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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, MEDIA & MARKETING | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Hong Kong
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This startup could be a good buddy for small scale businesses

You’d be asking hundreds of people just to like your page no more.

Realizing the difficulty faced by many small and home businesses in promoting their products and services due to current scale and limited budget, two Indians set-up a platform that aimed at bridging the gap.

Hidden Truffles started about 6 months back as a platform to “Help Hong Kong Discover High-Quality Local Businesses & Home Businesses”.

Hong Kong is home to several fabulous small business and home business. Hidden Truffles co-founder Sai Sudha however commented that due to their current scale - most businesses have only 2-3 team members, including the founders who run the entire show while a majority of them are mothers or day job holders who juggle this - they end up doing a lot of administrative work and hence have lesser time to spend to on working on their products & services or time to spend to increase their reach. As a consumer, on the other hand, she noted that it is impossible for them to follow 50 Facebook pages of various business they like or get newsletters from 50 different businesses.

“We think there are no other platforms available in Hong Kong today.There are listings and directories that are less useful for customers who only want to know the high quality small businesses in Hong Kong. Our edge is our passion for what we do and our first mover advantage,” Sudha said.

How it works

Hidden Truffles personally profile and review hand-picked small & home businesses in Hong Kong.

“These businesses have fantastic products and services. However, some of them don’t have websites yet and most of them are managed by less than 5 employees. Hidden Truffles want these businesses to be able to reach more of their target audience in an easier and cost-effective manner," Sudha said. 

They also want customers in Hong Kong to be able to easily find these businesses as well. At Hidden Truffles, customers can go through them, read about their founder and his/her background and browse the products and services including listings, pictures and reviews.

“We interview each entrepreneur before we profile the business. This is because we believe it is important for the customers to connect with the face of the business, especially if it’s a new or small business. Each business is accompanied by 10 pictures, including one of the founders, which captures the story visually for the customers. Customers can also rate and review their favorite businesses and simply get in touch with the founders directly through our page,” Sudha explained.

According to Sudha, they are currently self-funded with lots of expansion and development plans. They have currently invested < $80,000 HKD in the venture.

When asked about their future plans, Sudha said that their target customers today are Hong Kong citizens who speak English. They think that their customers are likely to be female.

“We estimate that the total addressable market is ~700,000 people (10% of total Hong Kong population = ~7 million), of which ~350,000 would be women (50% of 700,000). While we don’t attach a $ value to this market yet, we believe that we can monetize this audience in the future through e-commerce,” she said.

In the short to medium term, founders of Hidden Truffles plans to enable e-commerce capabilities that will allow customers to buy products and services from these small businesses through their website to further enhance the value of their platform to both businesses and customers.

In the medium term, they want to reach a larger audience of businesses and customers by opening up Hidden Truffles to Mandarin and Cantonese speakers as well. They think that this will also be a win-win for both businesses and customers.

“Finally, in the longer term, once we think we have a working model for Hong Kong, we don’t see any reason not to expand to other cities in Asia... and the world!,” Sudha exclaimed.

The founders

Sudha, Co-Founder of HiddenTruffles, has completed her MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management, India and a specialisation course at Harvard University. Her past experience includes account management, start-up business development and co-founding a successful online boutique in India.

Anasua, Co-Founder of HiddenTruffles, has completed her MBA from Hong Kong University and under graduation from IIT, Bombay. Her work experience includes working in a non-profit organization and a management consulting firm.

The founding story

Before Sudha moved to HK in 2012, she stayed in India for 2 months so that her children could spend time with the family before the big move. That is when she decided to take her mother’s home boutique online on Facebook.

Within 2 weeks of creating the page, she came to the conclusion that it was the single most difficult thing to get LIKES on your page and to get people to follow you. In a month she got 500 LIKES which meant she had asked 500 people including every customer to check their FB page and LIKE it if they would like to follow the business, its products and new collections regularly. That is the moment, when she realized how difficult it is to promote a business online without an ad budget and her respect for small business owners sky-rocketed! The idea of creating a platform for such small businesses was planted in her head then.

Shortly after moving to Hong Kong, she came to realize that the city had a lot of high quality small businesses providing a wide range of products and segments. However, most of these businesses were not well known and had to rely exclusively on word-of-mouth to advertise themselves. They faced the exact same problem as she had faced. This is the point when a firmer idea of Hidden Truffles started forming in her head.

Anasua was a very good friend of Sudha’s with whom she shared many similar interests. When Sudha shared the above idea and thoughts with her, Anasua completely resonated with them. They started discussing more and realized that they were very keen to work on this together to find a solution. It took them nearly 6 months of attending fairs and local markets, speaking to small and home businesses, conducting consumer surveys with friends and strangers and slowly building and building the website – and thus Hidden Truffles was born!

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COMPANY PROFILE

Name of the Company: Hidden Truffles
Founders: Sudha and Anasua
Website: www.hiddentruffles.com
Total Funding at hand: < $80,000 HKD
Start of Operation: December 2013
 

 For startups wanting to be featured, send your message to Lee Anne Babierra at research@charltonmediamail.com

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