TITO COSTA, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER
As Chief Marketing Officer of ZALORA, Tito Costa oversees the Marketing department of ZALORA Group. Ask anyone in the office and they will remember Tito by his signature, all-blue style. As with some of the most successful and significant individuals in history like Steve Jobs, President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg — famously known for their one trademark outfit that they wear everyday — it’s easy to understand the Italian-born gentleman’s pared down sartorial choices. They do it for the same reason — to avoid decision fatigue, as psychologists call it. As the great American author Henry David Thoreau once said, ”Our life is frittered away by detail.…Simply, simplify”. We chat with Tito about his minimal wardrobe as well as the future of fashion e-commerce
Hi Tito! Through the grapevine we hear that you are the first Twitter user in Singapore. Is this true? Can you tell us more about your fascination with connectivity and technology?
It is true! I signed up with my “coveted” short @tito handle the week it launched when it was still missing vowels in its name and had a funny glowy logo in authentic web 2.0, 2005 style. I am one of those geeks who programmed Amiga 500 videogames as a teenager and convinced high school deans to get an internet connection in the nineties, so my passion for technology predates the birthday of many of our colleagues at ZALORA…
What was your vision for ZALORA and what inspired you to start it?
In 2012 we noticed how a vast region of the world with over 600 million consumers was underserved not only by online e-commerce players, but also by traditional offline retail infrastructure. We saw an opportunity to build a fashion destination for millions of people in South-east Asia by bringing online the most compelling selection of local and international high-street brands.
What did you want to do when you were young?
After short periods of dreaming about becoming a truck driver and shortly after a musician, I in fact wanted to be part of an entrepreneurial internet company.
What’s the best advice you would give to an aspiring e-commerce entrepreneur?
In a world of abundance of supply and overwhelming choice, focusing daily on what makes you different is the only way to cut through the noise, acquire a loyal customer base and build a valuable business.
Name one style icon and one favourite designer.
My style icon is Gianluigi Buffon, goalkeeper of the Italian national team and my favourite designer is Ermenegildo Zegna.
What do you think is the future of fashion e-commerce?
In the fashion retail space, over the next 10 years I would expect to see two trends of convergence play out. First, a convergence of online and offline retail towards a new digital-first, mobile-first retail experience that combines the best of multiple channels seamlessly. Second, the fashion industry will find more new ways to intertwine entertainment with shopping, with content and social playing an even larger role in the discovery and curation of products.
I think very few people in the office know the real Tito outside of the light blue shirt. Do you have any secret talents… for example, samba dancing or do you play an instrument perhaps?
Yes! I played piano and guitar in a few bands during my college years, and have very fond memories of our live performances. I dream of opening a music production studio one day… treet brands.
Are there any exciting plans for ZALORA in 2016 that you can reveal?
I’m excited to share that we will be launching a men’s line for our in-house ZALORA muslimwear label ZALIA, and stay tuned for new brands coming onboard in the following months that are exclusively available to ZALORA in Asia. ZALORA will continue to curate the best of high street fashion for our shoppers.
KARTHIK SUBRAMANIAN, CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER
As Chief Technology Officer at ZALORA, Karthik Subramanian oversees, manages and drives the technology that supports ZALORA.COM. The well-loved and respected leader works with an impressively huge team of makers and builders to manage and execute technical roadmaps, constantly ensuring that ZALORA continues to innovate as Asia’s number one online fashion destination. We find how he thinks technology and fashion intersect, and how working at ZALORA has influenced his wardrobe.
Hi Karthik! Tell us about your everyday style.
I try to look business semi-casual, and finish off with a nice watch.
What’s your favourite brand on ZALORA?
My favourite brand on ZALORA would be ZALORA itself. The private label is something that I really quite enjoy wearing because there are always interesting new styles arriving — styles that i wouldn’t normally have had in my wardrobe. I don’t consider myself stylish but after 4 years in ZALORA, i think the environment here inspired me to pick up a lot of fashion tips. The ZALORA brand has done a fantastic job and the price point is surprisingly affordable.
As the Chief Technology Officer of ZALORA, we’re all interested to get the first dibs from you on about any significant projects or improvements that you and your team be working on this year…
Firstly we will be revamping our app in terms of look and feel as well as navigation. We’re helping the marketing team define campaigns better and adding features like customisations and recommendations. We’re also moving into cloud-based setup which will help us keep costs manageable.
Tell us what you love most about your job.
Everyday is a new challenge — even in my 5th year here. There is so much to do, with limited resources and even less time. I love seeing our order volumes grow, I celebrate every milestone the app hits (% of orders, # of downloads). Not a week passes without me thinking back to how Zalora ID had 12 orders for the whole day in my first day on the job (6 of those were test orders). This is an especially fun statistic to motivate the teams at the end of a record sales day. Especially on 12.12 :). I enjoy shaping the direction of the company with my team and with the technology that we build for the business.
Describe your first memory of technology and your first realisation that it would be a huge part of your career.
My first memory of technology is taking apart my first radio controlled car. I remember tuning into FM/AM stations on a Panasonic transistor radio and wondering how the radio actually makes the sound come to life. I enjoyed taking things apart (mostly) and putting them back together (if I hadn’t already smashed the item in question to pieces) and I suppose that just fed a “how does this work” curiosity in everything that I did. I gravitated towards engineering/technology through school, University and then my career. Even in a general management job in a manufacturing company (before Zalora), I loved getting my head into massive injection-moulding machines and tuning them/understanding how to improve their output.
