Arch Wongchindawest started his career as a consultant for non-profit organisations. He also worked with several UN agencies, local and international organisations. In 2014, Arch founded Socialgiver, a lifestyle and travel startup that raises funds for local charities through selling ‘deals’ from top brands. In an interview with Top 10 of Asia, he talks about what inspired him to establish his company and how they successfully impacted and transformed many lives in Thailand.
“I initiated my first project in 2010 to organise a citywide exhibition across Bangkok that featured 100 installation art pieces by hundreds of volunteer artists. Along with a core team of 30 volunteers, we were able to attract partners like UNESCO, UNV and Red Cross to support it,” says Arch Wongchindawest. From there on, Arch has initiated and supported numerous events and campaigns aimed at public engagement or fundraising for a range of causes.
In 2014, Arch founded Socialgiver, a lifestyle and travel startup. “Socialgiver helps customers achieve maximum social and environmental impact when they splurge on traveling, dining, and other new experiences with over 300 selected brands across Thailand,” says Arch excitedly. “When you use Socialgiver service, all the profits from your purchases go to fund amazing life-changing projects.”
“We want to make “giving” a part of everyone’s daily lives, and we think if people could easily become more socially responsible in an attractive way, then it would lead to real change.”
“While helping smaller non-profit organisations, I discovered that a critical problem they faced was a lack of funding, stemming from a sole reliance on donations. What adds to this problem was that every non-profit would be competing for this small pie, donation power, and as time went by, the cost and competition for this was leading to great inefficiencies, distractions, and loss of impact,” shares Arch.
Arch enjoys travelling, savouring nice meals and gaining new experiences but he has always felt guilty for spending money on those things. “I know that $100 a night in a hotel room could put a child through school for a year or a $20 meal could provide clean water for a whole classroom for months. A single holiday could profoundly change so many lives. I asked myself, what if I could spend on these things but have the money instead to go to support charities? That’s how Socialgiver started,” says Arch.
Arch and his team approached hotels, restaurants, activities, events and asked them to donate a portion of their service capacity. “The donation will become GiveCards that, upon purchase, would directly fund a range of amazing projects across Thailand. When people purchase anything on Socialgiver, 100% of the profits are donated to charity,” says the inspiring social entrepreneur.
“Socialgiver has now become a network of over 300 generous brands who, together with their customers, care about giving back to society to help drive it forward,” says Arch. “For charities, this is a new lifeline which allows them to tap into the ever-growing consumer spending power, allowing them to make a difference every time people spend money on their lifestyles.”
Travel, dining and related activities are key components of people’s lifestyles everywhere around the world and Socialgiver capitalises on these in its business. “We want to make “giving” a part of everyone’s daily lives, and we think if people could easily become more socially responsible in an attractive way, then it would lead to real change,” says Arch with enthusiasm. “You can simultaneously contribute to changing lives while going on holiday, eating out or getting a spa treatment. In the bigger scheme of things, we see a world that has become increasingly unequal and we’re hoping that Socialgiver can help bridge that gap between those who have been most fortunate and those left furthest behind.”
“Customers shop on Socialgiver.com or mobile app for great deals from leading hotels, restaurants, and activities across Thailand. Socialgiver also makes your shopping experience even more special by donating 100% of its profits from your purchases to help create impact and sustainability for important causes,” says Arch. “Socialgiver offers a brand-new way for people to support local projects. It is breaking barriers between consumer spending and donations to fuel impact. We help projects raise funds, increase the level of transparency and increase their effectiveness through collaboration. With Socialgiver, people or organisations can now carry out their key missions more effectively by focusing on where change is needed the most.”
Socialgiver has been bootstrapped until today. “I think a lot of startups use the funds they have raised from investors as a factor for success. But for us, we take pride in using as little resource as possible to achieve as much impact as possible,” says Arch proudly. “For us to be able to make it this far without multiple funding rounds like other startups would need is something we are all really proud of. When the time comes for us to raise funds for scaling up, I believe our investors will appreciate it too.”
