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Young Turk champions e-commerce in Philippines

Lazada chief executive leads 12-12 revolution
/ 04:45 AM December 12, 2014

At 29 YEARS old, Inanc Balci of Turkey is leading the growing Philippine operations of Southeast Asian retail giant Lazada —a company he co-founded when he was 26.

Raised in London, Balci attended Purdue University in the United States and has degrees in Industrial Engineering and Economics.

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He then worked on mergers and acquisitions for an investment bank in London.

It was while he was working for the investment bank that Balci saw the potential of e-commerce, prompting him to join Rocket Internet, co-found Lazada in Southeast Asia and then become CEO of Lazada Philippines two years ago.

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At his headquarters in Makati City, Balci heads a pool of more than 300 employees, with home he works closely.

An integral part of their job is to think up ways to make online shopping more fun, more convenient, and more risk-free than ever before.

“Once a traditional shopper buys online and has a good experience, there’s no stopping [him or her from going online again],” Balci said in a recent briefing to introduce 12.12.

Part of Lazada’s latest efforts to woo shoppers is what it claims to be the biggest sale of the year—the Lazada 12.12 Online Revolution.

Coming from the 11.11 online sales promotion in November to usher in the holiday season in the country, Lazada’s 12.12 has Midnight Voucher offers being given away starting 12 a.m. until 7:59 a.m. on Dec. 12.

Hourly flash sales will take place from 8 a.m. until 11:59 p.m., with hot deals available per product category.

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Exclusive partner offers will be available, too.

Also, Redmi bundles and Mi 3 will be on sale on 12.12. Customers who will purchase a Mi 3 or Redmi bundle will get a chance to win a Mi 4 or Redmi Note.

But getting traditional shoppers to go online takes more than just offering great deals.

In a country where shopping malls are practically part of the fabric of society, online shopping is something quite a number of Filipinos are unaccustomed to.

Preventing more Filipinos from fully embracing e-commerce is the perennial trust issue on using credit cards, surprise surcharges, and unfortunately, the unfortunate experience of products not arriving at all.

Malls in the Philippines, on the other hand, have positioned themselves to be more than shopping destinations.

Malls offer recreation and dining options, for instance, and the air-conditioned facilities are a welcome break from the raging tropical weather outdoors.

Balci and his co-founders had to resolve nagging issues related to e-commerce.

Thus Lazada, he said, has made shopping quick, effortless, and risk-free to Southeast Asia and in the Philippines.

Lazada, for example, accommodates online shoppers without credit cards via its cash-on-delivery payment mode. This is essential since not everyone has a credit card or is comfortable sharing financial details online.

“This makes online shopping practically risk-free because they can check the items or try them on—if these are clothes or shoes —while our delivery person waits. If they do not want to buy them, for any reason, they can give them back and not have to pay. It’s all in the comfort of their own home,” Balci said.

Accessibility issues

Being an archipelago of 7,100 islands, accessibility is always an issue—a significant portion of consumers do not have the time to visit malls or might not have physical access to them.

But with a P1,000 purchase, Lazada offers free nationwide delivery to customers anywhere in the Philippines, even as far as Tawi-Tawi.

Lazada also offers the flexibility of having the customers return the products within 30 days risk free—provided that the products are in mint condition.

In his two years in the Philippines, Balci has steered Lazada to further heights.

Lazada says it has more than 40,000 products, reaches 90 percent of the online population of the Philippines, and ranks as the fourth top Facebook brand in the country with a direct audience of close to 2 million.

Since March 2012, Lazada has been working hard to revolutionize the meaning of online shopping in a country where shopping in malls is part of the core lifestyle.

With the largest online assortment of products ranging from mobiles and laptops to consumer electronics to books and media, health and beauty, home appliances, fashion and accessories, Lazada Philippines offers its wide customer base what they need in one place.

Nested in its head office in Makati City with its 12,000-square-meter warehouse in Muntinlupa City, Lazada Philippines has a workforce of more than 300 employees.

Through its own courier service and its wide assortment of goods, Lazada Philippines seeks to provide customers a unique shopping experience.

It may thus be only a matter of time before online shopping becomes more of the rule—rather than the exception —in the country’s vibrant retail scene.

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