The Delta variant made a huge economic impact on the whole world once again, but Taiwan enterprises have never stopped developing their business into the ASEAN market. In this era of harshness, there are still tons of opportunities. To step into this market, STARTBOARD held the INTO ASEAN MARKET webinar on 20th August 2021. In this webinar, we focus on two countries of ASEAN. One is Indonesia, which is the biggest economy of ASEAN, and the other one is Vietnam, which successfully controlled the poverty population from 70% to merely 6% within 20 years.
With many distinguished guests attending the event, including TAIRTA, IAPS, TTA, Louis Group, Cross bond, and NETA, this webinar became a huge success. STARTBOARD also invited experts from ASEAN markets and CEOs from Taiwanese startups to this webinar as speakers. The first one is Edison Hsueh, business deputy director of STARTBOARD, who strives to continue helping both foreign and Taiwanese startups with their business and resources such as government resources and Southeast Asian market trends. The following two speakers are representatives of Taiwanese startup companies. The first one is Ivan Tsou, the CEO of Formosation. Their first product has raised more than NT$ 1 million within just one month on the crowdfunding platform. They are currently expanding markets in Japan and Vietnam. Another one is James Chao, the founder and CEO of Destino Skincare. He adheres to the concept of “Excellent skincare products in line with international standards", and continues to promote high-quality products and Taiwanese beauty brands to the international market.
Moreover, there are two experts from ASEAN countries. One is Evy Chang, the investor relations director of Wiziin. She led and implemented large strategic National Image projects combined with detailed market-trend and opportunity assessments with customer insights. And the other one is Antonius Agoeng, the founder of ISheEra, who has successfully assisted many Taiwanese brands in entering the Indonesian markets through his e-commerce platform and agency.
The overview of ASEAN Market and Opportunities
This webinar started with a speech, given by Edison, the Business Deputy Director from STARTBOARD. As an incubator, STARTBOARD focuses on assisting entrepreneurs from ASEAN and Indian countries to start their own businesses in Taiwan. For the past three years, they have been coaching students from both ASEAN and Taiwan to start their own businesses. Also, they have assisted Taiwanese entrepreneurs to expand their brands into ASEAN and Indian markets through marketing research and international connections.
Edison started his speech by introducing the strengths of all the countries in ASEAN markets. First, he pointed out the advantage of the large population. There are 650 million people in ASEAN markets. Because the birth rate in ASEAN is higher than in Taiwan, there is no need to worry about population aging. Moreover, the ethnological cultures in the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are all Hedonism when it comes to purchasing. It will keep activating the economy, especially in domestic services and daily necessities. Edison also focused on the startup ecosystem, mentioning the countries in ASEAN have been generous in giving resources. The atmosphere was delightful, which successfully boosted 12 unicorns in ASEAN markets. The credits all go to the operation of the ASEAN markets and the resources they contain. Also, this is the reason why Taiwanese enterprises should seize this opportunity.
Formosation, the advocator of oral health
Ivan Tsou, the CEO of Formosation, dedicates himself to improving and strengthening people’s concept of periodontal cleaning. To lower the rate of Taiwanese suffering from periodontal disease, he has developed a safe and convenient dental floss called “Morph” with partners from different specializations. This product has raised over 100 million dollars within only one month after being launched on the crowdfunding platform. The company is arranging the paths to Japan and Vietnam now.
Aside from Morph, Formosation has been promoting AntiQ Smart Toothbrush. By using an interactive APP, brushing teeth can be a game, helping people form a habit to brush their teeth. Also, by implementing subscription mode, consumers will maintain their habits in order to reach complete and authentic oral care. This product has been awarded the Top 50 international track announcement, standing out from approximately 2,000 groups in Startup Wheel 2021. For the future plan, because factories all over the world are moving south currently, Ivan has been considering establishing a branch in Vietnam, not only to do marketing research but also to find out more international talents to develop ASEAN markets.
DESTINO, the expert of skincare
James Chao founded DESTINO in 2011, which is exclusively for Taiwanese females. Their products aim to improve Atopic Dermatitis and other allergies Taiwanese have suffered. In addition, they contain hypoallergenic formulas the company emphasizes a lot to avoid overstimulation. James upholds the concept of becoming a top skincare brand and continues to promote Taiwanese cosmetics with excellent qualities to the world, aiming to integrate with international markets soon. The company has already sold its products to Japanese and Southeast Asia markets with success.
DESTINO has entered the online e-commerce markets in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand. Local consumers value the whitening effect a lot, as well as the anti-wrinkle and blemish. Their new product, RUBY, contains cistus abstraction, which can smooth wrinkles effectively and meet the requirement of consumers from Southeast Asia. “ In a market full of the same products from different brands, it is Word of Mouth strategy that matters,” said James. He also pointed out that a product may not appeal to Taiwanese consumers due to the high price. However, in Southeast Asia, the same product may be a hit due to conspicuous consumption, which is the marketing strategy in DESTINO. James is looking forward to finding powerful connections with local enterprises in ASEAN markets.
How to grasp your Vietnamese startup marketing opportunities?