Another important milestone that Socialgiver has achieved is impacting over 300,000 lives through the projects it has funded. “Because we fund a range of different issues, we use ‘lives impacted’ as a common denominator to measure the total impact from all the different projects. Every time customers make a purchase, we will automatically show them how many lives thy will impact. On top of that, they’ll also get updates about the projects’ major successes”
“2020 was an incredibly challenging year for most of us. But when the pandemic hit Thailand, we did one thing differently. We chose to stand together and help one another,” says Arch. “We gave our support behind the frontline healthcare workers and community volunteers, and did whatever we could to help stop the spread.” Since the beginning of 2020, Socialgiver shifted its entire company’s focus to fight COVID-19. “We translated important content, compiled hospital needs across the country, procured and sent essential supplies, campaigned and supported grassroots initiatives to support vulnerable communities that are most impacted.”
“It was an incredibly important year for us, and a year that made us very proud of the work that we do. Yet our path for most of the year was not always clear,” reminisces Arch. “We decided that if we were going to go down, we’d end with a spectacular project that would save countless lives. We raised over eleven million baht within a few months with the help of many generous partners, our customers and supporters that truly believe in the work that we do. Thankfully, Socialgiver survived. We were given a lifeline by Dr. Harald Link of B.Grimm Group and his family who gave us the opportunity to explain the importance of our work and our vision of a more collaborative, generous and compassionate world. In 2020, we welcomed B.Grimm as Socialgiver’s new official sponsor.” Thanks to them, Socialgiver was given the resources required to shift its model, to revive its team and to launch a new campaign which would introduce the company to many new wonderful giving partners who were also ready to fight to help revive tourism while also lending a helping hand to projects and people who were unable to cope with the devastating impact of this crisis.
“We’re eternally grateful that hundreds of businesses and thousands of people joined our call to action and that made a huge difference both for our survival and for the impact that we were ultimately able to create,” says Arch. “Unfortunately, our big plans for the end of year campaign were disrupted by a fresh wave of COVID and we realised that 2021 has thrown us another big challenge. Now with a much larger team, we’ve been able to address challenges faster, more effectively and at an even larger scale. We initiated a new project called Thailand Recovery Fund which is currently trying to drive change at a national level”
Arch provides the vision, ideas and the creative solutions when a problem arises or when major decisions need to be made. “I am fortunate to have my co-founder, Aliza Napartivaumnuay, and COO, Kanchita Kitjansian to keep everyone motivated, goal orientated and working effectively together as a team at Socialgiver,” says Arch. “I provide ongoing sources of inspirations such as diving deeper into certain projects and help run some projects when we see opportunities that can bring about real change. Other times, it’s about painting a clear picture of where Socialgiver could be in a few years’ time and what we need to do to get there.”
“I want to live in a world where people take care of each other, where there is no suffering and where there is an abundance of opportunities for everyone. The systems and culture today spurs inequality and I hope that Socialgiver can help bring about a new movement of socially conscious consumers and businesses, who also believe in creating a better world rather than maximising profits at anyone else’s expense,” says Arch. “Socialgiver is an idea of a giving economy, a way in which sharing resources creates a winning solution for every stakeholder.”
The entrepreneur has always been passionate and dedicated to his professional life for the past ten years. “Moving forward, I would like to focus more on empowering teams of aspiring changemakers and to invest and advise the next generation of social entrepreneurs,” says Arch, who feels that there is a lack of impact driven investors and advisors in Thailand. “Our ecosystem could develop much further if only I could fill this gap. I really do want to have more time for my personal life but for some reason, the work I do keeps pulling me to always want to do more. It’s often hard to say no when you know how many lives could be made better.”
“Starting a social enterprise was much harder than I thought. My advice for those who are interested to start a social enterprise is to get ready for how tough it will get. When I started, I thought it would be quite easy. We had a great model for society that benefits everyone that got involved and I thought that everyone would want to help,” shares Arch. “However, it turns out that everyone needed convincing and reminding, and many times they just wanted too much for themselves and giving wasn’t important to them.”
