Date: 3 November 2023 FridayTime: 10am to 3pmVenue: 10th Floor, West Wing, Berjaya Times SquarePartner: Act4Health Product to promotehttps://ielder.asia/collections/act4healthhttps://ielder.asia/collections/training/products/hrd-corp-claimable-applying-acupressure-for-occupational-diseases
[US-ASEAN Business Council Workshop] Sharing on Olivia's Entrepreneurship in Elderly Care Industry: Dialogue with SMEs: Adapting Changes, Leveraging Business on 13 July 2023
Olivia Quah, Co-Founder of iElder, was invited by the US-ASEAN Business Council to share her experiences as a woman entrepreneur. She discussed how building a business with a purpose can be a competitive advantage and elaborated on her digital strategies that have helped her navigate the digital economy.
1. Could you share about yourself and what drives you to build your business?
Our story begins with my husband Dr Kong Why Hong, a medical doctor and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) specialist. In 2012, he started integrative medicine clinics and a nursing home, providing holistic healthcare solutions to patients. Little did we know that this venture would eventually lead us to create iElder.
The pivotal moment came when my mother had a fall in the bathroom while I was at work. It was a distressing incident, and luckily, after struggling for two hours, she managed to contact me. This incident sparked a deep concern for the safety and well-being of aging parents, like mine, who wish to maintain their independence at home.
Driven by this incident, I embarked on a mission to find SOS fall detection devices that could offer peace of mind to families like ours. After extensive research, I discovered a device that proved to be a game-changer. Realizing the potential impact it could have on the lives of other aging parents, I decided to share it with the world through an ecommerce platform.
That was the birth of iElder, started with the first product, second product and eventually become importer, exporter, distributor, and retailer of elderly care products. We cater to both business-to-business (B2B) channels, such as hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and nursing homes, as well as business-to-consumer (B2C) sales through our own ecommerce platform and popular marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada.
Our purpose is to empower families and caregivers with the tools and resources they need to provide better care for their loved ones. We believe that every elderly person deserves the opportunity to age gracefully, in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes. Through our range of carefully curated products, we aim to enhance their safety, well-being, and quality of life.
As we continue to grow, we remain committed to our digital strategies that have helped us navigate the ever-evolving digital economy. Our online presence and partnerships with various online platforms have allowed us to reach a wider audience, connect with customers directly, and provide accessible and convenient solutions.
In conclusion, iElder is more than just a business—it is a heartfelt endeavor to make a positive difference in the lives of aging individuals and their families. We are dedicated to providing innovative and practical solutions in the field of elderly care, driven by our own personal experiences and a genuine desire to create a better future for our loved ones.
2. Could you share with us your experience as a woman entrepreneur in Malaysia?
Certainly! Transitioning from the corporate world to the business world was a significant change for me, especially considering the substantial difference in pay from my previous high-paying job to starting a business with a salary similar to that of a fresh graduate. It was undoubtedly a challenging decision to make, and I had my hesitations and doubts about my capabilities as a woman entrepreneur.
For some time, I was uncertain about fully committing myself to the business world. However, everything changed during the Covid-19 pandemic in October 2020. It was during this challenging time that I made the decision to assist my husband in running his business, taking on the responsibility of leading the iElder medical supply division on a full-time basis.
This transition was not an easy one, as it required me to face my doubts and overcome any insecurities I had as a woman in the business world. It required courage, resilience, and a willingness to embrace new challenges. While the journey has had its share of ups and downs, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to iElder and make a difference in the lives of individuals in need of medical supplies and care.
Stepping into this role has been a transformative experience for me, allowing me to grow both personally and professionally. It has taught me valuable lessons about perseverance, adaptability, and the power of believing in oneself. Despite the initial uncertainties, I am now fully committed to my entrepreneurial path and am driven to succeed in this new venture.
While the journey may not always be smooth, I am motivated by the positive impact we can make in the lives of others through iElder. I am determined to navigate the challenges, continue learning and growing, and contribute to the success and growth of our business in the medical supply division.
Overall, taking the leap into the business world as a woman entrepreneur has been a transformative experience for me. It has taught me the importance of embracing opportunities, challenging self-doubt, and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I am excited about the future and committed to making a meaningful difference through iElder's medical supply division.
When it comes to being a woman entrepreneur in Malaysia, my experience has been quite similar to that of my male counterparts. However, I believe it's crucial to associate oneself with the right business networks and support systems.
During my career, I made the decision to join the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia (NAWEM). This organization provided me with a platform to connect, network, and collaborate with like-minded individuals. Through NAWEM, I had access to mentorship programs that allowed me to enhance my skills and knowledge through various entrepreneurship masterclasses tailored for women.
