IT’S a nice idea. In theory, that is. But the problem with creating a customised gift is that it’s usually very expensive as most gift items are mass produced. This where Printcious Gifts comes in. Co-founded by twin brothers Vincent and Henry Tong — the CEO and CTO respectively — this Malaysian-based DIY custom gift supplier now does business across the region.
With its online tool, customers are able to create personalised gifts in the form of mugs, cushions, phone cases, T-shirts, bags, caps, lanyards and so on. The customised design can include pictures, text and other graphical elements. Once the design is done, customers can view their work online to ensure it’s exactly how they want it before placing the order.
The start-up, which was founded in 2015, is a graduate of Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre’s (MaGIC) Accelerator Programme. In 2016 it won the Best of Start-Up Companies award from MSC Malaysia APICTA Awards. A year later, in 2017, it was the Malaysia Top Ecommerce Merchant Award winner organised by the Selangor Information Technology & Ecommerce Council (SITEC).
Vincent shares what it’s like running a business with a sibling — his twin brother, at that — and what makes their company special.
WHAT DOES “PRINTCIOUS” MEAN?
It’s a play on the word “printing” and “precious”. In fact our slogan explains it all: “Print Your Precious Gift”.
DO PEOPLE REALLY APPRECIATE CUSTOMISED GIFTS MORE?
Yes, of course. I’ve received many mass-produced gifts in the past and when I look at some of them today I can’t even remember who gave me what. But if someone were to give me a personalised gift, I’d always remember who had given that to me. I believe it’s the same for everyone. If someone bothers to go through the effort of designing something unique for you, surely you’ll find it more touching and memorable. We like to say “Giving with art is giving with heart.”
AFTER GRADUATION, HENRY WORKED FOR A SOFTWARE FIRM WHILE YOU BECAME AN ENTREPRENEUR. WHY THE DIFFERENT PATHS?
We may be twins but we have slightly different interests. Henry is very passionate about programming and it made sense for him to join a multi-national software firm. I’m more passionate about entrepreneurship and marketing. Prior to creating Printcious I started up a few companies related to gifts and photo printing.
A SUCCESSFUL START-UP IS SUPPOSED TO SOLVE SOME EXISTING PROBLEMS OR PAIN POINTS. WHAT DOES PRINTCIOUS HOPE TO SOLVE?
We felt many people would like to be able to give customised gifts to their loved ones but it’s simply too expensive to do so. We seek to offer a service that makes it possible for people to affordably create customised gifts in low volumes.
HOW CRUCIAL IS PRICING?
Very. If creating a customised gift will cost you and arm and a leg, you won’t do it. But with our advanced printing technology, we can create gifts at a very reasonable price even if you order just one unit of something. Most custom printers will require a minimum order before they give you a good price. It helps that we import our gift materials ourselves. Our range of gift items is now very broad: T-shirts, mugs, cushions, puzzles, mousepads, phone cases, keychains and much, much more. Overall, we have over 100 gift items that customers can choose from.
APART FROM PRICE, WHAT ELSE IS IMPORTANT?
Creating the customised gifts must be easy. If it’s very troublesome or requires specialised technical skills, people aren’t going to do it. We’ve built an easy online design tool for people who don’t know graphic design.
PRINTCIOUS HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE OCTOBER 2015. HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR?
We’ve been working very hard to improve traffic to our site. Having a good user interface and keeping it easy for customers to use is crucial. In that regard, we’ve been quite successful. We do have a lot of traffic and we have experienced 200 per cent growth in revenue in the past two years.
WERE THERE ANY SOURCES OF INSPIRATION FOR YOU FROM ABROAD?
Yes. When we did some research we found personalizationmall.com from Chicago to be very inspirational. They’re one of the largest personalised gift providers in the USA. You could say they’re our role models. We aspire to be something like them but for the Asean region.
CURRENTLY 80 PER CENT OF YOUR BUSINESS IS B2C (SELLING TO CONSUMERS) AND 20 PER CENT IS B2B (SELLING TO OTHER BUSINESSES). DO YOU SEE THAT RATIO CHANGING ANYTIME SOON?
We expect the B2C portion to increase. We’re an online business so we can sell to anyone anywhere in the world and we have the advantage of low prices compared to many service providers abroad. So we can expect sales to international customers increasing over time.
HOW DID YOU TWO END UP COMING TOGETHER TO START A BUSINESS?
In 2015 when I decided to create an online customised gift service, I wanted to do something big and felt that I needed someone with sound technical skills so I asked Henry to join me in this new venture. We’re a good team. I handle the business side of things, he handles the technical bits.
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST POPULAR ITEMS?
T-shirts, mugs, cushions, puzzles, ceramic tiles, canvas, button badges and lanyards.
WHAT’S THE USUAL CUSTOMISATION DONE BY CUSTOMERS?
Based on our statistics, about 80 per cent of customers create gifts with personal photos and text. I guess this is logical. It makes sense to incorporate photos if you want to create a gift for someone to remember you by. You could also make gifts with nice graphical designs or logos on them but people like to use photos with some personalised text message on them.
YOU WORK WITH YOUR TWIN BROTHER. DO YOU GUYS EVER FIGHT?
Well, some might call it fighting but we call it “having a discussion”. We sometimes have strong differences of opinion but after a rational discussion the solutions that we come up with are usually better than our respective ideas originally. So it’s good to “fight” in that sense.