“It would have been much easier to operate a regular business compared to asking people to help our society. If you are interested in starting a social enterprise, be prepared for things to cost three times as much and take three times longer than you think it will at the start. People often think that success depends on how much you want it, but actually the more important question you need to ask yourself is what are you willing to sacrifice to make it successful?”
Anyone who’s had to grow up with curly hair understands the constant struggles that come with it. From finding a salon that actually knows how to properly treat natural curls to the never-ending social pressures of conforming to hair beauty standards in the workplace, Karishma Menon, founder of Curlrinting Enterprise, has been through it all as a fellow member of the curly hair community.
The successful lass shares with Top 10 of Malaysia on how she was inspired to establish her company after realising that there are not many products in the market that are suitable for customers with curly hair.
Karishma Menon started a social media page in 2019 after experiencing frustration in managing her curly hair. “I believed that my hair had the potential to be styled beautifully but I never had the appropriate products or knew the best way to care for my hair.”
Many people with curly hair might not appreciate their crowning glory as they might not have sufficient knowledge on how to care for their hair. “I researched people with curly hair who are living overseas and also checked out social media. I found out that in countries such as India, United States and Brazil, people with curly hair knew how to take good care of their hair with suitable products,” says Karishma.
“I decided to establish CURLrinting as a registered business to sell popular & effective curly hair products in Malaysia. The company sells products that provide moisture & definition for textured hair and even hair tools to complete the routine. These products do not contain alcohol, sulphates, parabens, heavy minerals and even waxes. Some of the products are even suitable for children of all ages,” says Karishma. “These products are safe to be used and there are different products for all curl types.”
CURLrinting’s products have benefited many customers with textured hair. “I received messages from people saying that they almost gave up in caring for their hair but the products greatly assisted in their hair care routine,” says Karishma with a smile. “This is the biggest encouragement for me to carry on with the business as many people with curly hair would be able to purchase suitable products for their hair without having to worry if they will experience damage.”
As there are many hair products “for curly hair” in the market, not all of them are actually suitable for curly hair. “It’s vital to always read the ingredients on products as there are ingredients that will be harsh or build-up easily on curly hair. The undesirable build-up from these products might be difficult to remove and even damage their hair,” advises Karishma.
“My advice to youngsters who are interested in business is to not be afraid but persevere to pursue their passion. Business is all about experiencing failure and success,” shares Karishma.
Karl Kelana and Dr Diyana, founders of established cosmetic brand, DOCTOx share with Top 10 of Asia about the products under this well-known brand and their plans to expand to the rest of Asia.
DOCTOx is a cosmetic brand consisting of a wide range of skin care and make-up products that are well known for its quality ingredients used. Founded by Karl Kelana and his wife Dr Diyana, the DOCTOx brand is well known by many people in Malaysia, especially after its initial opening of a few premises and kiosks in AEON.
“Let DOCTOx be known as a Malaysian pride and we want our community to be the one to confirm the quality of our products and be most satisfied with them.”
“The collaboration with AEON is a stepping stone for us to go further in the industry. Having said that, we are committed to our online platform where the business model is much simpler, easy and fast. It is not difficult to stay with old and new customers as technology is just at your fingertips,” says Dr Karl, a graduate of RMIT University and The One Academy.
DOCTOx’s presence in the local and global market is expanding rapidly. This is reflected in the growing number of customers from various backgrounds within four years of its inception. In 2019, there are about 150,000 customers, hailing from as many as 30 countries, who have frequented their website.
While other cosmetic manufacturers prefer ‘beauty at an affordable price’ factor to attract their customers, DOCTOx leans toward ‘beauty, health and affordability’ with a 2-in-1 feature, which is ‘wear and care’. In fact, Dya is not one to shy away from offering beauty consultation to her customers.
