Baptiste is the personable lead of Product Operation at Lazada SEA, ex CMO of Lazada Thailand, and a Rocket Internet prodigy.
Baptiste’s career started with a phone call from a friend at Rocket Internet. Within a week, he sold his car in France, hopped on a plane and emerged in sunny Singapore. After a month at a ‘lousy motel’ and working to 3am everyday, the team finally switched live Lazada website.
Setting out to become the ‘Amazon of Southeast Asia’, Lazada started with next to no stock but pretended to have everything. Not dissimilar to Alibaba, they sent out “hunters” or interns on motorbikes, armed with multiple credit cards. In 2013, Baptiste moved to Bangkok and hired a regional marketing team, which operated across six countries.
Coming from outside southeast Asia was initially a massive cultural and marketing challenge, given the highly localised markets, ended up being an advantage. Without any pre-existing assumptions or biases, this allowed Baptiste to make business decisions without judgment and rely on data instead.
“I moved to Bangkok 5 years ago, and since then so much has changed. Commuters who used to read newspapers are now all on their mobile phones. Back then, no one had a clue what Lazada was, and now, half of the Thais have installed the app.”
- Android or iOS?
- Bitcoin or Ethereum?
Bitcoin. I made the mistake of buying bitcoin while the price was very high. I was on a beach in Galle, Sri Lanka, and decided on a whim to invest in bitcoin. My rationale was, I’ve always been very interested in cryptocurrency, but if you don’t buy some, you won’t follow it diligently.
- Gmail or Outlook?
- Best gift you’ve ever received?
A Fiat Uno from my dad.
- Best gift you’ve ever given?
When I first moved to Singapore, I bought a MacBook Air for my mum. It was a way for me to thank her for everything she’s done for me, and for us to keep in touch. I picked a Macbook cause it’s easy-to-use and she still has it to this day!
- What is the one book you’ve read over and over again?
“Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher. Basic but very helpful to help understanding people and maximizing outcomes.
- What is the one book you would recommend all fresh graduates to read?
The Sixth Wave, or Capitalism by Piketty, classic economic book. There are plenty of entrepreneur books out there that focus on what has happened in the last 20 years, but I prefer to look at longer timeframes; economics is like fashion. It keeps on repeating itself.
- What is the best thing that happened this year?
I moved into a new flat that I really like with my girlfriend. It’s a first for me, and this flat is someplace I can really call home.
- Most memorable career moment so far?
Probably when I had to present to the big boss of Tesco, who later invested USD250m in us. I was given one-hour notice to prepare, which actually worked to my advantage because I didn’t end up stressing about it.
- What’s your favourite country to visit?
- Last country you visited?
- What country would you like to visit?
- What is something you always travel with?
Noise cancelling earphones, Kindle and a universal adaptor.
- What’s the world’s most pressing issue today?
Economic inequality. The fact is, we don’t give a shit about people who are suffering from poverty, and there is very little control on monopolies.
- What’s your go-to news source?
Quartz and an optimized Google feed.
- What’s your go-to social media channel?
- What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Kiss my girlfriend good morning.
- What’s the last thing you do before leaving the office?
- What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for Lazada?
Be ambitious, and really understand our sellers and customers. When I interview candidates, I ask them why they want to work for Lazada, 9 out of 10 times they’ll tell me it’s because they think the internet is important, and e-commerce is rapidly growing. This isn’t a differentiating factor to me and such a boring answer; you want a candidate who wants to join to help the company grow, not because of it.
For those who want to join Lazada, I tell them this is not a 9 to 6 place. You’ll need to work hard and accept being challenged. You’ll also need to move fast, because everyone works at the same velocity. In the past 5 years, Lazada has become one of the top 10 websites. This is because of our amazing team, and how hard we worked. It’s not for everyone, but with the organization dynamics, it’s a place where you receive 5X what you give.
- If you were not CMO at Lazada what would you be doing?
There’s a part of me that wants to be a lecturer. I actually recently taught some e-commerce classes at Chulalongkorn, for International Business Masters students. I loved being able to exchange ideas with students, however I was told I was a bit too harsh grading the papers.
- Who is your role model?
I don’t have one in particular. Instead, I look at different people and see what I like about them. For example the people I work with on a daily basis, I pick up on their positive personality traits and take it from them.
- What did you study at university? Why?
I studied Economics at Sorbonne University. There’s this quote I love; “an economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today”. It’s true that economists often fail in their prediction, but they are still better equipped than a crystal ball. I guess I consider myself a dreamer, and I believe in a better society. After my degree, I did my Masters also at Sorbonne, where I spent a year in Dublin and Toronto.
- What is your most valuable skill?
Gathering people together, and pushing towards the common goals. I think I have strong listening skills, and I’m able to work with the team to solve their problems.
- What is one skill you wish you had?
I wish I was able to code. Coding is like a whole new language, that helps access a whole new part of your brain.
- What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to hire people who are stronger than you. It’ll help the organization and yourself to grow much faster.
- What is the best advice you’ve ever given?
Be data-driven, but also have a vision and be ready to make the first move before you get your data. Important to jump and react fast if you need, even if not all the data and support is there at the start.
- If you had one superpower, what would it be?
Travel to the future. It might be really depressing, because I’m not an optimist in general, but I am curious to see what the world would look like in 300/500 years. About Humans of TechnologyHumans of Technology gives a glimpse into the minds of the people behind Asia’s most dynamic tech companies. An initiative led by GetLinks, Humans of Technology aims to inspire newbies and veterans alike to join the thriving tech community.
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