spent the majority of them as a consultant with McKinsey and Company. And that gave me the opportunity to work all across APEC so from of course It’s all of Southeast Asia, but also Australia, Korea, Hong Kong, you name it. And yeah, now since mid last year, so part of the rise and exploring even more frontier markets than the ones I was exposed to in McKinsey.

Dalia  40:17

So that sounds so exciting. Yeah. So it was the university studies that brought you in Asia in the first place. How do you maintain resilience and adaptability? In the face of challenges, which I think you have quite often right now, right, in your current position?

Jianggan  40:34

Actually, just to further elaborate on this point, this year has been hard year for many people. All right. I mean, I have lots of entrepreneur friends are around me. It was weird, because last year, we said okay, was a bad year, right? Because stock price was going down, the US wanted to draw up, etc, etc. Surprisingly, I mean, when I talk to lots of people were said, Okay, compared to last year, this year is really tough, not because I think I think key reason is that you’re facing this lingering sort of uncertainty. Yeah, I mean, the event, I think, this week, so when a fair to say that, okay, we might have raised interest rate another time. And we might only start reducing by mid of next year. So that impacts lots of industries. And and that impacts lots of people’s investment decisions and the spending decisions. So that in turn, I mean, made it a hard philosophy business, to plan to expect. And, and the thing is that I mean, when when things like this happen, you don’t know when you would like to put a full force towards growth, etc, etc. And how, I think how do people reconcile with themselves?

Zori  41:50

Yeah. Now it’s been it’s been very tough. I think it’s been tough this year has been tough for businesses, it’s also been tough for a lot of individuals, right? There’s there were there have been so many layoffs in the tech world, and Daraz as well, we actually had our one round of layoffs earlier in the year. So I think a few things are important. One is to realize, and those of us who are a little bit older, we will know that right. And it’s that it’s all cyclical, and in in in our lifetime, as, or in our career time, whether it’s as an entrepreneur or as an employee, there will be cycles. And you know, after the pandemic, everybody thought that it’s going to be really tough, but actually it was this boom, especially in tech. And now it’s it’s gone down, but it’s gonna come back up, right? And the question is, what do you do then with with the time while waiting for the market to pick up and I think if you are a business, and I’ve never been an entrepreneur myself, so I don’t know if I’m, if I’m the best person to give advice. But I’ve, I’ve worked as a management consultant, that’s what we do

Jianggan  42:58

we give you advice

Zori  43:00

we are very good at giving advice, even if we’ve never done something. But I guess as a business, it’s important to just be a little bit more conservative, like no one burned through your cash at at very high speeds, and try to build something that you believe in. Right. And as an individual, you know, people who, for example, might have been laid off or just have to take it easier. Now they have a little bit more time. Also realize that I don’t know when, when it is maybe it’s in six months, maybe it’s in 12 months, maybe it’s in 24 months, but the moment will come when everybody gets super busy again. And they are things that you can invest in while you are a little bit taking it a little bit slower, right? So invest in your health in your family, and you know, do the things that you will not be able to do once work gets crazy again. But with all of that being said, I do know that it’s very tough for a lot of people and for a lot of businesses. And I would just say hang in there and hopefully we get out of this tough economic cycle sooner rather than later.

Jianggan  44:09

I think I think people are looking forward to the new year.

Yorlin Ng  44:11

Oh, yes. I’m so looking forward to the new year.

Dalia  44:13

Yeah, I think we can end our episode on this very hopeful note. Yeah. Thank you very much. Zori for sharing your experiences that was really interesting, really excited. I’m sure our listeners will enjoy it. And for the rest of us. We will see each other next week on the next episode of the Impulso podcast. Thank you everyone for joining. Bye Bye.

Zori  44:39

Ciao ciao, which is in Italian. Bye bye

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].