The main ingredient of their products is imported overseas before they are specially designed and formulated. All DOCTOx products are safe to use as they are approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH), certified safe by the Health Science Authority (HSA) besides being halal.
Dya has high hopes for DOCTOx. “By God’s grace, we look forward to our brand being on par with Estee Lauder and other international cosmetic brands in 5 year’s time. Let DOCTOx be known as a Malaysian pride and we want our community to be the one to confirm the quality of our products and be most satisfied with them.”
“In order to target niche markets and the growing domestic as well as the regional demand for our products, we do have plans to set up branches in other Asian countries. As for now we have authorised resellers in Brunei, Indonesia and Singapore. We are also aiming to penetrate the United Arab Emirates (UAE) market as there is also demand for our products there,” says Karl.
Albeit many would assume a 23-year-old entrepreneur to be a greenhorn in the business industry, Celine Ng, however, defies the odds and soars to great heights in the business world. In a recent interview with Top 10 of Asia, Ng shares her journey on how she started embarking on the path to establish her company and her success in expanding outlets to 10 countries globally.
For Celine Ng, age has never been a hindrance to achieving success. At just 23 years of age, she is already a successful beauty entrepreneur making her mark in the nation while also expanding her wings overseas. “It wasn’t an overnight idea and it took us many months of reflection, research and finding the right production house before we manage to pull it off,” reminisces Ng.
According to Ng, she started her business because she wanted her brand to be a shining star in the industry and her company certainly adopts a brand-conscious approach. “We wanted to help more customers to get better income, experience our product quality and also to cure skin-related problems.”
“If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.”
“Our product uses the latest technology in the industry, which is the Microneedle Treatment Technology. The traditional micro-needling treatment uses fine needles to create hundreds of tiny, invisible puncture wounds on the top layer of the skin, whilst our microneedle invisible mask delivers the same result as a normal micro-needling treatment,” says Ng.
The Bare Skin brand has managed to bring in millions in sales and the company has expanded its services to nearly 10 countries within a year since inception and has definitely made its mark at an international level. “We have expanded our team in countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, United Kingdom, Macau, Australia and Brunei,” says Ng. “Our third product will be launching soon and it’s something to look forward to,” says Ng enthusiastically.
“I want our brand to be the best in Asia and simultaneously, to be able to help customers solve their skin problems. My vision for the next 10 years is for our brand to be the go-to brand for skin problem solutions, and it will be associated with quality and luxury.” Ng also hopes that in 3 years, their team will increase to some 1,000 people, consisting of people who want to achieve financial freedom. “If you want to fly, give up everything that weighs you down.”
Wilson Low is the founder of Wilstech IT Smart Solution and the company was established to provide IT-related services to customers. In an interview with Top 10 of Asia, Low shares on the importance of IT in this current generation, the services his company provides and outlets set up in Johor Bahru, a city in southern Peninsular Malaysia, and Singapore.
12 years ago, Wilson Low could not have imagined himself starting his own IT company as he has no experience in IT. However, it proved to be not a hindrance for Low when he established his own company in 2016. “After I graduated, I worked in customer service and slowly got involved in operations. In 2016, I set up Wilstech IT Smart Solution enterprise, while still working with my earlier company,” says Low. Initially, the company dealt with supplying hardware, workstations, and laptops for only government sectors and corporations. “We moved our focus to websites, applications and systems after receiving numerous requests from customers.”
“IT is very important and we are also looking into AI technology as it should be the next big thing in Malaysia. That’s my 5 to 10 years’ plan.”
The company now builds customised websites, mobile apps, operating systems and more, depending on customers’ requirements. “We don’t have our in-house products, because we are a software house. So, we cater to requests that are software-based. Besides, we also provide office measurement solution for all the SMEs and also help clients install firewall for offices or schools.”
