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Blinq founder Bob Chua shares how the luxury fashion digital marketplace sets itself apart with technology

With its virtual dressing room, the platform has had an astonishing product return rate of zero since its launch.

For Malaysian serial tech entrepreneur Bob Chua, starting a fashion e-commerce venture was the logical next step after three exits in the data industry. In January 2018, the 45-year- old Malaysian and his team launched Blinq, a Singapore-based luxury fashion digital marketplace focused on South-east Asia. Last March, the company raised US$2 million in funding, and is gearing up for another round.

Aside from partnering fashion retail companies such as Yoox Net-a-Porter to carry major luxury brands ranging from Givenchy to Gucci, Blinq also stocks smaller Asian designers under a dedicated category called Asean Houz.

What really sets the platform apart, however, is its proprietary augmented-reality technology that allows users to virtually try on clothes on a photograph of themselves. According to Chua, this virtual dressing-room feature has an accuracy of 98 per cent, and has helped Blinq to maintain a product return rate of zero since its launch – an astonishing figure, considering that the return rate for online retailers is typically reported to be at least 20 per cent.

(Related: Smart shopping: how brick-and-mortar retail is changing)

 

Gosha Rubchinskiy, Dolce & Gabbana

(Left)Gosha Rubchinskiy denim jacket, (Right) Dolce & Gabbana low-top sneakers

In the looking glass:

“Three megatrends set me on this path of Blinq. Firstly, South-east Asia has a strong, growing affluent population. Secondly, luxury retail in this part of the world is worth about US$500 billion right now, and it’s growing at 12 per cent. Thirdly, there’s e-commerce. By 2022, e-commerce is going to represent about 60 per cent of retail worldwide. In South-east Asia, e-commerce is still around eight per cent of retail. The potential to move online is huge.”

 

Regional focus:

“Our business model is mainly based on dropshipping – when somebody buys a retailer’s product through Blinq, they ship it out of their own facility, using our packaging and protocols. We believe that marketplaces are the future of retail; Amazon, Alibaba, Farfetch – they’re all marketplaces. That’s where you can enjoy economies of scale and offer consumers more options from different brands.”

 

Independents’ day:

“We have five main product categories. To help smaller, medium-sized Asian designers and retailers, we created a category called Asean Houz. It’s a way to help small luxury brands that people don’t necessarily know, and that don’t have the funds, marketing prowess and tech know-how to create an e-commerce platform and gain awareness.”

 

(Related: How retail brands are utilising technology to lure shoppers back to brick and mortar malls)