EMERGING ENTERPRISE

Data - the mummy of baby fairs

Mummys Market has about 80% of Singapore's pregnant mothers' data and over 75% of the market share in the baby fair sector.

PICTURE this. A crowd of women aged 25 to 45 filling a large exhibition hall together with their partners, walking along aisles packed with vendors selling products for their little ones. Everywhere they go, they buy.

Baby and child fairs hold a treasure trove of data, and William Chin knows it.

His company, Mummys Market, might run eight fairs each year that see about 800,000 participants and nearly S$100 million worth of products being transacted, but they certainly do not call themselves an exhibitions organiser.

It's a tech and marketing firm, said Mr Chin, founder of Mummys Market. He told The Business Times that retail data is at the heart of everything they do.

Back in 2014, the local industry was almost saturated with players, with more than 20 baby and child fairs annually. Mr Chin had been working on building up Mummys Market with start-up capital from the sale of SmartKids Asia, an educational fair.

"Competitors were saying, 'Why would you want to trust a team of three?'" said Mr Chin. "We were a small team of three versus huge companies that were listed, had been around for 20 years, and were market leaders."

It was safe to say that not everyone expected what happened next: Mummys Market launched their first fair in April that year, and proceeded to smash sales records held since 1990.

Perhaps it was the team's youth that contributed to their success, for they were bursting with energy and new ideas.

"We had a competitor fair in February, and we were thinking, 'Our fair is in April. How do we make people wait and not shop in the February fair, but just come to ours?'" said Mr Chin.

So Mummys Market became the first in the exhibitions sector to launch pre-orders for consumers. About one month before the fair, participants could make their purchases online at a bigger discount than what they would get at the fair.

The company also introduced the shortlisting of products. Mothers could first select what they liked online, then download everything they needed - such as product information and booth location - into a PDF.

These initiatives generated a wealth of data, including browsing and transaction history. Mothers would register themselves with Mummys Market, too, opting in to receive useful information throughout their motherhood journey.

Besides promoting ads to consumers through platforms such as Facebook and emails, the company analyses the data to determine which stage of motherhood their users are in. This allows them to promote seminars and send relevant reading materials to them.

Today, Mummys Market holds about 80 per cent of Singapore's pregnant mothers' data. It also has over 75 per cent of the market share in the baby fair sector, and works with 80 per cent of all local baby product distributors.

"(In the early days), we had to think of a way to get brands in even though we were so new," said Mr Chin. They decided to work with supermarkets to set up a "milk and diaper pavilion" that housed every brand under one roof.

But now, the company's success with vendors has helped to bag clients ranging from locally-listed SMEs to multi-national companies. These include Nestle, Unilever, local hospitals and government agencies.

Mummys Market has been profitable since 2014 despite having received no external funding. This year, the now 40-person outfit began capitalising on their ability to scale off the data of their users, which is growing at a current rate of about 10 per cent.

"We have been asked by many banks and private investors if we are going for an initial public offering (IPO)," said Mr Chin.

"Despite being ready and eligible for an IPO on the Catalist board now, we have decided to go for the mainboard in the future instead, while we scale Mummys Market and its platforms beyond Singapore."

The firm intends to expand to South-east Asia through acquisitions, while continuing to focus on using data to drive the online, offline and exhibitions shopping experience.

It has created a marketplace app, due for launch in the second half of 2019. An investment this year into public relations firm Prospr Communications also saw the company venturing into agency work.

"(Our clients) hope for us to have a full agency business so that they can use us as a one-stop service platform, from sales to marketing," said Mr Chin. The group is currently in talks with other agencies.

Not one to indulge in the present, Mummys Market has already marked down 2021 as the year it hopes to go into using fintech. Its growing tech team has been working on projects such as digital wallets and payment gateways; blockchain technology might even be on the horizon.

As to whether the firm will ever go into other segments besides baby fairs, Mr Chin said: "Babies are just the start of family creation. From the moment a family nucleus is made, we will target everything.

"So yes, we are going to go into fashion, groceries, cosmetics - anything that a family needs, anything that a woman needs. Because what we have is a family-based user; it's not just a mother."

He recalled how when he first started the business, people would ask him whether he wanted to be a small fish in the ocean, or king of the pond. He chose the latter.

"But that doesn't mean the pond cannot begin to flow into the lake, and start becoming a part of the ocean."