Are you interested in doing business online ? This article on the NST tells about Malaysians already doing it.
From antiques and art, to books and consumer electronics, and everything in between, there are plenty to sell on eBay. With over 82 million users worldwide and a global presence in close to 40 markets, the online marketplace is a goldmine for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.
|Selling on eBay is easy and rewarding. Fung says it only takes a laptop, an Internet connection and some photo-taking skills to run her business.|
|Ong (left) works full-time on the online store of Daiming Jewellery while Yap gives his full backing in terms of other resources.|
|Yazmin encourages all women to give eBay a try.|
Making eBay your business ally
JUST mention eBay and Carol Fung’s eyes will light up as she launches into an animated discussion.
The administrative assistant by day and eBay PowerSeller by night started her love affair with the online marketplace three years ago in the United Kingdom when she was on the hunt for sewing and handicraft supplies on the Internet. After some research, she realised that there was an acute shortage of such suppliers online, despite the growing demand.
That’s when she started selling small quantities of handicraft supplies such as ribbons, laces and threads on eBay. These items were sourced locally and then sold on the online marketplace.
Today, Fung yields a four-figure income monthly with her business expanded to international markets such as France and the UK.
“Selling on eBay is easy and extremely rewarding. It only takes a laptop, an Internet connection and some photo-taking skills to run my business. After I made a decision to sell handicraft and sewing supplies, it took me only six months to become a Bronze PowerSeller, making more than US$1,000 (RM3,300) per month,” she says.
Fung, who is also one of six eBay education specialists in Malaysia, shares that creating a business on eBay is something anyone can do, but would-be sellers first must overcome their apprehension about selling on the Internet.
To become a seller on eBay, first you need to be above 18 years old. A PC with Internet connection, a digital camera, a scanner and minimal PC knowledge also are requirements.
Next, register for eBay and PayPal accounts – for free.
To create an eBay Seller account, you have to place a credit or debit card.
The PayPal account is for withdrawal of payment by buyers. Local PayPal users can withdraw their PayPal funds through a credit or debit card that bears the Visa logo.
Note that not all Visa cards in Malaysia can be used for Internet transactions. Fung prefers the Public Bank Visa Electron Card and Tune Money Visa Card for this purpose.
Now you are ready list your items for sale on eBay.
Fung advises novice sellers to start by selling unwanted products at home, for example, unwanted gifts, collectibles or LP records. They can attach their sales terms and conditions accordingly.
And they have to check their e-mail regularly for purchase orders and determine how they want to ship their goods using suitable courier, postal or shipping services.
Fung points out that sellers can sell their wares through three modes: auction, fixed price listing or storefront.
They also can list their products either on eBay Malaysia or other eBay portals based in other countries. Listing in Malaysia is free, but a fee is charged for other countries, although this is negligible when compared to the price you can put on an item.
[Note that Lelong.com.my is a Malaysian website that functions very much like eBay but the sellers and buyers are very much Malaysian based.]
Also, listing in countries such as the United States and UK allows sellers to access a bigger market, Fung says.
So, how can one strike gold on eBay? Fung offers three pointers.
“Buy straight from manufacturers, sell unique and niche products, and do lots of research. This you can get free from eBay. It helps to see what people are buying,” she says.
Some interesting items that have been sold on eBay by locals are the chewy Mentos candies, “Hell Money” used in Buddhist rites, Minyak Cap Kapak, Muslim women’s head scarves and Batik Kaftan.
[Buying straight from the manufacturers is easier said than done. It requires some capital outlay as most manufacturers require a minimum purchase requirement. Further, you need to know about freight, customs charges, prohibited items etc - the research can be tedious. For an online retailer, the more you buy, the more you save, and savings from bulk purchasing from your supplier is the key in this business as the profit margins can be really slim online due to keen competition. I believe that for "hot" and salable items, the manufacturers will not bother selling to small retailers with small orders. Further, freight charges from Malaysia to say, the US will make purchasing an item from a Malaysian on eBay uneconomical and discouraging for a US buyer, unless you're selling something extraordinary.]
If feeling overwhelmed, sellers can always get help from eBay education specialists like Fung. In fact, eBay also provides free phone-based tutorial.
“There’s no reason to not get started. All one has to do is explore the opportunities,” Fung says.
PowerSellers are exemplary members who are held to the highest standards of professionalism, according to eBay.
When buyers see the PowerSeller icon next to a seller’s user ID, they know that they are working with an experienced, well-liked eBay seller.
To qualify as a PowerSeller, you must: n Uphold the eBay community values, including honesty, timeliness and mutual respect;
- Achieve a minimum average of US$1,000 (RM3,300) in sales per month for three consecutive months;
- Achieve an overall feedback rating of 100, of which 98 per cent or more is positive (from July 2008, members also need to achieve a score of 4.5 or more across all detailed seller ratings);
- Have been an active member for 90 days;
- Have an account in good financial standing;
- Not violate any severe policies in a 60-day period;
- Not violate three or more of any eBay policies in a 60-day period; and
- Maintain a minimum of four average monthly listings for the past three months.
Sparkling from wider reach
THOSE in the Klang Valley may think that they are the only ones who know of Daiming Jewellery since all four of its stores are located there. But the business with the unassuming offline storefronts has an online presence that is drawing international business.
It all started when eBay casual seller Kent Ong befriended veteran jeweller William Yap in church about a year ago. At that time, the then part-time Web designer Ong had already clocked in a year on eBay selling a range of things, from unwanted items from his home such as his first violin, old books and unused stationery, to local hotel vouchers to buyers in Singapore, Australia and the United Kingdom. Yap, meanwhile, has over 30 years of experience in the jewellery trade.
Both decided to collaborate and formed Daiming Jewellery on eBay in July last year.
Ong now works full-time on the online store while Yap gives his full backing in terms of other resources.
“We sell the whole range of jewellery, from silver and precious stones to gold and diamonds, to not only buyers located in Malaysia, but all the way in Greece, the UK and the US. We recently achieved PowerSeller status and are encouraged to grow further,” Yap says.
He adds, “Buyers need not worry about not getting their purchases, as we use FedEx for delivery. Anything over US$500 (RM1,650), we will insure.”
[This I think will be a good collaboration - someone who is familiar with the products and someone knowledgeable with selling online. Collaborations like this are however hard find and maintain as the issue of trust and greed will eventually end the partnership.]
Striking work and family balance
Yazmin Aliasak is living every working mother’s dream.
The 26-year-old works from home and spends a good dose of quality time with her kids, all made possible by becoming a full-time eBay entrepreneur.
“It all started some two years ago when I had a conversation with a friend. She was telling me how she was making money on eBay by selling prepaid mobile phone credit. I thought to myself, if one can sell that, then anything is possible,” she recalls.
So, Yazmin started her eBay endeavour by selling her husband’s unwanted clothing.
Encouraged by the positive results, she left her corporate job and focused on using eBay as her primary source of income.
She discovered that the online marketplace was a good platform for selling to a large international customer base.
Apart from better profit margins, she realised that the bigger market was more receptive towards the wares she peddled.
“I ventured into books, but I found the margins to be pretty low. I have since added collectibles to my listings and these have proven to be popular, especially with international buyers,” she says.
Yazmin spends an average of one to two hours a day on eBay when her kids are asleep, and three days per week to respond to customers’ queries and pack her products for shipment.
“I am putting 100 per cent of my efforts into my eBay business as it gives me flexibility in work hours and a sizeable income. I urge all women to give eBay a try and see for themselves how eBay can make a difference in their lives,” she suggests.
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