Evy Chang, the investor relations director of Wiziin, is a Chinese Indonesian. Because of this unique identity, she is utterly familiar with the Indonesian markets. Furthermore, she understands the traits of Vietnamese markets as well due to her two-year working experience there. At that time, Evy went to two startup companies and was the general manager and the investor relations director separately. She sources and verifies opportunities through reliable networks across Greater China and ASEAN countries in both the public and various ecosystems.
For the Vietnamese market, Evy firstly dives into the circumstance of lacking a fundraising platform in Vietnam. “If you think that it is so hard to find the investors, the investor may have the same problem with where he or she can invest!” said Evy. She also mentioned that the investor matching platform like Wiziin is like a CC cream of a company. Before a startup team entered a crowdfunding platform, they may have been competitive but lacked some package and marketing skills. Thus, this kind of investor matching platform can help them build up these skills and make them catch the eye of the investors in the Vietnamese market. Lastly, Evy discussed the significance of knowing their target customers. In addition, she brought out the importance of one group of customers, Generation Z. Generation Z, who are addicted to the internet and spend money like water, plays a crucial role in this generation of e-commerce. Evy said that we should take advantage of their characteristics, letting them be happy to buy your products. Making some positive and eye-catching marketing content could be your first step to try.
The vital materials Taiwanese business should get before entering Indonesia market
The expert of the Indonesian market in this webinar, Antonius Agoeng, is also a Chinese Indonesian. Since the twenty-year living experience of Taiwan, he knows the living ways and cultural differences between Taiwan and Indonesia so well. The promotion of the new southbound policy and caring for the women issue makes him want to found ISheEra, the company that helps Taiwanese brands entrance the Indonesian market by selling feminine products through an e-commerce platform and purchasing agents.
Mr. Agoeng firstly emphasized the importance of the e-commerce platform and purchasing agents by mentioning Generation Z. Further, he talked about the advantages of the Indonesian market, like the political stability, the growing numbers of Infrastructure construction, etc. “If you would like to enter the Indonesian market, please be friends with them sincerely,” said Mr. Agoeng, he reminded Taiwanese businesses to keep Hala and brand localization in mind.
The networking section
After finishing the topic lecture, the webinar went to another section, the networking section. In this part, they focused on the three topics “The steps of entering the ASEAN market”, “The strategies about dealing with covid-19 pandemic”, “The precautions of entering into ASEAN market”
In the aspect of entering the ASEAN market, they visited the pain-point of the market first. Agoeng and Evy mentioned that the crucial part of being well developed is earning the trust of the locals. Moreover, you have to be patient and have a long-term management attitude, which means that you shouldn’t think your products will be sold out easily and do not notice the thought from the customer’s mind. On the other hand, you have to get to know more about your customers like when will they buy your products? Ivan and James also share their viewpoint with the audiences afterward. They pop out the necessity of cooperating with professional teams and experts.
After the discussion about the pain-point of the market, the four speakers started further to the topics of the potential industry. Evy brought out Generation Z which she mentioned before and emphasized that the products that have a sense of freshness are the potential industry. Additionally, Agoeng said the health tech industry is also viewed as an important industry gradually. Especially for the consciousness of health getting higher than before, Agoeng recommended Taiwansese health tech-related industries to give a try on expanding their business to ASEAN.
Although covid-19 may raise people’s consciousness toward health and bring out business opportunities, it still affected many companies. In this webinar, both Ivan and James mentioned current situations, such as supply chain disruption and cash flow. Also, consumption patterns have changed a lot, which increases the importance of online shopping. Ivan pointed out the significance of the awareness of e-commerce. Changing business strategies as time goes on is crucial. Evy supported Ivan by analyzing the pandemic period. She does not consider avoidance a long-term plan. Companies need to have plans to adopt and prevent covid-19 from going on in the next few months or years.
As startups promote their brands and products into ASEAN markets, sometimes their marketing mindset and strategy remain the same as they used in Taiwan. Antonius pointed out that companies need to think twice about customer’s buying habits when entering local markets. Adjusting products’ information on each package while complying with the regulations will be one solution to make consumers understand Taiwanese brands better. Evy added that sometimes the business strategy needs to be flexible. For example, when composing advertising or marketing copy, putting local employees or interns in control may get better results than being coached by supervisors. Having faith in local employees and believing in their perspectives could lead to spectacular outcomes.
Speaking of the potential countries to expand businesses in the future, Ivan said his mid-term goal would be entering Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. Among Southeast Asia markets, consumers in these three countries value teeth whitening the most. They are willing to spend a large amount of money on this benefit. Targeting this kind of consumer psychology will lead to a promising future for Formosation.
At the end of the webinar, we have arranged a Q&A section for the audience online. All the startup talents can leave their questions and doubts about starting a business or ASEAN markets in the live stream chat room. These questions from discussing the industry categories to talent management were all answered by four speakers, such as the feasibility of the online fitness industry and the difference among local customs, cultures, and use of languages when managing talents from different countries. The speakers have shared their personal experiences and problem-solving techniques with the audience without reservation. This Q&A section not only made online talents, who are interested in Southeast Asia markets, get loads out of it but also brought a successful conclusion to this webinar. STARTBOARD understands that ASEAN markets may be promising but unfamiliar areas for Taiwanese enterprises. Therefore, we are looking forward to helping startup teams, and small and medium enterprises enter the Southeast Asia markets. We are also willing to help them find talent to support their journey in expanding their businesses.