Interview with Joel Neoh, CEO of Groupon Malaysia

Q: You were actively involved in social advertising business, namely YouthAsia ( all this while. What makes you shifted your attention to e-commerce - group buying business?

A: Youth Asia started in belief of using the internet to bring the collective power of young people together. We actually started with -- where we used internet tools to bring together 88,000 young Malaysians on-ground to organize + participate in a fully by youth for youth festival, which turned out to be the largest ever youth fest ever. Then we started (now known as to gather their collective voices to represent them through research + social media platforms. So it was a natural progression for us to explore something related to e-commerce. When we saw the Groupon model (during its infancy -- first 9 months) we thought WOW -- from The Point to Groupon -- collecting people together to get discounts - that sounded like something we would love to do! Its almost in our DNA to replicate it in Malaysia.

Q: How did GroupsMore grow so fast, with more than 50,000 members within 5 months?

A: In the first 5 months we did not do external advertising. We simple connected Groupsmore to YouthSays + told our friends to join it if they feel its relevant to them.

Q: This is I believe the first major acquisition by an international company in local tech scene. Do you think LivingSocial or even Google will follow suit? What is your advice to local technopreneurs who aim for similar exit strategy?

A We didn't start GroupsMore with the expectations of an acquisition, what more from Groupon themself. In fact, we thought they'd launch their own here + crush us. Haha. But I guess in that aspect we were wrong. :) There were 2 things that were important to Groupon before they acquired GroupsMore. Firstly, the people behind the business + can they drive and scale the business model locally. At the end of the day, it boils down to growing the small success we started with to bigger ones. I'm sure there will be other international internet companies acquiring in Malaysia in the near future - but what is more exciting if there is one day, a Malaysian Internet company going global to countries like US, UK, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Japan -- the biggest internet population countries.

Q: How many people you plan to hire and what kind of talents?

A: We will be hiring at least 30 - 50 ppl in the next few months. We are looking for young + bright Malaysians to join our team. We also hope to be able to attract young Malaysians who have graduated from renown universities like Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Princeton, etc to come back to Malaysia and join us on this journey. The learnings will be awesome -- and who knows, this alumni in the future may start the next global internet venture from Malaysia itself.

Photo above: Groupon Malaysia's employees, Anisha and Alison wearing RekaTee t-shirts. Buy cool tees at RekaTee.

Q: You mentioned that you don't think there are currently more than 200,000 Malaysians who understand the group-buying model. Mind sharing your formula to this number and do you also mean that only this amount of people is e-commerce-savvy?

A: Well at this point of time, Groupon Malaysia has ard 60,000+ subscribers. There are 3 large group buying sites at the moment -- so I multiplied that by 3 = 180,000. The rest of 20+ other group buying site have nothing more than 5,000 subscribers each = 100,000. In total 280,000 people (this is not considering duplicates amongst the sites -- which I estimate can be as high as 30%.)

Q: Is Groupon Malaysia going to have huge A&P budget to increase its subscriber base? Something like what PostMe has done recently?

A: Although we have an increase of funds, we will continue to spend it wisely to make sure every dollar accounts to growth. We will be spending on advocating group buying to more people in Malaysia and also on recruiting the best talent out there to join our team.

Q: What is the one major thing you learn from Groupon itself, if any?

A: Well, its more of a reinforcement -- to enjoy what I do. Most Groupon leaders I've met during my trip to London last month were very passionate about the vision of the organization -- and they enjoy every aspect of being part of the fastest growing company ever.

Q: What does Groupon think about Malaysia's current e-commerce state and potential? And, what are your thoughts on this?

A:Groupon has placed the ball on our court to grow the busines sin Malaysia. There's much more we can do to get Malaysians to frequent e-commerce platforms and transactions. The more popular e-commerce activity now would be purchasing airline tickets - but we hope that Groupon Malaysia will be able to further engage more Malaysians to purchase experiences (which they can use for their daily activities) on a daily / weekly basis. This in turn will grow the e-commerce industry -- providing more opportunities for local entrepreneurs to venture into growing successful online businesses that caters to the local market.

You can visit GroupsMore aka Groupon Malaysia at

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Joel's photo taken from

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