Home cooking galore during MCO sparks birth of My Cooking Story

2022-02-10 /09:02 pm

by Kiran Kaur Sidhu, Digital News Asia

For Khalid Gibran and Gary Chin, founders of X Promosi Sdn Bhd, a business-to-business (B2B) company that creates and executes promotions to grow market share for cookware brands, Malaysia’s movement control order (MCO) in mind-March was a real eye opener that gave them both a greater appreciation of the products they had been successfully selling for the past 14 years.

For Khalid especially, a cook had always been part of the household, taking care of their meals. But a combination of the cook needing to return home to attend to family matters at the same time that his wife was pregnant and craving home cooked meals, meant the ebbulient entrepreneur, who proclaims, “I like to live life 10x” had to don apron and wield the wok.

This was where Khalid with Chin. says he began to realise the value and effectiveness of the tools they had been selling the past 14 years. “I know it sounds weird to say that. But it was our personal experience with our own products that opened our eyes to their real value,” he says.

They were not the only ones to spend more time in the kitchen and around meal preparation. For many people, a consequence of spending more time at home resulted in many turning to cooking food, either for the first time or with renewed passion as a source of comfort and bonding. At the same time, social media has made this all the more enjoyable and interactive through the sharing of photos and videos of food and recipes.

For the duo, the decision then to go online and shift to a B2C model with My Cooking Story in August was therefore a straightforward one. “It all came naturally as market forces changed due to changing consumer behaviour, plus our own keener appreciation on the impact of the right tools to the quality of the end meal,” says Khalid.

Fortunately for Khalid too, despite being a Baby Boomer, he has taken to online marketing like a duck to water. “I am big time into social media. I love it!”

Describing social media as the most cost effective omni channel with the biggest bang for buck, he says that, “Baby boomer or otherwise we have to embrace change and ride trends or else drown!”

Before Covid-19

Shoppers at retailers like Giant, Tesco, Aeon and The Store may be familiar with the collection of stamps upon spending for redemption of cookware at cheaper prices. “We actually sell return on investment to retailers. The way we give our retailers an increase in basket size or incremental sales is through these interesting promotions where we get the customer to stick with them for about 12- 13 weeks and spend more than normal or consolidate their spending into one brand and come [to the supermarket] more often,” explains Khalid.

The collectibles range from multiple-piece kitchenware sets or other licensed items from, for example, Disney or Emobear. “Because of the collection, people just get hooked on and keep coming back to the brand. The items are usually exclusive, branded and imported goods from Germany, Italy or South Korea that are unavailable in the local market.”

Jumping to online sales

Due to Covid-19 and the resulting MCO, however, business came to a standstill. “The reasons are very simple. People were buying essentials and supermarkets were trying to cope with supply chain disruptions and high demand to provide essentials to consumers. Against this backdrop, marketing promotions take a backseat in the mind of the shopper as well as the client,” Khalid explains.

On top of that, the barring of international travel has also impacted business. “Gary and I used to do 14 trips a year because our business is regional. We are in about nine countries. In order to get decision makers to sign on the dotted line, we need to appear face to face. With travel disrupted and retailers not thinking about any marketing campaigns but instead serving community needs, [business] took a slight dent.”

For Khalid and Gary, this then was the perfect time to launch My Cooking Story.

Interestingly instead of describing this as a straight e-comerce site, Khalid prefers to frame it as, “an online social media community dedicated for home cooks… alongside an online shop selling professional kitchenware.”

Using Shopify and with the help of a digital agency, the site went live within a month, in August.

The decision to start their own site instead of listing on existing platforms like Lazada and Shopee was simple. The My Cooking Story Instagram and Facebook pages have a total following of 3,900. “Instead of sending the home cooks from our social media community to a crowded marketplace, we decided to create a specialist shop,” says Khalid, explaining, “here we are actually serving a community. These are passionate home cooks so we want to give them that special feeling and experience.” And great deals as well, which Khalid describes as “best-est deals” which to him offer a combination of relevance and quality.

Price matters too, but the exorbitant price points of professional kitchenware brands can be a disappointment for budding and avid home cooks, Khalid explains.

“Professional cookware costs a lot of money and that’s where I thought going online was prudent as we could pass on the cost savings to our customers,” he says. Helping convince him as well was the sharp 880% increase in cookware sales during the MCO period.

My Cooking Story’s online shopping site also presents a community angle in terms of charity and recipe sharing. “Other than offering kitchenware, we want to offer kids cooking ware, kids cooking classes, masterclasses by chefs, home cooked ingredients and food delivery,” he shares.

The end mission is simple for Khalid. “I want My Cooking Story to be the go to site for whatever items a home cook needs.”

They are getting there with sales also picking up nicely thanks to a successful partner programme that has proven so successful that it was temporarily taken off by Khalid. “A full 90% of our sales comes from this channel,” says an excited Khalid.

While he is looking to relaunch the partner programme soon, he has also kept his eyes on regional expansion. “We launch in Indonesia on Dec 1st,” he says.