I had the opportunity to participate in the Women Directors Mentoring Programme. This program is dedicated to achieving a 30% representation of women in board positions. It plays a significant role in fostering a diverse and inclusive corporate landscape. By providing support, skills development, and opportunities, the program aims to empower women to take on decision-making roles and promote gender equality in corporate governance.
In addition to my entrepreneurial pursuits, I am actively involved in various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) within the elderly care network and industry in Malaysia. These include the Malaysian Coalition on Ageing (MCOA), the Association for Residential Aged Care Operators of Malaysia (AGECOPE), and the Nursing Care Association of Selangor (NCAS).
I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the SME CEO Training Programme offered by SME Corp under their SME University programme initiative. This training programme has been instrumental in equipping me with valuable skills, knowledge, and insights that are essential for successfully leading a small and medium enterprise (SME). The comprehensive curriculum covers a wide range of topics, including leadership, strategic planning, financial management, marketing, and digital transformation.
Through my participation in these organizations, I have gained valuable insights, expanded my network, and contributed to the development of the elderly care sector.
3. What are the lesson learned and best practices in developing your business? Especially in embracing digitalization.
When reflecting on the lessons learned and best practices in developing our business, particularly in embracing digitalization, several key areas stand out: e-commerce, warehouse management systems, cloud-based accounting systems, social media marketing, and an omni-channel strategy.
Twenty years ago, my best friend Anna Lee and I embarked on an ecommerce venture, focusing on skincare products named Lady Cottage. We believed that the women's market presented a great opportunity for generating high income. However, we encountered numerous challenges as the ecommerce industry was still in its early stages at that time. Ultimately, we had to make the difficult decision to close down this part time venture.
Undeterred by the setback, I ventured into the ecommerce platform once again, this time with a focus on elderly care products. However, this decision was met with criticism from many of my friends, as they believed that baby products and the women's market were more lucrative. Despite facing skepticism, I remained determined to pursue my passion for serving the elderly care market.
Initially, I encountered obstacles while trying to engage a web developer to build my own ecommerce platform named asianintegratedmedical.com, which proved unsuccessful. Undeterred, I sought assistance from ecommerce platform companies to named the website as iElder.my, but unfortunately, those attempts also fell short. Nevertheless, I persevered and made the decision to migrate to an another ecommerce platform Shopify and named the website as iElder.asia.
This move turned out to be a turning point for my business. By embracing an international ecommerce platform, I gained access to a wider customer base and expanded my reach beyond local boundaries. iElder serves not only local and also international customers outside of Malaysia. This shift enabled me to overcome the challenges I had previously faced and allowed my venture into the elderly care product business to flourish.
Though the journey was not without its difficulties, I learned valuable lessons along the way. It taught me the importance of resilience, adaptability, and staying true to my passion. iElder was also shorted listed as Top Ecommerce Merchant Awards 2021, 2022 and 2023 by Selangor State Government Sidec.
The experience has reinforced my belief that sometimes, unconventional ventures can yield unexpected rewards. By following my instincts and persistently pursuing my vision, I was able to overcome challenges, defy critics, and build a thriving business in the niche market of elderly care products within the ecommerce industry.
In addition to our ecommerce operations, we have embraced various technologies and strategies to enhance our business operations.
Cloud Based Accounting System
One significant step we took was adopting a cloud-based accounting system. By leveraging this technology, we have streamlined our financial processes, improved accuracy, and increased efficiency in managing our accounts. The cloud-based system provides us with real-time access to financial data, enabling better decision-making and financial analysis.
Social Media Marketing
To connect with our customers and enhance brand awareness, we have embraced social media marketing platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and TikTok. These platforms allow us to engage directly with our target audience, share relevant content, and build a community around our brand. Through social media marketing, we can effectively communicate our products, promotions, and company values, fostering customer loyalty and brand recognition.
Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software
Recognizing the importance of efficient inventory management, we have implemented a Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. These technologies have significantly improved our inventory control processes, ensuring accurate tracking, efficient order fulfillment, and optimal stock levels. By leveraging WMS and ERP, we have enhanced our overall supply chain management and streamlined our operations.
Cloud Based Payroll System
Conveniently manage your Human Resource activities such as attendance recordings, leave requests, claims, and tax calculations and reports with cloud base payroll system
By adopting these technologies and strategies, we have transformed our business operations and positioned ourselves for growth and success. The cloud-based accounting system, social media marketing, and advanced inventory management systems have enabled us to operate more efficiently, connect with customers effectively, and maintain control over our inventory. These tools have become integral to our business and have contributed to our overall competitiveness and success in the market.
