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Way back in 2007, Tiny Tapir was barely a seedling idea in my mind. Primarily we were selling only menstrual cups and cloth pads over at http://www.femchoices.com .
Surfing online one day I came across Envirosax bags and i thought “Hey cool! An Australian brand (I studied for a long time in Australia so I love coming across Australian products), it promotes the use of reusable bags, looks convenient and the designs are quite nice. Maybe I should bring those to Malaysia”.
So I purchased a few retail from the Australian shop and checked them out for a while. I thought they were great! So I contacted Envirosax to ask whether I could start selling them in Malaysia.
I was told that the distributor for the region was in Singapore – and they gave me the contact. So although I knew that the margin would be much lower rather than getting them directly from the manufacturer, I went along with them. I knew that opening a new distribution line takes a lot of work for a new company (to have to ship to another location), so I thought to test out the market with a smaller order from Singapore.
Envirosax were the only reusable bags we stocked for quite a long while before we introduced Rooshoppers, then string bags, then RuMes.
At the beginning there was quite a bit of resistence – Malaysians were not that keen on paying that much to replace a free disposable plastic bag – or even those $2 flimsy green bags that are touted as “eco-friendly” at supermarket check out counters.
So we set all out to promote. I gave away a ton of Envirosax – both to friends and family, to press and public relations people, to bloggers to review. We featured Envirosax proudly at the Star Green Fest 2008.
We were not able to put these bags in supermarket or even regular retail shops because we just weren’t given enough margin to work with. Regular retail shops need a high enough margin on their products to survive – and to be honest, that margin was more than I was making selling the bags retail at a price close to the Envirosax msrp set by the Singapore distributor.
Eventually, our volume increased enough for the Singapore agent to ask us to be the Malaysian distributor for Envirosax which we agreed to take up. There was a small corresponding increase in margin, which is why we were able to distribute the Envirosax to some online shops and a few retail shops who did not have such high margin requirements.
All this time I made the fatal mistake of believing that my verbal and email agreement for distributorship with the Singapore agent was sufficient – after all, we had a good working relationship! They wouldn’t screw me over right?
Then, after all this time of supporting and pushing the Envirosax (even over our other reusable bag choices – as we are a small company we still had a lot of capital wrapped up in the Envirosax in order to keep enough stock on hand for sales and our shop purchasers – this is capital that could not be used to support other brands), suddenly, we got a phone call out of the blue this March 2009.
It was a new Malaysian distributor who rudely told us to take down all reference that Tiny Tapir was the Primary Distributor of Envirosax in Malaysia as they had just been appointed as the exclusive distributor for Malaysia.
Imagine my shock!
It seems fitting that as their partner, Mark David-Tooze from Envirosax chose to go with a Malaysian company that is the epitome of rudeness. Even if they did not know about us, which I find hard to believe, they could at least have said “Hi, we know you’ve been supporting the Envirosax for a long time and done a lot of PR and awareness work for Envirosax in Malaysia, which we appreciate. Envirosax has just appointed us as the distributor for Malaysia – we would really like to work with you to grow Envirosax here – we can offer you a better margin than you got from Singapore. Are you willing to work with us please?”.
Instead of saying something along those lines, he basically accused us of fraudulently representing ourselves as a distributor and told us to immediately remove any reference to such on our website.
And what kind of company is this that Mark choose to market his products here? Was it another company that is genuinely concerned about environmental issues? Like JustLife?
He chose a company that distributes cheap plastic toys and homeware appliances, a company that sells cheap (and seriously overpackaged) crockery, which is hardly the epitome of following what Mark purports that Envirosax represents. He also chose a company that distributes Sigg in Malaysia.
Sigg which is made of aluminium (does anyone else find it funny that Aluminium bottles are supposed to be the alternative to plastic, when I remember as a child that using aluminium in eating utensils was a huge no no due to the risk of Alzheimers?) – with the inner lined in plastic. So in effect, you might as well be drinking out of a plastic bottle…
This is a company that is just 1 of the many examples of “Greenwashing” – cash in on pretending to be ‘Green’ without really understanding what it means or what the issues are.
Yes, we at Tiny Tapir also stock some products that are not the ‘greenest’ – but we are evolving as a small company, seeing what new technologies and innovations bring us on a daily basis, constantly changing our product mix to take our findings into account, striving to live a life that’s more sustainable. I’m sure a lot of our customers would agree, we don’t put the dollar first at Tiny Tapir – we truly want to make a real impact on the way Malaysians live.
Which is why we supported Envirosax in the first place – although it wasn’t fiscally a fantastic product to rake in the $$$.
Why would Mark suddenly decide that the Malaysian market is big enough to warrant a new distributor – with no warning to the existing vendors who grew the Envirosax name in Malaysia?
Merely because of an offhand comment written by a family member on a blog (which had been quickly removed when i was alerted of it), and because Tiny Tapir also sells RuMes.
But instead of being a normal human being and emailing me about these issues, he chooses to quietly and pettily just appoint another party (any party! as long as it wasn’t Tiny Tapir) as the distributor here in Malaysia.
Because of all the above, we at Tiny Tapir are no longer selling Envirosax. I am still holding quite a lot of stock (overpriced stock as the new distributor set a retail price of RM5 less than our Singapore distributor set it at), and deciding what to do with it. We’ve already contacted our retailers about not being able to supply them with Envirosax anymore. Thankfully, those who have used both the RuMe and the Envirosax, seem to prefer the RuMe anyway (reports of the Envirosax having seams unravelling after a few months of use).
In a backhanded way, I suppose Mark has done me a favor as I can focus on promoting better products.
So, onward and upward! There will be quite a few exciting things going on with Tiny Tapir (well, exciting to us, not sure if others will find it so exciting)… To those of us who have supported us in 2008 and continue to support us, I hope you are enjoying watching Tiny Tapir grow as much as those of us on the ‘inside’ are.