How do you think technology will impact fashion in the near future?
In the near future, there are a few areas of applications — for example, virtual fitting rooms. You could walk into a retail outlet and a dress is projected on you and you could see how a dress fits on you, and or even see yourself walking real-time in a variety of dresses. You can personalise that based on if you’ve bought with ZALORA or other retailers, and use your purchases or consider them later on through recommendations. That’s an example of personalized selling and Netflix is the holy grail of personalized video content and it’s the same way as fashion.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever given?
Be open and authentic always. Be even more transparent when the fault lies with you or your team.
Any hilarious or just plain weird experiences from the office to share?
There is an air-conditioner that comes to life at 6pm every day without fail … above where I sit. Each time you switch it off, it comes back on 10 minutes later … is there a timer switch somewhere that brings it back to life? Is someone in my team playing a prank on us?
TAN LANG JIAN, SENIOR ONSITE ANALYTICS MANAGER
Tan Liang Jian (or LJ as he’s fondly known in the office) manages a committed team that digs deep into data to find out what works on ZALORA.COM for our customers. As a senior onsite analytics manager, he’s often seen staring into a computer screen filled with numbers and trying to analyse customer behaviour. While not at his desk, you will find him at our office foosball table having an intense game. The self-proclaimed two-time champion of the office foosball league is also well-loved among his team, and unabashedly gushed about them when we spoke to him about life at ZALORA.
Hi LJ! In a nutshell, what’s your role at ZALORA like?
I think about how we can provide the best customer experience on our sites and apps. Whether you’re looking for your favourite brands or searching for a great deal, we try to show you exactly want you want.
Is there a wardrobe staple you can’t live without?
Jeans! (smiles) They can be dressed up or down. On weekdays i would grab a smart, tailored shirt to go with my denims and a classic, analogue watch.
What brands you do overindulge in on ZALORA.COM?
Topman for sure.
The most sentimental piece in your wardrobe?
A maroon shirt from Benjamin Barker that my girlfriend bought for me.
Awww. We hear you’re getting married! Congrats LJ and sorry to all your newfound admirers who are reading this now. What’s your idea of a romantic date?
To me the activities don’t really matter too much, it’s more about spending quality time together and enjoying each other’s company. Maybe something simple like cooking a nice meal together followed by a stroll in the park.
Okay, back to serious stuff. What led you to your career in data analytics?
I’ve always liked business, technology & working with numbers so when an opportunity to join ZALORA opened up a few years back it felt like a great fit, and I haven’t looked back since.
What’s the future of fashion e-commerce?
It’s definitely going to take off in the region, especially for us at ZALORA where we provide free returns. It gives shoppers more confidence to purchase and mindsets are slowly changing… it’s so much more convenient to find what you want online these days without travelling to brick and mortar stores.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would you go?
There’s no place like home… but if it’s truly anywhere, maybe an underwater colony, something like what you might see in a sci-fi movie.
The best professional advice you’ve been given?
Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.
What’s the best part of working at ZALORA?
It’s gotta be my team — they’re really nice and fun people so I enjoy working with them (grins). We’ve had so many late nights rushing for deadlines together and i’m thankful for their hard work. I can’t imagine life at ZALORA without them!
And your most used emoji when skyping with them?
At the rate you were gushing about them, we were kind of expecting ❤ ❤ ❤.
MARIO VILLANI, SENIOR OPERATIONS MANAGER
Ever wondered how your various purchases all come together into one package and get delivered to your doorstep in less than 3 days? Well, Mario Villani is your man. As a Senior Operations Manager, Mario is in charge of everything that enters and exits the ZALORA warehouse. Being on his feet all day, his style is understandably simple, however on weekends and evenings, Mario sharpens up his look up with a few key accessories. We speak to him about Sean Connery and wanting to become a farmer…
Hi Mario! Please introduce yourself.
I am currently the Senior Operations Manager for Singapore, and it means I manage logistics and warehouse. Basically I am in charge of everything that enters and exits our warehouse, making sure that our customers receive the best products in the lowest amount of time.
That sounds like a huge responsibility. What did you want to do when you were younger?
You will not believe it but at 3 I wanted to be a farmer. I was so in love with the idea of living in the nature and being able to provide to my own food.
From that I think you sound like a summer person. Does that childhood aspiration also influence your clothing choices?
After 3 years in Asia, I can only imagine summer as a season. But sometimes it would be lovely to wear cool coats and scarves.
What character traits will help you succeed at ZALORA?
Flexibility as we change constantly and we need to adapt fast to these changes.
Favourite high street brand on ZALORA?
Daniel Wellington: perfect accessory for every situation.
What is your go-to outfit if all else fails?
Undoubtedly it would have to be classics — white shirt and jeans never go wrong!
The man-bag — an everyday necessity or arm burden?
I love to carry messenger bags as i can have all my books and notes at my fingertips.
And what are you reading right now?
A fun and witty book called “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”.
Great literary taste. If you could raid one person’s wardrobe whose would you raid?
Sean Connery — sleek, smart, classic.
Describe your look today.
A basic white t-shirt, black straight-cut jeans and navy blue sneakers. Though i love dressing up, I have to be comfortable working in the warehouse on weekdays (laughs)!
It’s ZALORA’s birthday month and we want you to join in the celebratory fun — just spend a minimum of RM100 on your new outfit and STAND A CHANCE TO WIN A SPA PACKAGE WORTH RM2000 — everyone needs a party outfit after all!