Looking to wine down after a long day? Not sure what to pair your wine with?
Pour Decisions is a wine subscription and delivery service in Kuala Lumpur. Everything started from Hwei-Kim Chin and her partner’s adventurous nature to exploring and trying new things. As individuals who enjoy wine, they were looking for wines that extended out from the shelves of supermarkets. With the idea to allow people access to discover wines without burning a hole in their pockets, they rolled out Pour Decisions.
A new month, a new theme and new wines to try!
Could you start with a quick introduction? Share with us about your entrepreneurship journey.
Hi! My name is Hwei-Kim CHIN. I am the co-founder of Pour Decisions. I do have a full-time job as the Head of Business Development for a company based in Yangon, Myanmar and I am currently working remotely from Kuala Lumpur.
I would say that my partner, Keon Wong, and I started Pour Decisions mostly out of necessity. After realizing that there was a void in the market for fairly priced, high-quality wines, conveniently delivered to our doorstep.
We flew back to Kuala Lumpur on March 17th, 2020 – a day before MCO1.0 was imposed nationwide – optimistic that it would all blow over in a month and we could resume our lives back in Yangon. During this time, we would walk to the few grocery stores within our neighbourhood to stock up on essentials, including wines, and very soon realized that although all the stores had aisles and aisles of wines, they were all the same identical wine brands. There’s nothing to say that these varieties aren’t good – they are popular for a reason – but for us, part of the joy of drinking wine is about exploring and trying new things.
There is a separate experience and gratification in tasting new varieties from smaller, often independent winemakers and vineyards.
That was when we came up with the idea of Pour Decisions. We simply wanted to create a platform for people to better discover wines at a reasonable price, without the stress of stalking supermarket aisles and especially without breaking the bank!
We conducted market research and found that many of our peers are also facing the same predicament. People are eager to move past entry-level wines into more boutique alternatives, but many do not know where to begin or feel intimidated when they go into a wine store and a salesperson comes up to them immediately. They just clam up.
After lots of groundwork (and many bottles later – it’s part of the job!), we finally rolled out our first box in November 2020. Essentially, we are providing a service that encompasses three major goals; curation, value, and convenience. All with the click of a mouse (or a tap of the finger if you’re on your phone!).
What is Pour Decisions all about?
Pour Decisions is a monthly wine club that specializes in taking you on wine tasting tours around the world without ever having to leave the comfort of your home. We offer a fun, affordable way to discover hidden gems from boutique vineyards all over the world – we are the Pandora’s Box of wines!
For MYR270, each box comes with three bottles of wine: one white, one red, and a third fun bottle which can be anything from a Prosecco, rosé, or another rare white or red bottle. By scanning the QR code in the box, you can access exclusive information on each bottle including the history behind the winemakers, plus tasting notes, food pairings, and easy recipes.
It is a fun and unpretentious way to explore and try new wines, helping you to gradually develop your palate, and finally discovering wines that you will love.
We spent a good part of MCO1.0 visiting supermarkets to pick up wines, where we kept seeing the same brands reappearing. What we found from our market research was that many people, especially the Gen-Ys and the Gen-Zs, place a high value on quality, convenience, and overall experience. They are also very willing to try out fresh, new concepts.
These were the basis of what we worked on to launch Pour Decisions. We also thought that in the worst-case scenario, we would just be stuck with a bunch of wines that we really like and were able to negotiate a really good price for. It’s a big win whichever way you put it!
Please share with us the memorable challenges you have faced so far ( source/ communicate with suppliers, market your products etc), and how do you overcome them?
Thankfully, we have not encountered any significant challenges that stand out. Knock on wood! The challenges we have faced so far are not unique to us, but rather a reflection of the disruption that is happening globally and on a macro level; supply chain delays and uncertainties, increased transaction costs, and prolonged clearance at the ports. We learned very quickly that planning ahead is incredibly important, and to always have a Plan B and Plan C in place in case things don’t work out quite as expected.
In a way, we are lucky that we are new to this as it means that we are able to adapt and develop our business along the way and in parallel to the current global environment.
What does your typical workday look like? How do you keep yourself productive?
Myanmar is in a different timezone, 1.5 hours behind KL to be exact, so we get some extra hours in the morning each day to work on Pour Decisions before putting on our corporate hats. A typical morning for me includes waking up, setting intentions for the day, going through my to-do list, then responding to emails, texts, and DMs we have received from the night before, before logging in to my full-time job. Throughout the day, I will be alternating between Zoom calls, posting on Instagram, working on power generation projects, brainstorming for next month’s theme, fine-tuning joint venture agreements, responding to texts and DMs … it goes on. Keon’s schedule is pretty similar in terms of managing both commitments, so we absolutely make an A-team!
Running your own business while holding down a full-time job can get overwhelming at times. Bear in mind, we were completely new to the wine industry and e-commerce, so it was a very steep learning curve for us. I think our backgrounds in corporate helped us to adapt very quickly, and from then on we were able to become more and more efficient at juggling both our full-time jobs and Pour Decisions.
We are both very mindful of avoiding burnout. We take little breaks in between, schedule workout sessions throughout the week, and always take the time to “wine down” at the end of the day!
What is/are the marketing strategies you are using right now? What do you look for in an online business? What were your digitalisation challenges before moving online?
