INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY | Krisana Gallezo-Estaura, Hong Kong

From photo to print: Your phone cover just how you want it

Will this self-funded startup be the leading online provider of customized products?

In the past, a person/business customized products and services could either hire a designer to develop and coordinate the production of marketing materials or produce printed materials themselves using desktop software and an inkjet or laser printer. A designer can produce a professionally coordinated portfolio of marketing products and services, but this is a significantly more costly and time-consuming alternative, whereas a traditional self-service model typically produces less sophisticated and lower quality output. Zi Yin Zhan founders believe that neither alternative satisfies the needs of the persons/businesses, which typically lack the resources or skills to generate satisfactory results using either approach. As a result, they believe this market has been underserved historically.

Zi Yin Zhan, which started its operation in December 2012, aims to be the leading online provider of portfolios of customized products and services to consumers and businesses in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It offers a broad spectrum of photo-to-print products starting from mobile case covers, t-shirts, calendars and photo books.

Zi Yin Zhan founders are Maggi Ho Piu Yan and Luo Zhi Tan. Maggi was born in Hong Kong. She studied in UK and has marketing background and business startup for 7 years. While Luo Zhi Tan, is a Chinese citizen with trading and production background for 10 years

The founders believe that, in response to the growth of the Internet and the emergence of digital production technologies, consumers/businesses are shifting from traditional suppliers of customized products toward online alternatives. Online commerce, they argue, provides significant advantages and opportunities to consumers/business seeking customized products and services at affordable prices. These customers, they add, do not typically need the large quantities that are traditionally required to achieve low per-unit pricing and do not maintain dedicated procurement departments to negotiate pricing effectively.

“We believe the high price, inconvenience and complexity of traditionally procuring customized marketing products and services have historically dissuaded micro business customers from purchasing these products and services. We believe that the highly fragmented, geographically dispersed nature of the market is ideally suited for Internet-based procurement, as the Internet provides a standardized interface through web browsers, availability seven days a week, 24 hours a day, the ability to offer a wide selection of products and services, and the opportunity to efficiently aggregate individual orders into larger and more efficient production units, says Maggi in an interview.

Maggi believes that the overall market opportunity for customized products is very large as consumers are seeking customized announcements, greeting cards, calendars, stationery, apparel, personalized gifts, photo books and related photo products. In the past, Maggi explains that many such products were supplied by an industry comprising print manufacturing wholesalers and local retailers, such as stationery stores. Compared with today’s Internet-based alternatives, traditional offerings, she says, were relatively limited, prices were significantly higher, and delivery often required longer lead times. Moreover, graphic designs were limited and it was rarely possible to incorporate full color photography into the design, she adds.

“We recognize that our customers have differing needs, skills, and expertise, and we offer a corresponding range of products, price points and customer service options. Our websites offer a full complement of tools and features allowing customers to create a product design or upload their own complete design, and place an order on a completely self-service basis,” says Maggi.

According to Maggi, a key reason that their customers will buy from them is their ability to sell custom designed and manufactured products and services in quantities that are appropriate for consumers and businesses, which can often be a single unit. At the same time, she boasts that their high volume, highly automated production facilities are producing small quantity orders at low cost, allowing them to sell at low prices. “Our manufacturing facilities operate in a controlled environment as our quality assurance systems employ principles of world-class manufacturing designed to ensure that we consistently deliver quality products,” says Maggi.

According to Maggi, the self-funded Zi Yin Zhan currently has USD30, 000 total funding at handW. She also adds that they have spent the last 12 months transforming the idea in to a BETA version website www.ZiYinZhan.com that has been going through market runs of accepting real world orders, payment gateways testing, processes, production and deliveries.

Speaking of their future plans, Maggi says that they aim to do a marketing and promotion drive to get users growth to 100,000 and hit an order volume of 1m yen. They would also want to further enhance their competitive advantages which include fully integrating order-to-manufacturing set up, focused professional websites that continues to innovate with multiple products in a one-stop-shop online platform and customer Services and quality quarantined.



Name of the Company: Zi Yin Zhan 
Founders: Maggi Ho Piu Yan and Luo Zhi Tan
Website: www.ZiYinZhan.com
Total Funding at hand: USD30,000
Source of Funding: Self-funded
Start of Operation: December 2012

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