How This Y Combinator Alum Is Levelling The Playing Field For SMEs In Malaysia
Lennise Ng, co-founder and CEO of Dropee, wants to lend a hand to Malaysian SMEs and improve their access to fast-moving goods
According to the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) Association of Malaysia, the outlook for 2022 is still gloomy for SMEs in Malaysia. SMEs, which form 97 percent of total businesses in the country, face strong headwinds as the costs of raw materials and transportation have risen across the board.
A company helping some of them to weather this challenging period is Lennise Ng's Dropee. The B2B wholesale marketplace connects small-scale retailers to the right wholesalers through its e-commerce platform, which improves their access to fast-moving goods and allows them to better serve their communities. In 2020, Dropee became only the second Malaysian startup to enter the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator programme after Dahmakan, now known as Pop Meals.
Entrepreneurship runs in Ng's family; her grandfather started his career as a micro-entrepreneur who later built a wholesale and distribution business. The elder Ng would also lend capital or support to other SME owners who approached him, and it was this that would later inspire his granddaughter to find her own path to assist the SME community.
"I'm a big believer in levelling the playing field so small players can stand on equal ground with the larger companies," says the younger Ng, the co-founder and CEO of Dropee. She explains that many of her company's customers are located in smaller cities and often face challenges in getting access to stock, which is why Dropee's work is in recommending the right products to these businesses.
Dropee also helps SMEs to digitise, which can be a daunting task for small-scale business owners. Ng says that this switch is not just about adopting a digital system, but a matter of bridging the online-offline gap. Dropee uses data to understand the market the SMEs operate in, and since retail outlets have finite shelf space, identifying fast-moving products is crucial.
When the pandemic hit, many Malaysian SMEs also struggled with their cash flow. Seeing this, Dropee partnered with financial institutions to provide SMEs with financing services, which enabled businesses to have the funds to order stock and pay back the money at a later date.
It's been five years since Dropee started and it has already served more than 50,000 retailers. Recently, it successfully raised US$7 million in Series A funding, which it plans to use to launch new financing products for wholesalers and retailers over the next 12 months. The Malaysian startup also has a presence in Singapore and Indonesia.
Looking back at the time that has passed since she started Dropee, Ng says she has gained two key lessons: "As a leader, you need to constantly improve yourself by learning because the burden of responsibility is not only to your customers but also to your employees. Secondly, show humility and acknowledge when it is time to unlearn old practices that no longer work."