We have always been an online business and our business model is built around servicing customers in delivering one of life’s simple pleasures – a great glass of wine, direct to their doorstep. Our customers also enjoy the “surprise element” that comes with our box as we do not disclose what wines are in the box prior to delivery day. A big part of our growth can be attributed to social media, specifically Instagram, where we actively engage with and encourage conversations with our followers, who are also mostly made up of our customers.
As with any business, it is important for us to keep evolving to stay relevant and to align with what our customers want.
We don’t only sell wines – we often post interesting wine tips and hacks on our Instagram as a means of educating our followers. Plus, with the QR code which is included in our box, our subscribers can geek out a little on the many facets of the wine world. We steer away from using complicated wine jargon when describing the wines and adopt a story-telling perspective instead.
Our customers appreciate these little touches that differentiate us from other players in the market – and this has certainly helped in our expansion when they recommend our services to their friends and family.
Compared to promoting your product and services on Instagram, how do you think online platforms/ marketplaces can help your business?
I think there is definitely value in having a presence on other online platforms and marketplaces. Marketing on Instagram means that we are reaching very specific demographics – the Gen-Ys and the Gen-Zs. While we are currently not on any other online platforms or marketplaces, it will be interesting to see if this will widen our customer base to include people from other demographics as well.
Will you be listing your products for browsing or sale on more platforms? E.g. FB marketplace, Lazada, Shopee…
Not at this time. 🙂
What did you learn from this pandemic? Does it affect your business?
Since we only started during the MCO, we are not able to comment or compare the business during pre-pandemic times. Having said that, the MCO undoubtedly facilitated our growth. In the nine months since we started, about 80% of our subscribers are returning customers and we are seeing a steady increase in new customers every month.
Being an online business also means that we are able to reach a wider customer base outside of Kuala Lumpur. When we first started in November 2020, we were only catering to our friends and family, all of whom are based in the Klang Valley. Since then, our brand and business model have gathered momentum through word of mouth, social media, as well as exposure via online media, and we now deliver to all of West Malaysia. We also have many customers who have been separated from their loved ones because of the pandemic or are currently based overseas, and are ordering from us as gifts to their friends and family!
It is truly heartwarming and we are so happy to be a part of our customers’ memorable experiences.
What are the materials/ support you feel traditional businessmen need in order to help them to go online? Knowledge and education? Or Money?
I think it definitely needs to be a holistic approach and not a one-size-fits-all strategy. In Malaysia, e-commerce was already picking up pace pre-pandemic, and the pandemic inevitably accelerated the entire process.
Many small businesses, especially the mom and pops, lack the proper tools even if they have an online presence. It is not just about creating an Instagram or Facebook account or setting up a website. It is also about how to properly apply these tools in order to grow the business: identifying your target market, understanding their wants and needs, creating a channel for open and direct feedback, having reliable back-end support, making sure that there’s a secure payment system in place, and continuously adapting to improve your product and/or services.
While some of these cost money that many small businesses may not be able to spare, a lot of it also comes down to proper knowledge and awareness.
What has been the most exciting part of the journey so far?
Discovering new delicious wines from independent winemakers!
There are so many dimensions in the world of wine, above from just Cabernets or Pinots. Other than the different wine-producing regions, there are also the different climates, terroirs, agricultural practices, and the individual winemakers – all of which we use to come up with our monthly themes. From buttery, delightful Viogniers, to elegant sparkling wines that taste like French Champagne, to rich, silky Bonardas, there is something to suit everyone’s taste.
We always try to pick rare and unique grapes when it comes to choosing our bottles and have also included many organic and biodynamic wines in our selections.
So far, we’ve had wines from Romania, Spain, Portugal, Austria and South America amongst other countries in our box. Every bottle has a story, a place of origin, and at least a handful of people who worked hard to get it from the vineyard to us. You’ll get a glimpse of this from the write-up included with your box.
We aim to make each drinking experience a little bit more relatable and enjoyable this way.
What are your plans for your business? How do you plan to grow it?
We are strong believers in meaningful collaborations with other local businesses and already have a few successful projects under our belts, plus a few more in the pipeline leading to the months ahead. The experience, exposure, and connections we have made these past few months have opened up so many possibilities for us.
We would love to be able to work directly with independent and/or cult winemakers to introduce a whole new wine palate to our customers. There is so much to explore in the wine world!
In the long run, we would be interested in looking into combining wine and technology – utilizing algorithms and data where we can give our customers personalized wine recommendations based on their unique preferences, ensuring that every bottle we send them is a new favourite. This idea of merging wine and data is not new and is already gaining traction across the US and Europe.
At the end of the day, we believe that good wine should be more accessible – simple to get and easier to enjoy. Wine should be fun. It should be social and enjoyable, and not make you feel intimidated. There are no wrong answers and no stupid questions here.
The most important thing is that you know what you like!
Juggling a business with a full-time job is definitely not easy. But wine makes everything better! Pour Decisions is definitely a brand to look into if you are interested to dive into the art of drinking wine and learning more.
Thank you to Pour Decision for sharing this interesting and inspiring story with Exabytes. We wish Pour Decisions all the best in growing their business and spreading the appreciation for wine.