Broken bits and bobs dot the beach. A girl holds open her jaws while her twin pulls a tooth out. Children cry, calling for their mothers across destroyed homes. Fetid, humid air hovers over makeshift shelters. Meanwhile, Shannon Kalayanamitr helps a tear-streaked, confused man find names on a roster before guiding him to waiting bodies.
Thus it was that a small group of friends spent Christmas 2004 helping earthquake- and tsunami-afflicted Thais. After properly tending and burying the deceased, they adopted a small fishing village—together with one of Thailand's princesses—and provided scholarships for the children. Surprisingly, women in that village are often the breadwinners since many men suffer from alcoholism. They then provide entrepreneurial training for the women to make and sell home-made cakes and soaps. “This is how my advocacy for women started,” Shannon says.
Shannon was born and raised in California following her industrial engineer father who worked for many of the first high-tech companies, first in Cupertino, then in Freemont and lastly in Palo Alto.“I hated technology because I thought it was difficult to understand and intimidating,” Shannon says. "But now, I think it's just a mechanism for the e-commerce work that I do.”
Originally schooled in finance and having worked in marketing, Shannon joined the startup scene when two friends who hailed back from her days at Lehman Brothers asked if she would like to join Rocket Internet. The three launched Thailand's Lazada in 2012 and afterwards helped an investor set up a digital TV channel at Altus Transactional Services.
MOXY came next: a women-centered shopping site, in July 2013. Then, in December 2014, What's New Group acquired the site and kept its name. The company joined hand with Bilna—an Indonesian-based site for mothers and babies established in February 2013—a year or so later, and changed its name to Orami.
As Orami's motto is to "have it all", the company focuses on accommodating a woman's different life stages and the people in their lives. Women in Southeast Asia have a total purchasing power of some US$2.4 trillion, yet it is a market that is largely untapped.
Read Shannon's full article in our June 2016 issue.
Text by Edith Emeralda & Heri B. Heryanto.