Wilstech has come a long way from being a 1-man team to their current 12-people team. Last year, a branch was set up in Johor Bahru as most of its clients hail from Johor, a southern state in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. “We were trying to set up another branch in Penang but had to put the brakes on it due to the pandemic.” Low adds that they are moving forward to penetrate into the Indonesian and Taiwanese markets. They also look forward to set up offices in the northern and eastern part of Malaysia. “IT is very important and we are also looking into AI technology as it should be the next big thing in Malaysia. That’s my 5 to 10 years’ plan. My final goal is to get my company listed,” says the visionary Low.
Sunny Tan has built a formidable business as a leading manufacturer of industrial adhesive, sealant and coating products which grew from strength to strength for nearly four decades. The enterprising and dynamic R&D Director and CEO of Chemibond Enterprise Sdn Bhd has no qualms about empowering young people to start businesses without the usual downsides. In this issue of Top 10 of Asia, Tan talks about his business and how young entrepreneurs can benefit from his experience and what he is doing.
Talking to Sunny Tan, the founder, R&D Director and CEO of Chemibond Enterprise Sdn Bhd (Chemibond), you will gain new respect for the humble glue. “It is a remarkably versatile product that bonds crucial parts together to make products that solve problems,” he says. Chemibond’s adhesive and coating products are used across all industries by both local and globally-renowned brands, such as Rentokil in their highly-effective non-toxic pest control glue board, Ekowood in their laminated wood flooring and Proton in their Wira and Preve dashboards. Their agriculture adhesive spray is a hit with the Malaysia Palm Oil Board, helping to control pests in many oil palm plantations. “We have more than 400 products, some exported by container loads to over 2,000 customers in countries like India, the U.S., China, Singapore, Australia, the Middle East and more,” says Tan, who oversees over 70 workers in both his Petaling Jaya head office and Puchong plant in the state of Selangor.
An inventor and formulator at heart, Tan is happiest when being tasked to solve complex problems and bringing in innovative products to our shores. Many hours are spent in his oasis of a roof top garden, improving on his eco-friendly agriculture insect repellent cum natural fertiliser, NR4. The unique formula helped his dying plants get a new lease of life and today, his garden boasts of some of the most luscious kangkung leaves, pumpkins and beans you’ve ever seen. At the same time, he is passionate about helping young entrepreneurs kick-start their own businesses even if they are strapped for cash.
“The best business is one that you can start right away, without having to worry about having a large capital outlay, importing the products, finding a place to store the inventory or even delivering the product to customers. We offer great products for young entrepreneurs to sell at high margins with no minimum purchase quantity required,” says Tan. “This is business at its purest and most simple.”
When customers come to you, looking for something no one else can offer, that’s truly the best place for any entrepreneur to be.
The first revolutionary product is the FDA-approved Arirang ION multi-ionizer. It transforms normal tap water into ionized water which is free from odour, chemicals and 99.99% of harmful bacteria. Arirang ION multi-ionizer, which comes in different models for the shower, sink head, wash basin and beauty salon, requires no maintenance and costs about 12 times less and is so much more smaller than the other water ionizers in the market.
There’s also the Arirang ION water toothpick, which is a godsend to those who hate dental flossing. Unlike other water flossers in the market that run on motors and have water tanks that require refilling, Arirang ION water toothpick is attached directly to the tap faucet and requires no power outlet, recharging or refilling. “It’s a simple solution and the cheapest in the market,” declares Tan. Other products include the bamboo cloth that cleans effectively and is easy to wash, and a portable laser therapy unit that cleans the blood and helps rid the body of toxins.
Tan personally vets through the products he discovers in trade exhibitions overseas and tries them out himself before deeming them suitable and needful in our local market. “You are basically benefiting from my industry knowledge and experience. Plus you are introducing healthful and affordable products that will improve the lives of your customers,” adds the sprightly yoga practitioner who also regularly lifts weights at the gym.
As the default go-to guy for people seeking for solutions throughout the years, Tan has this to say, “When customers come to you, looking for something no one else can offer, that’s truly the best place for any entrepreneur to be.”