Disruptr: Joshua Lim Yi Fan, CEO, Co-founder
Beebag is a social enterprise focused on eliminating plastic pollution by encouraging more people to use a reusable bag with gamification and positive reinforcement. And to achieve this, we have created one of the world’s very first smart reusable bag that can track a shopper’s positive environmental impact and reward them whenever they reuse their bags at partnering stores.
The social enterprise was initially founded by Joshua and his twin brother, Joel Lim during their last year in university. What really inspired them to start the company were their belief that the greatest threat to our planet is that someone else will save it. This prompted them to action into their own hands and start Beebag.
What inspired him?
- Multiple studies have already found microplastics in the human body and with recent research finding microplastics in human blood, we’re really running out of time. The worse thing about all of this is that our future generation who has nothing to do with this will be the ones to suffer the most.
- That is why we’ve founded Beebag because we want to utilize gamification and positive reinforcement to encourage more shoppers to use reusables so that fewer single-use plastics will be used. The idea of Beebag really came about because we saw that despite having regulations and policies to reduce single-use plastic bag usage in Malaysia, more than 70% of Malaysian shoppers still don’t use reusable bags. And this is because there’s little incentive to motivate shoppers to use it.
- That is why most shoppers either forget about it or don’t even think about using them. And the reason why this is happening is that the 20Sen plastic bag charge regulation doesn’t really benefit vendors, that is why it is very difficult to have full cooperation from them. And in reality, many small retail stores in Malaysia to date still give out plastic bags for free because charging for them is bad for business. And the 20 Sen charge is insignificant that shoppers don’t actually mind paying for it. That is why more than 70% of Malaysian shoppers still don’t use reusable bags because there’s little incentive to motivate shoppers to use them.
- Most shoppers either forget about it or don’t even think about using them. Beebag aims to take a different route and use gamification and positive reinforcement to change behavior and motivate more shoppers to use a reusable bag. By integrating modern technology into the traditional reusable bags, we’ve created smart reusable bags that are able to track shoppers’ impact and reward them every time they reuse at partnering stores.
What has the journey been like?
- The journey has been full of ups and downs but exciting nevertheless. As a fresh graduate, there were many things that were foreign to me and my brother. But because we were involved in many leadership roles including creating and managing clubs in university, we were able to lead ourselves and set a direction to follow. And with the help of our lecturer Dr. Abdul Khaliq who is also a co-founder of Beebag, we were able to get off on the right foot as he was there to prevent us from making any major newbie mistakes.
- They say having a mentor is like a cheat code, and Dr. Abdul Khaliq was definitely our cheat code as he taught us a lot about the startup world and running a company. It was challenging and fun in the beginning, the team was new and the chemistry wasn’t there yet. But after working together for months, everyone has become close friends and the trust is built. And now, we feel that there’s nothing we can’t tackle as a team. After months of building the solution, we’ve finally completed our first MVP and we’re moving into our pilot testing phase. As of April 2022, we have successfully acquired 9 partnering stores to help us pilot test our idea and we will be launching the programme on 22nd April 2022.
- Other than working on building the business, we’ve also participated in 2 competitions and we’ve so far entered the final round with both. We’ve been selected as the top 9 finalists in the National Solution Forums 2022, an event hosted by Sunway, Mranti, and SDSN. And we’ve also been selected as the top 10 start-ups in Youth Co:Lab Malaysia 2021.
Biggest achievement and what is one regret that you wish you had or had not done?
- Biggest achievement so far is definitely successfully building our application. Beebag is innovative and unique and being able to successfully build the application from scratch is really something amazing, so hats off to the team! And the next big achievement was getting our first vendor. Getting the first customers is always the hardest part and we successfully onboard our first vendor, the team celebrated and breathed a sigh of relief as people were actually interested our idea.
- As of now, we’re happy with all the decisions we’ve made so far and there’s really none that we regret heavily. Even though some “not so smart” decisions were made, I believe those decisions taught us an invaluable lesson and we’re grateful to it as it helped shaped our thinking and decision making for the better.
Where do you see yourself in the next 1 year?
- I hope Beebag will be successful in the next 1 year and myself and the team would be busy in making a positive impact to the world. I would say that my short-term goal is to learn as much as possible and become knowledgeable in the field of entrepreneurship and social impact. I want to grow as much as possible so we can successfully bring a good change to our society and the world, and if we’re able to accomplish this, we’re satisfied.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
- Being an entrepreneur was always my dream since young and that is why in 5 years’ time, I hope we will be able to change how people shop for the better. I hope to see partnerships with large retail chains and collaborations with well-known brands. And because plastic pollution is a global issue, we hope to expand internationally and plant the seeds of sustainable shopping throughout the world.
What keeps you going to keep running the business?
- The most important thing that keeps me and the team going is our passion for the environment. We are eager to make Beebag succeed because we know that if we succeed, the environment wins. I want to leave the world a little better than how I found it, and that is why I choose to dedicate all my time to build a solution that can do this. Furthermore, the team are full of youthful and passionate entrepreneurs, and our dream is to build something innovative and impactful that we can look back and be proud of.
What is one local startup you would like to work together with and why?
- None comes to mind for now as we want to focus on developing our own solution first so we’re able to later provide value when we do collaborate with other startups.
Who is one founder (local or international) that you look up to?
- Blake Mycoskie the founder of Toms Shoes. He’s really what I aspire to become as he was able to create a successful company by combining entrepreneurship and social impact. I believe that for our world to be sustainable, we need to combine purpose and profit, and this is what we are trying to build at Beebag.
Why should investors invest in your social enterprise?
- Investing in Beebag is equivalent to investing in the livelihoods of our next generation as we are tackling one of the most problematic and concerning issue in the world. And being able to help solve this problem and earn from it is a win-win.
- First and foremost, Beebag is a lucrative investment, as we are riding on 2 of the mega trends of our time, Sustainability and Smart Retail. The Global Reusable Bag market is estimated to be $10.8 billion in 2022 and the Global Smart Retail market is estimated to reach $58 billion by 2025, and Beebag will be able to tag along in these 2 huge growing markets.
- Furthermore, plastic pollution is starting to get on everybody’s radar and facing it is inevitable and that is why the UN has recently agreed on a treaty to end scourge of plastic pollution. In the coming years, many countries and businesses will be looking eagerly for a solution to reduce plastic pollution and Beebag is well prepared to capitalize from this opportunity.
- We also need a modern solution to engage a modern generation, and Beebag is one of the most innovative ideas out there. Our seamless integration of modern technology into traditional reusable bags, allows us to disrupt the industry in a way never done before. And allows us to change consumer behavior with a modern approach, using gamification and positive reinforcement.