I guess this is my Christmas present this year!
Got an email from NST Life & Times editor few weeks ago. Asked if I am available for an interview. Yes, I told him.
Few days later, the editor wrote that one of his staff will be coming over to JB to do the interview. We arranged time on weekends at 11am for the interview. Interviewed by NST, Mr. Izwan Ismail.
This is the cover page of NST of 17 Dec 2012 (Monday).
On the 2nd page, At a Glance, can see the “glance” of my interview mentioned. Turned to Life & Times page 10-11.
This is the cover page of Life & Times. Yes, featured on the front page.
Double spread page at the center page of Life & Times.
Available online at NST website too:
Dr Koh Kho King makes shopping for photography equipment so simple, writes Izwan Ismail
SEVERAL activities are taking place in a warehouse in Skudai, Johor Baru, including inventory checking and packing items for shipment.
Supervising the activities with watchful eyes is Dr Koh Kho King who operates one of the biggest online malls for photography equipment called ShaShinKi (www.shashinki.com).
He started the company in 2005 while pursuing his Ph.D in Japan. The warehouse is one of two that stocks more than 8,000 photography-related products — from cameras to peripherals such as filters, dry cabinets, batteries, tripods and cleaning tools.
The business is an unlikely venture for Sarawak-born Koh who was pursuing his doctorate in marine engineering in Hiroshima. But ultimately, his love and passion for photography charted his career path.
Koh, 35, bought his first SLR camera, a Nikon F60 and two lenses for RM2,000 in 1999. It officially marked his venture into photography.
“I’d always wanted to own an SLR camera but never had the opportunity,” says Koh whose businessman father is also a camera enthusiast.
“Although my father had a few good cameras, I hardly got to use them as they were expensive gadgets.”
After his first degree in Marine Engineering from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Koh did his Master’s degree in the same field and then worked as a research officer at UTM.
Meanwhile, Koh’s interest and passion for photography grew. He tried many genres of photography, from macro to landscape to portraits, and travelled to Cambodia to take landscape pictures as well as get close to living things through his macro work.
“It was just amazing to see life from different perspectives through photography,” says the father of two.
He printed and framed some of the photographs he took, hanging them on the walls of his house.
His interest also led him to set up a platform for enthusiasts to meet, discuss, share photos and organise photography outings.
“Although digital photography was still in its infancy in early 2000, it already had many enthusiasts but they did not have a proper platform to meet and exchange views. Most of the time, we communicated through emails and forums,” says Koh.
In 2001, he and a friend from the US set up PhotoMalaysia (www.photomalaysia.com), the country’s first and largest photography community to date.
Through his involvement in PhotoMalaysia, Koh realised that local photographers had difficulty purchasing photography equipment and accessories.
It was in Japan that he discovered the popularity of online shopping, which was still quite alien to Malaysians in 2005.
“Online shopping was a trend in Japan at that time. Almost anything could be bought via the Internet,” says Koh who then decided to set up an online mall selling photography equipment. Prior to that, he and his wife, Lydia Wong, used to sell photography equipment via email and phone sales.
“The early business model was not systematic and we wanted something that was both systematic and easily accessible. So ShaShinKi was born,” he says.
In Japanese, shashin means photograph while ki means machine. ShaShinKi also means camera in Japanese.
“Since the business was started in Japan, it seemed a good idea to have a Japanese name,” says Koh.
While in Japan, he was assisted by his wife who is now the general manager of ShaShinKi. His sister in-law, who lives in Sitiawan, Perak, helped with the Malaysian operations.
“In the beginning I used my house to store the products but as the business grew, I had to find a warehouse,” he says.
Starting an online shop in 2005, when Internet shopping was still new here, was a big challenge.
“Many people were still sceptical about buying online and I had to convince them that it was safe and reliable,” says Koh, adding that gaining customers’ trust is more important than profit.
“I convinced prospective customers by asking them to check with those who had bought from us online as well as forums like PhotoMalaysia,” he says.
“On top of that, I also introduced Paypal so that people will have assurance of the products they bought,” he adds. To ensure products reach customers within 24 hours, Koh uses Pos Laju. Customers can make payment via Maybank, CIMB, Public Bank or Giro interbank transfer.
Another challenge was to make the ShaShinKi portal attractive and easy for customers. He designed the site himself by learning some coding via the Internet. Koh still does it himself as it gives him the freedom to design it according to his wishes.
“One of the challenges in maintaining a website like this is to continue to make changes and to upgrade to the latest technology. Today, I have to make sure that ShaShinKi is also compatible with mobile devices such as iPad, Android tablets and smartphones as more people are accessing the Internet via these devices,” he says.
To make the website more user-friendly, Koh has created a question and answer session where he answers most of the questions regarding products and photography.
Koh receives lots of request to open a physical store, so he is planning to open a showroom for his products to attract beginners in photography to visit ShaShinKi.
He feels there is a misconception that online business is easy and can make lots of profit.
“It’s not something that you do today and get the profit tomorrow. How do you convince people to pay thousands of ringgit without seeing the products they buy?” he asks.
In order to be a successful online entrepreneur, Koh says one must have a deep passion for the products that he or she wants to sell.
“As for me, I only recommend products that I’m comfortable with,” he says. “Also, don’t treat your competitors as your enemy because you are your own competitor and only you can improve your business,” he says.