Wilson Chew knows a thing or two about courageous leadership. Sixteen years ago, mc.2 was a tech gadget supplier, but today the company is regarded as one of the most dynamic players in a completely different industry – interior furnishings. Rife competition from larger retailers like Harvey Norman, and online platforms like Qoo10, forced Wilson and his team to take a hard look at their business and led them to drastically change course five years ago to enter the blinds and curtains space. For many businesses today, as Covid-19 continues to ravage economies around the world, pivoting like this is par for the course. We ask Wilson to share his journey and experiences, and to keep us abreast of what’s next in the world of zip blinds.
Can you take us back to when you were faced with the decision of changing your business model?
It was a scary time but really, it was do or die. I’m very certain that if we had continued to retail tech gadgets, we would’ve failed because the brands I carried, like Apple, would’ve opened their own stores here (and indeed, they have!), and they would edge out our business. Before you pivot your business, I would advise you to do your research, look for market gaps, and then take it one step at a time. Pray for good luck, too! A little bit of it can help. I remember, when I met the Hunter Douglas ASEAN head in Taipei, he already knew of mc.2 because their office in Singapore had purchased all their laptops from us back then! That made negotiations much easier and we could move ahead.
Has Covid-19 changed the way people furnish their living spaces?
Yes, definitely. People now want to carve out different spaces within the home. This came about during Circuit Breaker when the whole family was in the same space, at the same time. Most significantly, we’ve observed that people want to convert balconies into usable indoor spaces. I have a customer who installed zip blinds into the master bedroom balcony to convert it into an office for his wife, and also into a lower balcony to convert that into a study room. It’s when people have space constraints that they start to view their balcony space as being under-utilised.
People expect technology to be at the core of BMW’s motoring innovations, but what about blinds? Do consumers demand inventiveness with your product category?
Yes, they do, because technology makes people’s lives better. I think with any product, consumers expect improvements. It may not necessarily be a tech improvement, but your product needs to evolve. That’s what we strive to do – to progress. Maybe because we started off as a tech gadget supplier, we’re constantly looking at how to integrate tech into our products, like integrating rain sensors into blinds so that they automatically come down when it rains.
You say that your product and service should always leave customers beaming with joy. Tell us a bit about why this is important to you.
I strongly believe that when my staff see happy customers, it spurs them on to continue doing a good job. When we deliver an order of blinds and install them, it’s like watching a live unboxing video. I imagine it’s similar to handing over a new BMW to a client. It’s a great feeling seeing customers’ faces break out into smiles, and that in turn contributes to our job fulfilment and satisfaction. So while striving to keep customers happy is, of course, great for the customer, I think it has the additional benefit of making employees feel good about the work they do.