Kim Lato and Kimstore's 15-year e-commerce journey

Staff ni Anjie
Kim Lato's decision to start an e-commerce company was unheard of a decade ago, especially because she could expect a comfortable "career" in her father's textile company. Instead, in 2006, her love of photography, writing, and a challenging online experience led her down an enticing entrepreneurial path. Over time, an ambition to "build the Amazon of the Philippines" would further redefine it.

Kim Lato and Kimstore's 15-year e-commerce journey
Kim Lato and Kimstore's 15-year e-commerce journey

Her experience with the online global marketplace behemoth spurred her Amazon-fueled desire. "In Amazon, I was looking for a specific lens," Lato recalls. 'Can I do this with equipment I have on hand in the country instead?' I was perplexed. This epiphany moment that spotted a possible client need was her first step in launching Kimstore, which specialized in on-demand delivery of smartphones, laptops, cameras, and other electronics, as well as their accessories.

Developing a brand

Kimstore began on Multiply, a now-defunct social networking site that was effectively the Facebook of its day. Lato recalls her early problems, "There were a lot of requests online." My professors and students also backed me up. No sales, however, were made."

Her functional proof of concept was her orgmate Zyla Quiambao's first sale, which Lato remembers fondly. Lato wanted to demonstrate that selling items online was doable and that her platform worked. As a result, her weekly sales increased from one to ten. To continue doing business, Lato swiftly changed her schedule. "In the morning, I took all of my lessons, but in the afternoon, I was a business owner," she explains.

Her sales surged, forcing her to display her items to passers-by at a McDonald's near De La Salle University on Taft Avenue in Manila while eating. "A lot of people were seeing the stock right there and buying it right away," Lato explains. So she sat down with the customers, presented the products' benefits, and made the sales right then and then. Other young student entrepreneurs rapidly imitated her company model. Others saw it as a side gig, but Kim saw it as a career.

Life is full of transitions, conflicts, and transformations.

Because physical storefronts were still the primary source of consumer electronics at the time, Lato earned a name for herself in customer service. To bring Kimstore closer to every household, she provided the necessary expertise to buy or purchase things. To compete with Lazada, which was also just starting, she offered money-back guarantees and personal guidance in meet-ups.

It wasn't all fun and games, either; some of the meet-ups, as well as the risks they included, were terrifying. When her company's main office was in Tondo, her crew would routinely transport nearly PHP50,000 in cash across town. There was a time when they weren't allowed to hold meet-ups at malls, which caused shoppers to be confused. "Sinisita ng security yung team namin noon," Lato says.

Her one-of-a-kind response was to build several pick-up points, which now number 15 across Metro Manila.

Kim believes that you should not put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to business. This became much more clear when Multiply ceased down in 2013. It was a huge move, but one that turned out to be beneficial in the end. "I got a lot of help from industry friends in building my website, and I migrated to Facebook," Lato said. At the time of the changeover, she dialed her consumer database. "I texted each of them individually and informed them that we had switched to Facebook as our social media platform."

Customers from outside Metro Manila were enquiring how they could get Lato items by 2015. So she partnered with a courier that provided a COD (cash on delivery) service to meet the demand, which revolutionized the e-commerce industry.

She began teaching her employees to give great customer service as one of their pillars from that point forward. Lato stresses the need to build a customer-centric culture in her staff, crediting her success to her ability to provide highly personalized experiences for her clients.

Then, in 2020, at the height of the epidemic, Lato made another breakthrough after 15 years in business. More people who could not leave their homes due to the lockdown entrusted their valuables to Kimstore for delivery.

A woman can make a difference in the realm of technology.

This only served to feed her drive to build one of the Philippines' largest and most powerful electronics firms. Her achievements earned her the distinction of being one of the few women to excel in a male-dominated area such as technology.

Lato encountered a few customers that needed to adjust their expectations early on in the company. “When people see the brand ‘Kimstore,' they automatically assume it is owned by a Korean,” she explains. Perhaps the owner is a man. But, they seem to say to themselves, "Oh, it's a lady," when they see me.

More importantly, Lato places a premium on her continuous growth as a woman and business owner. She enjoys both the personal letters she receives and the people she inspires. She first mentions her enthusiasm when asked why she is successful. "I was able to overcome my self-limiting thoughts — the fear of failure," Lato says of one habit she urges people to adopt.

Breakthroughs in your profession and industry lessons learned

When Kim chose to give her whole attention to Kimstore in 2008, her bravery shone through during the height of the financial crisis. Then, the only way to keep the company alive was to scale it. "How to make it gigantic," she emphasizes, "was the desire to become the Amazon of the Philippines."

By championing many e-commerce verticals, she has carved herself a leadership role in the on-demand online gadgetry area, and she has definitely achieved something like to that goal, as seen by honors from top business organizations such as Go Negosyo and PLDT.

Despite her numerous achievements throughout the years, she remains hungry for more. In the aftermath of the epidemic, she says, consumer behavior is what drives market demand and direction. According to Lato, "growing and being aggressive in many platforms such as Shopee and Lazada" is a solid strategy for entrepreneurs just getting started in their e-commerce business. In addition, starting a digital business requires investing in digital technology such as CRM, accounting software, analytics, online infrastructure, and a reliable shipping partner.

After ascending from pioneer and trailblazer to industry leader, Lato's next step is to give back. She fulfilled her goals by focusing on her hobbies — business, e-commerce, and women empowerment. —- she declared

wishes to return to her roots by presenting masterclasses and other events for female company owners and newbie business executives in the future, resulting in a stronger e-commerce network for her professional peers and siblings. "I sincerely want to utilize this opportunity to donate my experience, time, and blessings in order to aid the e-commerce business and empower women," Lato says.

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