Archive for Asia

China’s ‘Mark Zuckerbergs’

Personal branding

29-year-old Leo Chen, also known as Chen Ou, has kept a high profile through his charismatic personal branding.Leo Chen, co-founder and CEO of, the first China-based cosmetics group-buying site made himself his company’s public face. The handsome young man has not only starred in a popular online commercial for his company but has also appeared on billboards and various TV shows. He has also kept a high profile by remaining active in social media.

“I endorse my own brand because I think a company’s reputation and value is indelibly linked to that of its leader. The CEO naturally becomes the company’s public face,” he said.

The young entrepreneur also believes that he has an insight into the company’s target female consumers.

“Why do I sell cosmetics to women? Because I believe women like to make themselves look good for people who appreciate them. So men’s opinions are important in women’s choice of cosmetics,” Chen said.His site has ascended to become one of China’s top cosmetics e-tailers through this blanket promotional strategy. The budgeted personal branding, as Chen said, has saved his company about 100 million yuan in advertising expenses.

Leo Chen studied in Singapore from the age of 16. In 2005 during his last year at Nanyang Technological University, he founded Garena, now one of the world’s largest online game platforms. Later he received an MBA from Stanford, sold Garena, and moved his business focus to China.

Initially a cosmetics group-buying site, has grown into a major B2C (business to customer) platform for cosmetics.But before Chen established the site in 2010, he and two other co-founders, both male, had no experience in e-commerce, or in the selling women’s cosmetics.



Jackie Stenson is opening stores all over southern India to help people gain access to important household items. Jackie is a co-founder of Essmart and currently runs the American side of operations. Essmart was founded because Jackie and Diana (co-founder and over operations in India) noticed that the people of India lacked access to basic items. Among the items that Essmart provides are: clean water, lighting–including solar lighting options, and cooking equipment. Essmart is a great example of a modern social enterprise. I could not find a mantra so here is their mission statement. Essmart’s mission statement is to bring essential, life-improving products to all people, no matter who they are or where they’re from. They are really doing some amazing things for the people that they are reaching! Nothing that I can write can do them justice, please check out all the things that they provide to people in need Essmart.

The Offline Search Engine

Deepak Ravindran, the co-founder of “Innov”, has created the offline Google for the billions of “dumb-phone” users around the world.  Innov is an automated artificial intelligence that receives SMS (text messages) from subscribed users and then replies via text message with the information asked for.


Innov plugs the gap for people who have phones, but have no internet access.  Deepak created Innov with the dream of giving people access to information in a simple and affordable way.  In developing Innov Deepak said, ” We don’t want to be another Internet company competing with Android, or any other OS.  We just want to provide a solution for all of us to bring the Internet to the people that don’t have it.”

Innov offers an affordable monthly subscription plan of 30 rupees per month, which is less than one US dollar.  This plan offers dumb-phone users full access to the offline web.  Deepak launched Innov in India, however today they are operating in seven different countries.  “More than 120 million users have tried the service around the world so far,” says Deepak. “We’re focusing on developing nations – we want to be the Google for the developing world.”

Deepak’s innovation and goals as an entrepreneur are inspiring.  He saw a problem, people having cell phones with no internet access, and found a simple yet innovative way to solve the problem.  Not only has his business been successful, but it has brought about social change for good, bringing information to groups of people who before have no access to the internet.

Vivy Yusof, the Malaysian Fashion Entrepreneur

Young Vivy Yusof built a Southeast Asia fashion e-commerce site from nothing but a frustrating shopping experience and a personal blog. After returning from studying in London, Vivy and her husband had the idea to bring online shopping to Malaysia after driving in heavy traffic from shop to shop in the rain. They started Fashion Valet in 2010 with a capital of MYR100,000 (about $24,000), 10 designers and 20 staff. In just six years, the business grew to include over 500 brands and hundreds of staff with offices in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta.

Vivy attributes the business’ success to her thousands of followers on her personal blog and social media accounts. “They were my only customers when we first started,” she said. This gave them an edge against their competition once big competitors moved into Malaysia. However, no startup is perfect – Fashion Valet tried to beat their competition at their own game and made the crucial mistake of lowering their standards of what they sold. This affected their brand identity, but Vivy and her husband went back to their roots and rebounded from the mistake. Their focus is on a direct and affordable connection to local designers and personal connections with their customers. Recently, they’ve opened up a retail location, specializing in offering fashionable hijabs. Fashion Valet has had some major investments from Malaysian internet company MY EG and Silicon Valley’s Elixir Capital, enabling Vivy to search for more collaborations with designers and celebrities to continue to grow their business.

Want to learn more about Vivy’s journey as an entrepreneur? Check out her personal blog where it all began.