We had a chat with Melvin Chee, the co-founder and CEO of RPG to find out more about the multi-brand startup.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset from back in his university days in Melbourne, Australia, Melvin Chee started selling T-shirts and had a vision that he was going to build a group of companies in the near future – which he eventually realised in 2017 via RPG.
Fast forward to today, and RPG now carries numerous brands under its portfolio, plus managed to raise its series A funding in early 2021 through a venture capitalist arm of Temasek Holdings. Thus setting RPG on its path to revolutionise the retail industry by building a new generation of global consumer brands.
Find out more about RPG via our interview with Melvin Chee below:
Why the name RPG?
(Laughs) I was really intrigued by the Samwer brothers, the guys behind Rocket Internet and I wanted to incorporate that into part of the company’s brand identity, with the rocket being a symbol of moving upwards, and scaling the business. Then I also included part of the name of my first business in university, Paradise Tees, and thus Rocket Paradise Group was coined.
Tell us a bit about how the business came about.
Well I came out fresh out of university, did a year of internship in San Francisco and realised I didn’t want to be in Silicon Valley. Then with 3,000 dollars to my name and back in Melbourne, I started with a drop shipping model for my business, which was ideal as I didn’t need to pay any up front costs and functioned mainly as a middleman.
Then I got back to Malaysia in 2018 and started building a team here, but realised we had nothing proprietary and decided to pivot to direct-to-consumer brands.
Please share a bit about the brands under RPG
Sure, so today we have two main categories: apparels and home & living. We started off our first apparel brand in 2018 called Eubi and from there on went with a multi-brand approach. Currently we have 10 brands such as Thousand Miles, Comfort Republic, Montigo and more. Part of the goal is to build, launch and scale brands that work, while getting rid of those that don’t.
Here’s a closer look at some of the products from Thousand Miles, an apparel brand under RPG:
How does RPG function and market its brands?
Since day one, the company has been focusing on the global market despite being based in Malaysia, so US is our biggest market for now. All our brands are housed under the same ecosystem, and with multi-brands, you can leverage more on each of it in terms of learning and development.
And as a company we focus really well on two components, which are the R&D supply chain (which is done in China) and the marketing performance of our brands – developing creative collaterals, digital marketing etc.
Our goal is to venture into any wide space in the market, so we started off with apparels then noticed a gap in the home & living sector and so we’ve Montigo (a water bottle brand), Cosmic Cookware (selling pots and pans) and aim to venture into a few more products in the near future. Essentially we build brands to solve problems within the markets, and that’s where we invest in terms of R&D, supply chains and marketing, to bring consumers the best solutions.
What were some of the challenges when starting up RPG?
In the really early days capital and growing the team was tough to begin with. With any business, especially retail, managing cash flow is extremely important – especially being able to role the money back into the company to hire people and pay wages. Of course, hiring the right talent as well as managing resources was also quite difficult. Although, we’ve managed pretty well so far I’ll admit.
What achievements are you proud of so far?
We’re definitely proud to say that today RPG serves around 38 countries, with five warehouses across the globe to serve the different markets, plus we have have grown from a lean team of five co-founders to a robust setup of 140 employees across our two offices in Malaysia and Singapore.
To find out more about RPG, check out the company’s official website.