18 Aug 2016
Changing How the World Shops (Interview with Popmap)
Idris Sersoub came to Hong Kong from France a few years ago as an exchange student. After meeting his girlfriend (now his wife) here, Sersoub began to explore business opportunities in this cosmopolitan city.
Sersoub was fascinated by the unique craft items offered by a variety of independent boutiques, designers and artisans in Hong Kong, but these small shops usually had no online presence. He had the idea to build a global network of independent designers and boutiques, so that shoppers around the world could buy from myriad outlets in a single transaction via a universal check-out cart, without boarding a plane and regardless of where the stores were located.
Popmap started humbly in December 2014 as a local shopping app which helped Hong Kong shoppers locate unique products from local independent boutiques. Sersoub initially got about 40 local merchants on board. “Using scooters for delivery, we can send the product to your door within two hours, solving the delivery problem of the last-minute shopper,” said Sersoub.
In less than two years, Popmap has evolved into an international e-commerce platform, available as a website and a mobile app, with more than 1,000 merchants in 40 countries, and the list is growing daily. Listing on the platform is free. Popmap does not charge set-up or management fees, and takes only 15% of the transaction value from each sale. In addition, merchants can benefit from lower shipping costs if they join the platform, as all international orders are centralised and handled by Popmap.
Sersoub receives numerous requests every day to join his platform from places as diverse as Paris, Melbourne, Stockholm, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, and Kyiv. However, he selects the boutiques very carefully in order to maintain its uniqueness. “On our site, you will not see things that can easily be found anywhere else,” he said.
Although Popmap is based in Hong Kong, its revenue is generated mainly from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the rest of Asia. “We act as a discovery tool for our global customers to browse local shops and products,” said Sersoub. “Overseas consumers in New York, London, Geneva and Singapore are pleased to see unique items on our site that cannot be found in big shopping malls in their own cities.”
Today, Popmap’s business is growing at a rate of 30% every month. But despite such rapid growth and development, there isn’t a small army of IT and customer service staff running and managing the business. Instead, due to the automated business model, all Popmap needs is a handful of like-minded and ambitious entrepreneurs who want to change how the world shops.