Founder’s Story: Jenson Goh, Co-Founder of P’sang

This round we have Jenson Goh, Co-Founder and COO of P’sang, an innovative condom startup in Malaysia that utilizes buttercup packaging design. Even before launching, this startup has already won over 10,000 subscribers. They aspire to show that condoms would not only serve and fulfill the basic needs of users but also bring in a totally new experience.

Here’s our session with Jenson, enjoy!

How did P’sang started?

Malaysia has the biggest condom factory in the world. That’s one factory actually produces more than 20% of the world’s condom output as Malaysia has one of the best natural rubber. Over the years, people in the Malaysia rubber industry were doing really well including Top Glove. We actually went to see their production line and we realized that there are few hundreds of types of product ranges that they can make but are actually not available in the Malaysia market.

For the past 10–20 years, we always see the same product, same brand and they never did any product innovation because their products now and 20 years ago are almost the same. So we actually have a vision to bring all these selections through the best user experience such as the usage, packaging, how to open, etc. So we wanted to bring more convenience to the users. Compared to the normal packaging where they need to open and tear the foil corner, we try to perfect all the aspects of user experience of the condom and that’s why we launched P’sang.

We used almost 12–13 months in total to focus on product development and we finally launched in March 2019.

P’sang spent 13 months to focus only on Research and Development, was your team doing something else during that period?

During the 13 months, we didn’t have any income and sales. Actually we have side businesses as well so we spent our spare time to do the research, speaking to factories, packaging manufacturers, and designers. Only until the last 5 months, we started to hire our first full-time graphic designer to really go into it. So before the 5 months, the founders were doing the survey and research for 10 months along with our side business, founders need to survive too.

Can you tell us more about the “blindfolding taste test”?

To be honest, the 3 of us (founders) are all from the marketing background and we had no experience in the condom industry. We had zero knowledge but luckily we still had a manufacturer to support us for the quality control and everything. Everything we learned was through the market research and through the manufacturer’s knowledge so it is very interesting for us. We went to the factory and they gave us 30 types of different flavor so we actually put it on to our tongue, taste it and we choose the best condoms that were preferred by most people. The flavors include different types of durian, champagne, whiskey, and most of our products uses banana as the flavor because the majority of us liked it. Technically any flavor that you can think of, even rendang, nasi lemak, bubble tea were available flavors.

You did mention that advertising on social media is very challenging for your industry, why is that?

Condoms are considered to be in a sensitive category and Facebook has an advertising guideline about condoms. It states that one can promote condoms on Facebook only for the purpose of promoting the feature of a condom as contraception and safe sex so its a very grey-area kind of guideline for us. Even though we made many kinds of content but most of them, about 80–90% were rejected because for Facebook advertising, they actually have people checking the ads for approval and it really depends on their mood if they want to let us through. We tried to find out which types of ads can be published but in the end, we still can’t find a clear guideline.

Which of the challenges that you faced that until today it is still vivid to you?

When I started off 3 years ago into e-commerce, I thought it was an easy market. When others say that some people sell a lot, keep on selling, sales will keep coming, it was so far from the truth. I still remember during the first years’ Christmas and Chinese New Year, I had no money to spend so I had to hide at home. I was in the property line before I started P’sang so all my housemates are cash-rich and they went for parties and so on. On the other side, I had to find reasons to tell them that I’m not going but I never told them that I had no money. That incident is still so vivid in my mind right now. Before you start a business, you would think that you had a good amount of savings to start a business but when you really start one, it is totally different.

What would you say to be one of the most satisfying moments in your journey?

Nowadays I meet a lot of people and I feel very proud when they praise my brand. Quite a few of them would say that P’sang’s branding is funny and they would follow our content on Instagram. They like the way we produce our content and also how we communicate with our audience. It is a very proud moment for me when strangers praise the P’sang brand.

Where do you see yourself and P’sang in 2 years?

