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How the Jeff Bezos of Korea is beating Amazon at its own game

How the Jeff Bezos of Korea is beating Amazon at its own game
[Illustration: Artur Tenczyński]


“Koreans work the longest hours in Asia,” says Bom Kim, who lives in Seoul. “The average commute is 58 minutes. The average middle school student comes home at 10 p.m.” Kim is working to alleviate their stress via the convenience he can offer through his e-commerce company, which allows customers to order from 2 million products (from karaoke microphones to oranges) as late as midnight and receive them by 7 a.m. the next day. To pull this off, Kim and company built their own UPS-style delivery network, which connects its 60 distribution hubs. Last year, Coupang hit 1 billion deliveries, four years after launch, in part because Kim developed a cold-chain operation in just three months in 2018, allowing Cou­pang to transport fish, frozen items, and vegetables. Today, one-third of Coupang orders arrive after 10 p.m., 20% between 11 p.m. and midnight. Kim is now pushing to deliver goods without bulky packaging, to expedite fulfillment; half of all orders are sent boxless. Cou­pang is even able to send hot meals to customers. “We look at every opportunity to make something magical,” says Kim, whose company generated more than $4 billion in 2018 revenue, up 70% from the year before.

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