Cooper: Where do you think the greatest opportunities in Asia are?
Meyrick: Asia is a massive region and aside from China there are other large markets like India and Indonesia. When your business is medium-sized you have to focus on one at a time.
Our focus is on China. There is demand for health and beauty products there, growing spending power, and a shift to a younger demographic that means there is a greater proportion of 20- to 40-year olds with a strong disposable income. This is perfect for our product offer.
Cooper: And the challenges?
Meyrick: There is never any shortage of challenges. There are the obvious ones like cultural differences, and the communication challenges with different languages.
In different markets there can be different seasons, so your timings have to cater to that, which can be a real positive for your business or it can make things even more challenging.
Also, online and digital technology has accentuated the importance of a robust supply chain and managing lead times to deliver within the customers’ expectations.
Having a sophisticated, nimble and efficient supply chain is important, especially if demand spikes, which can happen in a large market like China, very quickly.
Building a health and beauty brand often requires a strong program of education, which has to be done in another language, and another culture. You have to be able to adapt and use all available technology and locally sourced resources to achieve that effectively.
Along with building the brand is also protecting it: fakes and copies are an issue and you have to protect the authenticity of your product.
There are also challenges with building your own team on the ground. Building such a team as you grow, means you have to manage issues like different cultures, managing from a distance, and maintaining consistency with the home market operations.
Cooper: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Meyrick: We have certainly learned a great deal and those leanings will no doubt continue as we grow. In real-estate terms there are the ‘three Ps’: position, position, position. My three Ps are partner, product and price.
- Partners: You have got to have the right partners. Being seduced by the scale of the opportunity can distract you from making the right choices. The choice of people you are working with is really important.
- Product: There is no point offering a product that is not in demand. Just because something is working in Australia, or elsewhere in the world, does not mean it will work in Asia – there are plenty of examples of that.
Fortunately in the health, beauty and lifestyle space there is a connection and a demand to the pure Australian made products.
- Price: Price is important because customers are very savvy and powerful – they have access to all the information and can compare pricing all around the world.
If you are not offering value for money it will be a challenge. Consumers will allow for the cost of transport, duty and taxes, but beyond that you have got to be careful you are providing value for money.
Cooper: What advice would you give to other Australian companies expanding in Asia?
Meyrick: Research is important.
It is important to plan and test your business model before you try to expand. Because of language, communication and interpretation what you thought was going to happen can happen very differently. You need to test the business before you try to push more through the funnel you have created.
Again, you need to have a long-term focus, and not be seduced by the scale and the opportunities. Many people do not realise you have to take small steps and take the time to build and get it right.
It is too easy to be blown away by tales of ‘overnight successes’ that have actually been 20 years in the making.
And last but not least, you’ve got to make sure you are having fun because building a strong and lasting export business is a lot of work and a lot of travel, and learning about their ways, culture and tastes. If you aren’t enjoying the journey, it will wear you down.
You must have partners you get on with, and you have to embrace the whole experience – that is really important for our team. If you try to do something you’re not enjoying your lack of enthusiasm and energy will surely spell disaster.
Jane Cooper is a contributing editor at BlueNotes.