Entrepreneurs at Asian seminar: with a good brand you can sell sand to a desert

17.12.2020

On 17 December, Enterprise Estonia held a virtual business seminar focused on business opportunities in Asia. The event was hosted by Eeva Esse and Estonian entrepreneurs, Enterprise Estonia’s experts on Asia and Estonian ambassadors in Asian countries shared their knowledge and experience.

‘This year proved that despite restrictions, the distant markets in Asia could be what bring desired stability and growth to many companies,’ said the Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology Raul Siem in the opening speech of the seminar. ‘In addition to increased export to Asia, we see that the interest of Asian markets and consumers in Estonian services and products is growing as well.’

He added that there has been interest in our e-services that offer alternatives and convenience during this era of working from home and distanced learning. Estonian food, drinks and design continue to have good opportunities as well. The minister encouraged every entrepreneur interested in export to contact the Asia experts of Enterprise Estonia.

Marko Utsar, the export manager of Balsnack, Jaanis Tammela, the chief executive officer of Tanker and Tanel Veenre, the creator of a design brand bearing his name, talked about the potential of Asian markets, trademark protection, pricing and sales.


‘Chinese people are wealthy,’ said Utsar, ‘and they trust foreign products more than those of domestic origin. Therefore, they are willing to pay a higher price for exported goods.’

In Tanker’s experience, the price must correlate with the target market. ‘You have to know who your target is, who you are selling to, and the price cannot be too low nor too high,’ Tammela explained. ‘What’s important are the brand and the story. With a good brand, you could sell sand to a desert.’

According to Tanel Veenre, who has invested a lot in the Chinese market in recent years, he sells his products with a price that is around five times higher than that of his local counterfeiters. ‘The counterfeits industry has developed a lot,’ remarked Veenre. ’When our products were initially copied, you could see glue marks, but their quality is higher now. At the same time, a lot of people still want to wear the original and take pride in it.’

‘Protecting our brand was the first thing we did before entering the Chinese market,’ said the export manager of Balsnack. ‘It is not a 100% guarantee but at least nobody has recklessly rushed to copy us. It also helps, of course, that our potato wafer is such a unique product.’

Whereas Tanel Veenre says his most important sales channel is e-commerce, the representatives of the food and drinks sector pointed out the significance of trade fairs. ‘We have found around 90% of our client base from trade fairs and I recommend it to other companies as well,’ Utsar said.

The CEO of Tanker added that they also develop most of their export relationships through personal contacts. ‘It is difficult to sell flavour via Zoom,’ Tammela said, ‘and in the case of trade fairs, sometimes just being there is important and adds trustworthiness. Unfortunately, all of the trade fairs have been cancelled this year but our competitors are all in the same situation.’

The second discussion of the day, which focused on the technology sector, was attended by Kristjan Kangro (Change), Kadri Tuisk (Clanbeat) and Raul Källo (VIVEO Health). Singapore and other South East Asian markets, where Change Invest and Clanbeat are active, and India, where VIVEO is expanding its operations, were talked about in the panel. Despite the crisis, all three are doing very well in Asia and interest in their solutions is growing.

In addition to export opportunities, Tuisk and Kangro recognise great possibilities in the Singaporean market in terms of investing and raising venture capital. Enterprise Estonia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our honorary consuls are also considered to have a great role in achieving success in these markets, as they are significant partners in the cultivation of contacts and trust in Asia. Besides the export advisers of Enterprise Estonia, the Singaporean honorary consul Sonny Aswani was also recognised for having done an excellent job with supporting Change Invest and Clanbeat in starting their operations.

The entrepreneurs who took part in the seminar highlighted their interest in Asian markets, and we are glad to note that the companies were most interested in Singapore (69%), Japan (64%) and China (57%). India and South East Asia were also mentioned as future destinations with great potential. The event can soon be watched HERE on the Enterprise Estonia website.

The seminar was financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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