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What Women Want

Inspire magazine: The Business Journal of the Women's Institute of Management, June 08

To be financially independent

To pursue their own interests. To have time for themselves and their families. To have quality lives. To be themselves.

If all this sounds too unreal to be achievable, think again. Today, some women have managed to buck the saying “You can't have your cake and eat it too” and are doing all of the above. Their secret: technology. If the thought of spending lots of time at the computer doesn't faze you, then an Internet-based business may be right up your street.

“Considering the options, I thought it was an appropriate time to begin a Net-based business, especially because start-up costs were so low.”


Indeed, many women already own and run businesses, and a Web presence – or at least an e-mail address – has become a commercial prerequisite as high on the must-have list as a mobile number. However, some still shy away from anything to do with Information Technology and could therefore end up being on the losing end.

There are so many pros to having an IT-based business. Netpreneur Fione Tan started hers just before she turned 21, and has never looked back. Studying in the US provided more than an education; exposure to the Internet at university convinced her that IT was the way to go. “Internet use was just picking up in Malaysia back then,” she says. “Considering the options, I thought is was an appropriate time to begin a Net-based business, especially because start-up costs were so low.”

So she registered, a virtual company first, and then set up physical office in Kuala Lumpur a few months later in April 2000. Perhaps she was a little savvier than others. Her dot-com,, was positioned from the very start as an Internet marketing company that could help customers improve their online businesses.


Not only did it manage online marketing campaigns for companies, also staked its claim in e-Commerce, in the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) niches. It began dealing in a wide range of merchandise, selling diverse products and services via other websites, and developed its own brand of peripherals like a wireless rechargeable mouse, computer microphone headsets, and downloadable software.

Its services included search engine optimisation for online businesses, online advertising, website reviews and – more recently – online Internet marketing seminars. Having understood the power of IT, Tan decided to base her business on helping other people make a success of theirs. As she soon found out, you can sell virtually anything on the Net.

For those who still hesitate because of the fear of technology, Tan has this to say: “I was not a technical person. My Internet skills were limited to sending e-mails, chatting online and browsing websites.” There really isn't very much difference between running a bricks-and-mortar business and a clicks-and-mortar one. “You just need to get used to learning new terms,” she adds encouragingly, “and they're all learnable.”

What Women Want - Inspire - Fione Tan

"What Women Want - Inspire - Fione Tan"


One of the main advantages of trading on the Net is that your business runs while you sleep. Having a Web presence means that your physical presence is not required 24/7. You may choose to follow a nine-to-six routine, five days a week, so as to be available to local clients but being available at other people's convenience means widening your customer base and moving beyond domestic markets.

It is particularly important if you have an innovative product or service to sell which may do better commercially abroad because of its novelty. One good example of this is made-in-Malaysia coffee. Everyone knows Blue Mountain and Maxwell House but how many know “Kopi Cap Murid?” We may laugh to think of this extremely localised brand making an international impact, yet coffee connoisseurs search the Net for new experiences, and Third World products are always a good bet.

If your website is equipped with a payment mechanism, all the better. There are several well-established companies that offer this service, and their numbers are expanding in parallel with e-Commerce. Having a payment mechanism available on your website means you pay less to the bank because you're doing away with paperwork. Other functions can be set up as well, like automatic invoicing and database mining, which will all help to deploy your resources at optimum levels, and keep your business humming.


Perhaps one of the best things about doing business on the Internet is that the technology available now lets you multi task. For example, if you're selling cookies, your website can show special offers for festive seasons, or can be set to automatically circularize your customers about a new flavour you want to introduce. With one stroke, you're in control of sales, marketing, communications and administration, This offers a sense of empowerment that is very rare in brick-&-mortar circles.

The main thing is, with a Net-based business, you make the choices because you are in control. Of course, you can choose to have people do the work for you too, especially if you lack the resources or the confidence to run all aspects. Different functions – like payment or circularisation via e-newsletters – can be outsourced to specialists.

As Internet use and e-Commerce take off in a big way in Malaysia, an increasingly large number of companies are springing up that offer Web-related services (sometimes called halo services) which are designed to make e-business even simpler. If you still have doubts, this is what Tan has to say:

“With the Internet, we are able to run million-dollar businesses with a minimum number of employees. Lots of processes and tasks can be automated to run 24 hours a day, with the minimum of human intervention.” She adds that business has increased by leaps and bounds. “ Since the first year we started, business has increased by about 1500%.” That's 1500% in just seven years. Not many physical businesses can boast the same statistics.


For every silver lining, there is a cloud. Net businesses are no different. Tan does admit to sometimes working long hours for days on end. Plus, having offices in three countries means an added workload. Does this affect relationships with friends and family? “My family members have been very supportive of my Internet business,” she says. “I still need to manage my three business teams but as long as I am online, I can do my work from anywhere.”

At the end of the day, what you make of your business, virtual or physical, is up to you. But low start-up costs, 24/7 operation, incredible outreach and business-enabling elements, are making Internet businesses the choice of more and more women everyday. In doing so, it is opening up a different world to them, changing the way they do business and by extension, how they manage their lives.

About, ranked Asia's top Internet marketing company with offices in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, and ranked No.1 Internet marketing company Asia by Google, specializes in helping SMIs to expand their business globally and get top rankings in international and China search engines, and offers services including guaranteed top rankings in international and China search engines, email marketing in the legal way, and Internet marketing training and coaching. Clients include both multinational companies and SMIs in the region. For more details, visit

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