It was a busy late afternoon on Friday when Warren Leow walked into the Astro AWANI office, with eight colourful hardcover books clutched under his arms.
They are storybooks created by Amazing Fables, a company started by Leow that provides personalised illustrated books for children. It was a ‘dream came true’, says Leow, to be able to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an author.
“When I was a young boy, I was a bookworm. I loved reading and it was my way to imagine and learn about the world beyond my home.
“I have always wanted to write a book. So, when I thought about starting a business, I made sure that the business had a meaning, that’s why we created Amazing Fables,” says Leow.
The idea for Amazing Fables started in September 2017 through a chance meeting between Leow and Koushik Challa and Akash Dubey from India. The trio had a shared interest in education and decided to pursue a business in customising books together.
“I felt very excited at the idea of building a platform that allows people to order a storybook and make them customisable; you choose a name, avatar the gender, select the story, and anyone can be a hero in the story!
“You can also have it translated in other languages. Right now, we offer 10 different choices of languages for you to choose,” says Leow.
Amazing Fables is not Leow’s first business venture. The former executive director at government-led startup community MaGIC also founded Designs.net, an online marketplace for all things related to graphic design.
Designs.net is part of the larger Inmagine Group that owns 123RF - one of the world's top stock image players, where Leow currently serves as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Revenue.
“I do this in the evenings and on the weekends,” says Leow, when asked about the challenges in juggling a full-time job and his passion project.
“I really don’t mind the extra hours because I feel very passionate about it. Since the platform launched in June 2018, in a short space of a year, I have worked on eight books. I am now working on four more books which I hope to launch by June this year.
Amazing Fables targets children from the age of one to five; it has one book that caters to young adults.
“We have stories about A to Z on animals, stories about dinosaurs or on protecting the environment. I think for children’s stories, you can’t really run away too far from the standard themes like these. "All these stories have values, which I hope can help shape the readers to become responsible citizens when they grow up."
“Most of the books are written by me with some help from a few freelancers. I write them under different pen names and each book has different styles of illustrations,” says Leow.
All these stories have values, which I hope can help shape the readers to become responsible citizens when they grow up
For the 35-year-old who is usually surrounded by his younger cousins, Leow says he hopes the stories from Amazing Fables can inspire the young.
“I am so happy when I see them smiling while reading the books. I am also happy to see their parents smile when they are reading it to them. I hope that these stories can inspire them to be creative and to be brave in doing the right thing,” he says.
Leow runs a very lean ship at Amazing Fables, depending on mostly interns and freelancers to help him with day-to-day operations.
“I have a very talented team that I work with, which includes eight freelancers who do the illustrations, the proof-readers, and the writers as well. All of them are from all over the world including Romania, Argentina, Indonesia, Italy and the United Kingdom,” says Leow.
“There were a few factors that made this possible. One, to build the website - this is where my partners from India play an important role. Second thing is to build the logistics. After that, is to create the content. Lastly is marketing and selling.
“The first three factors could be done on a parallel basis and I outsource most it. For example, the books are printed by my partners located in Malaysia, United States, United Kingdom and Australia. All these printers ship globally.
“Given the advances of technology, we can easily communicate and make payments easily.”
My target now is to sell 100 books per day
While Leow is a big proponent of reading books in the physical form, he also wants children to embrace a full digital reading and learning experience. Hence, every purchase on Amazing Fable comes with a digital copy too.
In eight months, Amazing Fables has sold almost 1,000 books – an ‘extremely encouraging’ response, says Leow.
“My target now is to sell 100 books per day,” he adds, with plans to market the books regionally.
“We have always targeted to be global from day one. We intend to serve multiple markets and our target is the Western and Asian market. We also have a strategy for South Asia and we plan to translate (our books) to Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Telugu and Tamil."