Shanru Lai (Singapore Entrepreneur)

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Shanru Lai
Shanru Lai.jpg
EducationBachelor of Accountancy
Alma materSingapore Management University

Shanru Lai (born 1988) is the co-founder of the e-commerce platform, ShopBack. In 2018, she was featured in Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30 - Big Money’ list for the Asian region.[1] More recently in October 2019, Shanru Lai was featured in Prestige Singapore’s ‘40 Under 40’ list, a compilation of individuals who are considered as change-makers and leaders in their respective fields.[2][3]



Shanru Lai was a student at Raffles Girls’ School and subsequently, Raffles Junior College.[4][5] She obtained a double degree in accounting and business management from Singapore Management University (SMU), graduating from the School of Accountancy in 2011.[6][7]

Early career

After graduating from university, Shanru Lai worked in the banking industry for about two years.[5] In 2013, she joined the e-retail platform, Zalora Group for about a year before leaving the company to establish ShopBack.[8] Speaking about her career switch, she said:

"I started my career in banking but I wanted to make an impact. I'm also an avid online shopper and took a pay cut to join Zalora - it was painful initially, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made."[9]


Shanru Lai (seated, second from right) pictured with her five co-founders. Photo from source.

Co-founder of ShopBack

In 2014, Shanru Lai was approached by Henry Chan and Joel Leong, both of whom were her former colleagues from Zalora, to start up a business that could benefit both brands and consumers.[8][9] Speaking to CNBC in a 2018 interview, Shanru Lai was quoted to have said the following about their initial business plan:

“We noticed that e-commerce was really booming. But there wasn’t a good platform where consumers could go to discover new brands and at the same time receive cashback. We wanted to change that.”[10]

After experimenting with several business models, Shanru Lai and her co-founders settled on a year-round "cashback" model, which allowed consumers a rebate of up to six percent from ShopBack-licensed merchants.[10] As of 2020, ShopBack has expanded its operations to countries such as Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia.[11] Shanru Lai has said that her ultimate goal is to forge ShopBack into a unicorn in the e-commerce industry.[8] A 'unicorn' in business terms refers to any privately held startup company with a net value of over $1 billion.[12]


In 2015, Shanru Lai was in charge of launching ShopBack’s platform in the Philippines.[13][14] She was based in the Philippines for a year where she was tasked to build a new team, hash out business development plans and establish merchant partnerships.[15][16] In June 2019, Shanru Lai spearheaded the launch of ShopBack GO, a large-scale initiative which involved 600 F&B brands in Singapore; including the Tung Lok Group of restaurants and The Golden Duck.[8][17]

Public speaking

Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit (December 2018)

In December 2018, Shanru Lai was invited as a panellist alongside other young entrepreneurs featured in Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30’ list to share the challenges that she faced as a millennial entrepreneur. She was quoted to have said the following about her most difficult moments in ShopBack:

“One of the most difficult things at the start was trying to get traction and trying to get enough merchants on board with us... We had no remote connection of sorts and it was difficult to reach out to them and partner with them. But through a lot of teamwork and hustling, we managed to work with more partners and merchants.”[18]

References/ Citations

  1. 30 Under 30 - Big Money”. Forbes. 2018. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  2. Lai Shanru”. Prestige Singapore. October 17, 2019. Accessed on 19 November 2020.
  3. Prestige 40 Under 40: Meet the Vanguards of 2019”. Prestige Singapore. October 17, 2019. Accessed on 19 November 2020.
  4. "Straight Talk: What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur". RGS Alumnae. Accessed on 25 November 2020.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Shanru Lai. LinkedIn. n.d. Accessed on 19 November 2020. Retrieved from:
  6. SMU Accountancy Alumna and ShopBack Co-Founder Enters Forbes 30-Under-30 Asia 2018”. The SMU Blog. August 24, 2018. Accessed on 19 November 2020.
  7. "Alumni Entrepreneurs". SMU School of Accountancy. Accessed on 25 November 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Cover story: Lai Shanru, co-founder of ShopBack, tells us the secrets of her success”. Prestige Singapore. October 30, 2019. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Eu, Geoffrey. "Lai Shanru of ShopBack, on turning an idea into reality". The Business Times. June 17, 2017. Accessed on 25 November 2020. Retrieved from SGSME.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Gilchrist, Karen. “How failure helped 6 millennials launch a multimillion-dollar international start-up”. CNBC. October 30, 2018. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  11. Ong, Janet. “Expansion key to emerging stronger from coronavirus crisis: ShopBack CEO”. Yahoo! News. July 16, 2020. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  12. Chen, James. “Unicorn”. Investopedia. March 31, 2020. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  13. Mcspadden, Kevin. “Co-founder Shanru Lai to share how Shopback scaled regionally and where it is headed next at Echelon Asia”. Yahoo! News. May 16, 2018. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  14. Shopback gives back more for 5 years of loyalty”. The Manila Times. August 20, 2020. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  15. The Story of You. "The story of you with Shopback Co-founder Shanru Lai". Soundcloud. 2018. Accessed on 25 November 2020.
  16. Tan, Annabel. “Vanguard Award”. Prestige Singapore. November 1, 2019. Accessed on 20 November 2020. Retrieved from PressReader.
  17. Chin, Ben., Fang, Charlene. “Singapore’s New Women Trailblazers: Josephine Chow And Lai Shanru Sort Out Your Rewards And Rebates”. Her World. March 8, 2019. Accessed on 20 November 2020.
  18. Slush Singapore. “Panel: Millennial Advice from Millennial Leaders (Forbes 30 under 30)”. YouTube. December 11, 2018. Accessed on 20 November 2020.