Would you buy a used phone? What if I told you that it has been completely renovated, which means it has been cleaned, checked for defects, and perfect for sale up to 70% off the original price?
That's what Reebelo tries to do. The company was originally founded in Singapore in 2019 and has now expanded its services to Australia, New Zealand and now Malaysia, having raised $ 1.25 million in its initial round.
Giving e-waste a second life
With increasing awareness of environmental problems, consumer behavior is shifting in the direction of environmentally friendly and sustainable shopping opportunities. Even the smallest of measures to reduce waste can go a long way.
Reebelo is a platform that sells refurbished devices at a lower cost, whether it's smartphones, tablets, laptops or even headphones. For clarity, the terms “refurbished” and “used” actually mean separate things.
You can find some current iPhone models on their Malaysian website
Refurbished equipment has been cleaned and tested to ensure that it is functional and error-free, making it suitable for sale.
However, used equipment may or may not be reconditioned. "If they're in good condition, they can usually be sold as-is or with minimal cleaning," Shen Ong, country director of Reebelo Malaysia, told Vulcan Post.
Gain customer trust
Personally, I am skeptical about buying refurbished equipment, especially when done online through peer-to-peer ecommerce sites like Carousell. If I didn't know the history of the device and didn't physically test the phone myself, I wouldn't be taking that risk.
Similarly, Shen Ong admitted that this is one of the biggest stigmas about what his company is trying to do. "The main sacrifice a consumer makes when buying used equipment is their trust," he said.
"Over 95% of refurbished or used equipment works fine, but for those who have problems, it is up to the seller to ensure good warranties and return policies," he said.
Therefore, Reebelo obtains its refurbished devices from verified third-party suppliers, who have to ensure the functionality of a device by checking it against a 40-point checklist. They cover the device's battery health, screen health, and work buttons, to name a few.
Reebelo also has a warranty and return policy. If the product does not meet your expectations or you have changed your mind, you can return it and receive a refund within 14 days. However, the device must be returned in its original form and with no passwords from iCloud, Google accounts and the like.
Items also come with a free 3-month warranty, which is covered by the vendors working with Reebelo.
Building a circular economy
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“The world generated 53.6 million tons of e-waste in 2019 alone, and this problem will only get worse over time. We believe reselling refurbished technical equipment will help alleviate this very real problem, ”said Shen Ong.
So far, Reebelo says it has saved 600 tonnes of electronic waste in 2020 and has thus contributed to the development of a circular economy in terms of waste reduction by continuing the lifespan of the available resources.
On the other side of the dam, Reebelo is running a buyback program that allows the public to sell their old equipment to Reebelo, which will overhaul the equipment through outsourced vendors. Reebelo will then sell it to new customers for a profit. This is how the platform is monetized.
Shen Ong told Vulcan Post that they have not yet started this program in Malaysia. However, I think this would be a good move for them as more actors offering such services could increase the country's e-waste recycling rate, which is currently 25%.
It would also build my confidence as a consumer to buy these refurbished devices from them. A buyback program would suggest that these remanufactured electronics are from actual users, not some sort of dump.
Instead of upgrading to the latest model year after year, shopping for obsolete technology helps combat this problem by reducing the consumer's carbon footprint. In addition, Reebelo has promised to plant a tree for every transaction on our website.
Shen Ong, Country Director of Reebelo Malaysia.
- You can find out more about Reebelo here.
- You can find more articles on Malaysian startups here.
Selected image source: Philip Franta and Fabien Rastouil, co-founders of Reebelo