P’sang’s distribution was purely online for the first half-year but now we are in 30 independent pharmacies in Klang Valley. Next year, we will be heading for bigger chains such as Watsons, 7-Eleven, myNews and etc. As for me personally, I wish to have a more passive income in the coming years through my business and also more time for myself to do what I’m passionate about such as helping others start their entrepreneurial journey and traveling.

What is the branding direction for P’sang to differentiate from other brands?

We spend quite a long time surveying and to perfect the user experience so if you noticed, our packaging is totally different from others. We want to be different because if it’s the same then what’s the point of starting this? So we are still continuously improving the user experience of the condoms and in 1 or 2 years’ time, there will be a better version of our condoms.

How do you determine if a product is good enough to be pushed to the market?

You have to be tested by the market so you must launch as early as possible if you can. If you want to launch a business, the most important thing is to validate your ideas with minimum cost. For example, if you think a buttercup condom can sell then try to sell a similar product that was already produced in another country without actually needing to go through the hassle of manufacturing your own for testing. This is a way to validate the idea with minimum resources and after you found out the features that people like about the product then you can manufacture the product yourself.

What did P’sang do to get the first batch of customers?

Actually 2 months before we launch P’sang, we already have our landing page up so that people can start subscribing to P’sang. We got the content and landing page done on what P’sang is about and what’s the product to bring more traffic to the landing page first and allow interested parties to sign up into our mailing list. Then we started sending emails to our subscribers after the launch and we got our sales from there. We were already gathering interest and filtering the audience so we can have a highly targeted audience in our email ready for sales. Digital marketing is all about a number game and there is a formula to win for that.

How does a typical day for you look like?

No fixed plan because I always need to run around here and there. There are a lot of things that need to be settled so during morning and nights I will still be working. There is no fixed schedule but I try to prioritize the most important task such as marketing and sales.

What would you recommend in finding business partners?

This is a tough question because when you first start a business with partners, usually you won’t really know the person well. I think one of the most important traits is that the person has to be selfless and have to put the company before himself. If every partner can have this trait then the company will do well.

Do you think it’s important to have a mentor?

Yes, it is but you need to find the right one. I spent about 2 years in the business before having a mentor which is also my friend. If they have the right experience and advice then you will save a lot of unnecessary problems. To find the right mentor, you have to ask around or else people will not know that you need one.

What do you think would be the 3 key resources for a business?

The first one is “user” which is the most important thing in the business world now. If I have users for my brand, actually other things don’t really matter anymore because when you have a large enough audience and your product is relevant, whatever you launch they will actually buy. Recently I’ve learned something from my mentor as well on the difference between “customer”, “client” and “user”.

Customer — One-off transaction, no after-sales service.

Client — Someone who buys from you but you will need to provide after-sales service.

User — End-user of your product but the dealings are through digital and operate on a large scale.

The second would be having a team. When you are growing your audience, there is a lot of work to be done and you need a team that is responsible to complete the task to fulfill your users’ needs.

The third, might be your product or supply chain.

What do you look for when you hire people to join your team?

The first would be creativity and the second would be attitude. If you have the right attitude, you can learn quite fast even if you don’t know anything.

Would you recommend someone who’s starting out to venture into the condom industry right now?

If you have the right resources and supplier, surely I will recommend you to go into it but you need to prepare yourself well. I think nowadays in Malaysia there is too little direct-to-consumer brand in the digital marketing world compared to other countries. So if you can find your unique selling proposition in any industry, you should do a direct-to-consumer brand through online platforms.

If you have just one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would that be?

Don’t think too much and just do it, test the market! Nowadays, if you want to start any business, you can start it very easily and at a relatively lower cost than last time. With the internet, you can start a community (by creating content) to build the audience first which doesn’t require any money or even product to do so. You can have a lot of followers, find out what is their needs and then craft the product. Don’t keep thinking that an idea is good but you never execute and test it out because what matters is the results after you tested an idea. However, the first idea usually won’t be as good but you will eventually adjust and find out more about the taste of the market to solve the market’s pain points.

To learn more about P’sang, visit their website

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