From electronics to Eames chairs
Less than a year after setting up the consumer electronics business, Kogan set up online furniture store Milan Direct with business partner Dean Ramler. He’d come back from travelling in Europe and seen the emerging trend for reproduction retro furniture like Eames lounge chairs. Milan Direct now has a UK operation too and debuts in the BRW Fast Starters list this year. It’s another lean business with no staff in the UK. Everything’s outsourced to third party warehousing and logistics companies and when you ring the UK number your call will be answered by someone in Melbourne. It’s working though and Kogan Technologies is now looking to expand into the UK too, as well as the USA.
If you can do it with TVs and chairs, surely you can apply the same successful business model to selling anything online? White goods are next on the agenda, driven by demand from the consumer electronics customers. And after that? “Maybe jet skis and boats, from China too. We have some jet skis we’re waiting to try out,” says Kogan. “It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it! Australia has the highest use per capita of jet skis so it seems like a good plan. We’re in the final stages of some really exciting stuff.”
The Google factor
Behind the scenes too, almost everything is done using the multitude of free tools offered by Google. In an effort to maintain consistent internal business systems, everything is recorded on company wikis within Google Docs, everyone uses Gmail, consumer shopping trends are researched using Google Insights and between Kogan and Milan Direct, around $1,000 a day is spent on Google AdWords campaigns. Kogan and Google have become inextricably linked and everyone’s a winner.
Not surprisingly, with such a non-conventional founder, Kogan Technologies is not your average workplace and the company culture is important to Kogan. “All our staff are free to make suggestions. All our processes are optimised by the people who work closest to them, so the person dealing with after-sales service is the person telling us how those processes can work better. After all, they know the issues customers are facing best.
“Because we’re still relatively small and flexible, we can decide to put a product on sale within a week or two of having the idea. As the company grows, we’re realising more and more how different we are to everyone else. Recruitment’s a good example. We get sent some amazing resumes but the people only last three days with us. They need to really get the whole online space and have a ‘go, go, go’ attitude like the rest of us.”
[Next: Gen Y ‘get’ online]