At 29 years old, Catherine Hindra may very well be included in Jakarta’s “success before 30” club. The high-achieving graduate of Nanyang Technological University is now the managing director of Zalora Indonesia, an online fashion retailer with branches in eight countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
With a degree in banking and finance, Catherine began her career working for a venture capital firm in Singapore and consulting for grassroots start-ups in India before joining global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. From there she was head-hunted by the German online startup incubator Rocket Internet to helm its Indonesian branch of Zalora, along with her McKinsey colleague Hadi Wenas.
Rocket Internet, which Catherine considers “a very seasoned player in e-commerce business,” typically appoints one or two co-managing founders for each country it starts up in. As one of the lucky two, Catherine is determined to make Zalora Indonesia the go-to destination for fashion and lifestyle shoppers here.
The website, www.zalora.co.id, is already doing a brisk trade, reporting up to 400 transactions daily just months into operation. In a way, the site has become like a vending machine, with customers making instant purchases as easily as inserting a coin.
Most online retailers operate on a business-to-consumer model, by selling directly to consumers, as opposed to selling to other businesses. As a new player in the market, Zalora is determined to stand out from the crowd.
Catherine and her colleagues have been careful to develop a business-to-consumer model for Zalora that differentiates it from its competitors by incorporating plenty of value propositions of benefit to consumers.
In plain language, this means Zalora aims to win customers over with benefits like free delivery, a seven-day money-back guarantee, the option of paying cash on delivery and a diverse range of brands to choose from online.
Zalora Indonesia stocks more than 300 brands, both local and international, providing an opportunity for independent fashion labels to expand into the mainstream market. It also caters to the local market by offering a range of Muslim fashions, something rarely seen on international fashion retailer sites.
One of the major challenges for Zalora in the Indonesian market is the slow take-up of online transactions: “It is a trust issue,” Catherine says.
Aside from a low rate of credit card ownership, other factors affecting the growth of online retail in Indonesia include customer concerns about whether orders will arrive on time, the condition of goods upon arrival and the security of the fund transfer while performing the transaction.
That is why Catherine’s policy has been to invest generously in customer service, to win the trust of Indonesian consumers. Zalora’s money-back guarantee and the option to pay in cash on delivery instead of making an online transaction has helped provide a sense of ease and assurance for customers shopping online for the first time.
Even while dealing with the grind and grease of the retail industry, Catherine hasn’t fallen out of touch with the glam. The fashion-savvy executive says that shopping for purses and handbags is still one of her favorite pastimes. As for clothing, she prefers simple cut pieces accentuated with eye-catching detail.
“Fashion is a personal style,” she says. “I believe that fashion is an attitude, differing from one person to another. When someone is comfortable with what they are wearing, they will feel confident and look stunning no matter what.”
But as for delving deeper into the world of fashion, Catherine is happy to steer clear of clothing design and stick to the business side of things, saying that she is “happy and thankful” of her teammates who helped get Zalora Indonesia up and running.
One principle of fashion that has affected her business strategy is the importance of being courageous enough to take risks.
“I would love to see more and more young entrepreneurs daring to believe in their ideas and to take a risk — a calculated risk — to give it a try,” she says.