How PTS Publication Builds a Multi-million e-Commerce Empire

PTS Publication began in 1988 when the founders, Ainon Mohd and Prof. Emeritus Abdullah Hassan formed a consultancy services company focused on publishing, creativity and thinking skills. Their earlier corporate clients include Bank Negara Malaysia, Malayan Banking (Maybank today), ESSO (ExxonMobil), Shell, Telekom Malaysia, and a list of government bodies.  

Both founders had been prolific writers, with a string of books written and published by other publishers, but it wasn’t until 2000 they decided that PTS would begin publishing books and embark on a journey that would, within a decade, make PTS one of the most recognised publishing brands in the country.

PTS Publications

In the same year, Arief Hakim Sani, who would ultimately run the show in PTS when the founders decided to slip into the company’s board and leave the day-to-day running to younger bloods, joined the helm.

Today, with over 10 subsidiaries, PTS (which changed its name in 2012 from PTS Consultants to PTS Media Group) employs over 150 people and generates between RM30 and RM40 million of sales annually.

In 2008, PTS acquired Bookcafe, an online e-commerce platform, with an initial goal to create online access to customers difficult to reach physically, especially those outside of town. Business wasn’t that encouraging at the beginning, but after a few short years the company realised its true potential and that its once-small e-commerce business was primed for a big growth.

Acknowledging the potential, PTS upped the ante, including sharpening the organisation and hired a new CEO, Hairul Faizal Adli to oversee the growth of Bookcafe.

PTS runs and continues to maintain corporate-like operation, with standard operating procedures (SOPs) part of the company’s mantra. Thus, one of Hairul’s earliest roles was to optimise the Bookcafe operations by strengthening of SOPs, processes and systems.

One of the most important components of e-commerce business is customer service, and PTS knew this from earlier on and grew the customer service division to become the biggest department in Bookcafe. One of the teething problems they were facing earlier on was the “drop order” issue where customers who completed the order—presumably unfamiliar with buying things online—did not proceed with transaction.

Connecting and following up with these customers have paid well in decreasing “drop order” and improving rate of closing. Keeping the customers happy has also allowed PTS to retain a significant percentage of repeat orders.

Another key aspect of e-commerce business is keeping track of hot-selling items, taking notes on titles buyers are most hungry for. What sells most through offline business might not perform equally well in e-commerce channel.

Currently, Islamic books are one the most best-selling genres for Bookcafe. Non-fiction, business, self-help and motivation books are also of high demand. Smartly predicting which books will ship fast allows PTS to execute prudent inventory and warehousing strategy.

“… only 10% of SMEs support their business with e-commerce”

Efforts by the government has also played role in PTS’ rise in e-commerce business. The #MYCyberSale campaign launched by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), for example, has further spurred Malaysians’ interest in internet shopping, and attracted companies into the e-commerce bandwagon, and Bookcafe has been benefiting from the increasing consumer awareness.

According to MDEC, as of 2015, only 10% of SMEs support their business with e-commerce, and #MYCyberSale is one of the many campaigns to get more businesses joining e-commerce and play part in expanding the digital economy.

PTS has also been at the receiving end of a profitable dropship model; more than half of its e-commerce sales is generated from its dropship partners. In dropship, a merchant sells PTS books but it does not store or control the inventory. All orders will be processed by the merchant but the product will be shipped by PTS directly to the customer. Bookcafe also offers affiliate program, where subscribed members act as retailing agents for PTS books and earn commission through sales generated from the affiliate links.

Certainly, PTS has come a long way from shipping a few books to fulfilling over 1,000 orders per month and increasing as the time goes by. At one point, PTS e-commerce business was growing at unprecedented rate of 300 percent, giving the company some “good headache” in streamlining its operation, while making sure it could still execute fulfilment of orders and maintaining happy customers.

With its goal to publish 1,000 books per year, PTS is well positioned to offer a vast selection of book titles both offline and online. The growing positive sentiment and continued acceptance of e-commerce as a genuine means of business transactions among the Malaysian buyers will set to bring the Bookcafe business to new heights.

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