In addition to our online product promotion, we have established physical showrooms to showcase our offerings. Currently, we have two outlets located in the Klang Valley SS2 and Cheras. However, our expansion plans for this year include setting up additional outlets in Johor, Penang, and Kuantan through partnership. We have devised expansion plans to extend our presence into various ASEAN countries within the region.
We extend our gratitude to the Malaysian government agencies, including MDEC (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation), SME Corp, and MATRADE, for their invaluable support in providing SME grants to businesses like ours to embrace digitalization.
4. What is the most challenging situation in managing the business and what are the ways to overcome it?
Navigating competition and market dynamics can indeed be challenging, especially in a crowded market. To overcome these challenges, I have adopted several strategies:
1. Unique value proposition: I have identified and emphasized the unique value proposition of iElder. While many competitors in the rehab supply industry cater to various segments, iElder focuses exclusively on elderly care. This specialization allows us to offer tailored products and services that specifically address the needs of the elderly population, differentiating us from broader competitors.
I would like to engage with the audience and pose a question: when you think of toothpaste, which brands come to mind? Some may mention Colgate, while others might think of Darlie. Similarly, in the realm of elderly care products and services, iElder aspires to become a household name. Still long way to go!
2. Strong persona: Developing a strong persona and targeted marketing approach is crucial. By understanding our target audience—caregivers of individuals recently discharged from hospitals—we can tailor our messaging and solutions to their specific needs. This personalized approach helps build trust and loyalty among our target customers.
3. Continuous innovation: Innovation is key to meeting evolving customer needs. We continually assess market trends, customer feedback, and industry advancements to ensure that our products and services remain relevant and valuable. For instance, we offer a range of options, including product purchase, rental, and second-hand options, to accommodate the varying short-term and long-term needs of our community.
We have been actively established collaborations with local universities to invent new technologies in the field of elderly care and expand their commercialization on the international stage.
Despite not having a healthcare background, I am determined to excel in the elderly care industry. To further my knowledge and expertise in this field, I am actively searching for a suitable PhD program focused on healthy aging. My research interests lie in exploring the intersection of Internet of Things (IoT) and technology within the realm of elderly care.
By pursuing a PhD in healthy aging, I aim to delve deeper into the potential applications of IoT and technology in enhancing the well-being and quality of life for the elderly. I believe that by conducting research in this area, I can contribute to the development of innovative solutions that address the specific needs and challenges faced by older adults.
While embarking on this academic journey might be a significant undertaking, I am eager to expand my understanding of healthy aging and the role that technology can play in promoting independence, monitoring health, and facilitating a higher quality of care for seniors.
By focusing on our unique value proposition, targeting our marketing efforts effectively, and continuously innovating, we strive to stay ahead of the competition and meet the specific requirements of our customers in the elderly care market. These strategies enable us to differentiate ourselves, capture market share, and provide comprehensive solutions to caregivers and individuals in need.
5. Seeing that sustainability become significant these days, how do you value this in your business?
Recognizing the growing significance of sustainability, we at iElder understand the importance of incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices into our business. While we acknowledge that there is more work to be done, we are committed to learning and taking steps to integrate ESG principles into our operations. Here's how we value sustainability in our business:
1. Environment Responsibility: We strive to partner with suppliers who share our commitment to sustainable practices. By collaborating with eco-conscious suppliers, we aim to reduce our environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable supply chain. We strive to embrace digital solutions while minimizing the need for excessive printing on paper.
2. Social Impact: We have actively undertaken various social responsibility initiatives. This includes partnering with charitable organizations, sponsoring events, and participating in community outreach programs. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked closely with NGOs to provide free personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizers, and masks to senior care facilities and homes. We also collaborated with Monash University on a senior home improvement program aimed at improving the living conditions of seniors. Additionally, 5% of our profits are allocated to CSR programs focused on elderly care, enabling us to make a positive social impact.
3. Corporate Governance: Transparency, integrity, and accountability are core principles we uphold within iElder. We strive to practice sound corporate governance, ensuring that our business operations are conducted ethically and responsibly. Open communication with our stakeholders, including customers, employees, and partners, is integral to maintaining trust and fostering mutually beneficial relationships.
As we continue our sustainability journey, we are committed to further integrating ESG considerations into our business practices. We are dedicated to continuously learning, improving, and finding innovative ways to align our operations with sustainable principles. Our goal is to create long-term value not only for our business but also for the environment and the communities we serve.
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Celebrating the International Day of Older Persons! A shoutout to the Third Age Media Association (TAMA) for recognizing the incredible contributions of older women in our families and communities. Their nurturing spirit and unwavering support inspire us all! Hats...
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Join us at the Atria Mall from September 29th to October 1st, 2023, as iElder hosts a booth in collaboration with "The Celebration: Life Begins at 50" event by Amazing Seniors. Keep an eye out for our exciting...