Zalora Faces Pressure, Oliver Samwer in Singapore To Motivate Team

Willis Wee
10:30 am on Apr 17, 2012

zalora singapore

The folks from Rocket Internet has already made waves in Europe,and they are now putting their clone factory in Southeast Asia. E-commerce players in the region should all tremble in fear. Or should they?

The folks from team Rocket has been launching quite a few e-commerce/service sites in the past few months:,, and An insider, who wishes to remain anonymous [1], told me that the next product launching is, a site that deals with furniture. In fact, Home24’s Twitter account is already up and tweeting.

Rocket Internet now has a wide range of products and services focusing on many different countries: Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Australia. The Samwer brothers are formidable with very successful track records, there’s no doubt about that. See the chart below from The Economist:

rocket internet history

But is Rocket Internet doing well in Southeast Asia? I’m not so sure about the other products. But an insider told me that REALLY isn’t in a very good shape. So much so that Oliver Samwer was here in Singapore yesterday to give an eight-hour motivational talk to his team. A leaked memo (I paraphrased so it doesn’t reveal my source) reads as follow:

Hello all

Oliver Samwer is with us in Singapore today. We will have a meeting around 7.00pm. Please don’t leave the office. Oliver will also have meetings with individual teams until late tonight.

Meeting up with team late at night doesn’t spell any trouble, I know. But the meeting is probably triggered by complaints Zalora has received from its customers so far. These problems are brewing over on the Zalora Facebook page as my source pointed out. You have to switch the Facebook timeline to ‘Post by Others’ to read comments from customers. It doesn’t look good, with most of the complaints focused mainly on Zalora’s slow delivery and poor customer service. Just to show a few, here’s a comment on Zalora’s non-responsive service:

Hi, it’s been more a week (the Saturday morning after good Friday) that I have ordered something from you and I haven’t managed to login nor received an email. I wrote in to customer service on Friday last (with product description, my email and time and date of purchase). I thought the payment didn’t go through but confirmed with the bank payment has been made. Please reply, would appreciate if we can resolve this as soon as possible.

… and a complaint on technical issues:

Hi, I’ve registered and made an order, but have encountered some issues. 1, I have not received a confirmation email or receipt of my order, and 2, I cannot login to the website. Please assist. thank you.

…and here’s one customer who hasn’t received her goods for two weeks:

Hi, I have ordered a pair of shoes from Zalora two weeks ago. Till today, the pair of shoes has not arrived. Neither can I log or check my order status. Moreover, hope you guys will reply my email asap.

The above comments are all from Zalora Singapore Facebook page. Similar complains can be seen on its Malaysia page too. The Zalora Indonesia page looks fine, though.

Evidently, customers from Zalora Singapore and Malaysia aren’t too happy about the service so far. But to cut them some slack for a moment, shit happens in every business and we hope that the Samwer brothers will patch the faults soon. But it does make me wonder if Zalora can actually conquer the Southeast Asia market. The Samwer brothers may be the clone kings in Europe but Southeast Asia is a whole different animal — its people, market, and culture are vastly different from the western markets.

For e-commerce sites owners in Southeast Asia, perhaps you don’t have so much to fear. You have local knowledge as an advantage. The Samwer brothers aren’t here in Southeast Asia as often to drive and execute things as hard as any startup founder would do. But the brothers probably have hired super smart people to run their clones here. And that makes their battle an interesting one to watch.

The good news is that competition is usually good for consumers in the long run.

(And yes, we're serious about ethics and transparency. More information here.)

  • Ed

    I don’t know about you guys, but as a founder of ecommerce businesses in Myanmar, I face a great battle there. They splash money like nobody’s business, hiring a large number of management crew. Unfortunately for them, the human capital in Myanmar is not as developed as other parts of the world, hence, hindering their growth. Well, perhaps, that’s a fortunate buffer for us to survive. When there are no investors interested in high-tech, small businesses like us are badly handicapped.

    The only thing I can compete (and had success) is in thoroughly localized services, nurturing what people actually need/want, and agility to adapt to ever-changing business landscape of the country. Remember, we change laws and regulations as many times as you change your socks!

    Happy bullying local entrepreneurs, Rocket.


  • Willis Wee

    Hey Ed – interesting. if possible share with me more at willis[at]

  • supersway

    Just to vent.. I’m one of the unlucky customers! Utterly disappointed with them. Place my order and received email on my order confirmation. 14days of waiting eagerly, I thought that’s ample..rang them to check delivery status. Gosh! It was canceled due to OOS. No notice (not in junk mail either). What could have gone wrong? POOR system got chocked up? Then the telecommunications with customer service personnel wasn’t pleasant.. My first and last experience with them. Empty promise!

  • onlinebuyer

    Zalora has higher prices compared to physical malls, offers discounted prices but still higher. Products on SALE are actually a year older of being having that price.

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