How Big Bad Wolf and BookXcess recovered from the floods in M’sia

No Malaysian can forget the floods that devastated the nation last year, and that includes Andrew Yap.

The co-founder of Big Bad Wolf Books (Big Bad Wolf) and BookXcess, Andrew and his team have lost millions of books due to the disastrous floods.

But before diving into all this, let’s start from the humble origins of the company.

The first chapter

Andrew’s story begins more than a decade ago, in 2007, when it was already rumored that physical books were dying. After all, Amazon had just released its e-reader, Kindle, in the same year, sparking concerns in the publishing industry.

While some bookstores have stayed afloat by raising book prices, Andrew and Jacqueline, her partner in life and business, have found a way to popularize print while keeping it affordable.

Comparing the company to a “huge traveling circus,” Big Bad Wolf brings millions of books to various cities and sells them at affordable prices.

BookXcess, on the other hand, is their permanent bookstore brand in Malaysia. Today, BookXcess is known for its extensive “Instagram-worthy” libraries in places like RexKL, MyTown, Lalaport, and more.

However, when it first opened in 2007, it was just a tiny bookstore in Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya.

But the company’s clear mission to make books accessible and accessible has allowed them to grow to what they are today: a team that has left its footprints in 34 cities and 15 different countries around the world.

Disaster strikes

As an “old school” company that sells physical books, archiving is extremely important to Big Bad Wolf. The company currently has two warehouses, one in Shah Alam and one in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

These warehouses are the lifeline of their business, Andrew shared.

However, that lifeline nearly broke when flash floods hit during late 2021.

Image Credit: Bad Wolf Books

“The flood that happened is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the company,” Andrew told Vulcan Post. “There are many times when parts of Shah Alam have been flooded over the years, but nowhere near here. It was something that caught us in a very unexpected way. “

Especially for books, floods are more harmful than fires because water gets into everything and leaves a lot to do. Millions of their waterlogged books had to be destroyed.

“What was really disheartening is that all of these books aren’t easy to replace,” Andrew said. “Can you imagine 4.5 million books?”

From the community, for the community

Andrew recalled being contacted by a security guard after midnight one day, informing him that some families were in the warehouse looking for books after the floods.

“Okay, okay,” they told Andrew when he said they couldn’t just take the wet books. “They will dry in the sun; children have no books.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, Andrew told them to take as many as they could.

This anecdote reflects the fact that when flash floods hit, they not only hit the warehouses of Bad Wolf, but they also hit the communities closest to it.

“We are a business. Yes, we are suffering, “Andrew said.” But these are families and these are their lives. We have not lost our homes. “

So, the company started a journey, starting with the communities that surround it. Andrew believes this demonstrates how Big Bad Wolf is staying true to his mission as a mission-based company.

“It’s always the people first before the business,” he stressed.

Thanks to Big Bad Wolf’s firm mission of cultivating reading habits through accessible and affordable books, the company has won the hearts of Malaysians.

This came in the form of demonstrations of support during the devastating flash floods and positive comments across all of its social media platforms.

Driven by a fundamental mission

Due to inflation, the cost of many things, including books, has risen, but Andrew shared that this isn’t the first time the company has encountered this problem.

But unlike most other companies who consider the cost of their products before adding some leeway to determine the selling price, Big Bad Wolf and BookXcess actually set their prices first.

As such, the prices of their products have kept a flat rate since they opened their doors 15 years ago. For example, when BookXcess was first launched, a regular paperback book cost only RM17.90, the same price as today.

To keep those prices low, however, the company was actually forced to grow to today’s size, as publishers would only want to sell them at a lower price if the volume is high.

Regardless, the company pushed the decision forward, due to its goal that people, particularly those from low-income families, buy books without having to worry about the price.

This includes not only communities in Malaysia, but also abroad, particularly in Africa. Seeing a huge gap in reading material within the continent, Andrew believes it is the company’s duty to enter the market as soon as possible.

Backed by its plan to enter six other countries in Africa, the company aims to move one billion copies per year.

“If we can achieve this, I would say the world will change on its own,” Andrew concluded.

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This interview was done as part of our ongoing Vulcan Post video series, Open Book.

You can watch Andrew’s video interview here:

  • Find out more about the Big Bad Wolf books here.
  • Read other Malaysian startups we talked about here.