[THE INVESTOR] China has for years appeared to be the unchanging target for South Korea’s cosmetics export realm, but for market pioneers, India is the way to go, according to an entrepreneur specializing in the Indian business.
“For one of the fastest-growing countries in the world with a young, growing population of some 1.3 billion, India is largely underestimated in the global market,” Dale Deugcheon Han, CEO of Limese, told The Korea Herald in an interview.
Dale Deugcheon Han (center), CEO of Limese, and his team. Limese.
Limese, a combination of the Latin words for “path” and “self,” is the first Korean cosmetics export and sales platform operating in India.
Since starting business last year as an export-oriented startup, the company has assisted Korean beauty brands in setting up their operations in India and developing products jointly with Indian distributors.
“India’s cosmetics market is changing at such a fast pace that it is almost hard to keep up,” Han said.
“It was earlier this year that the local demands for refined cosmetics, including K-beauty products, started to boom.”
Among South Korea’s big players, Amorepacific-affiliated Innisfree and LG Household & Healthcare-affiliated The Face Shop are currently operating in India, both recently stepping up their marketing strategy.
“My first real encounter with India was back in 2010, when I went to the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad as an exchange scholar,” he said.
“Taking an insider’s approach toward this country, I became fascinated with its vast potential and dynamics, as well as the diverse range of culture.”
Data from the Asian Development Bank suggests India’s economic growth will stand at 7 percent this year and inch up to 7.4 percent next year. The corresponding projections for China are mostly in the 6 percent range.
It was only natural that years later Han came to consider India a top priority to develop his own export business, rather than the more saturated markets in China or Southeast Asia.
“One of the big charms of India is that it is a huge comprehensive market which embraces heterogeneous provinces and people,” he said
“It may be a single country in the administrative sense, but in fact is something close to a mini-sized continent within Asia, offering an almost unlimited range of expandability to those entering its market.”
The challenge for aspiring investors and entrepreneurs, however, is the lack of infrastructure and confirmed market data.
“Due to the country’s still-underdeveloped transport infrastructure and longtime exclusion from global economic trends, one often has to do the extensive legwork to meet with industry officials and grasp the true nature of the market,” Han explained.
A novice businessman in India may easily be deceived by the humble appearance of buildings or the lax attitude of its officials and consequentially overlook the vast potential of the underlying market, he added.
“Even when communicating with influential brands such as Health & Glow, which is affiliated with Hong Kong-based distributor Mannings, I had to make a surprise visit to the local headquarters because I wasn’t receiving any feedback,” he said.
Once the face-to-face meeting took place, things sailed from there. Limese is now delivering several products to the brand and is also working on developing some private brand items in the near future.
In order to set foot in this new market, the key point is to establish a communication network before the market develops further and reinforce entry regulations, according to the CEO.
“India is marked for its complicated and slow customs clearance process, and it requires a strong local network to facilitate these steps,” he said.
“We expect that in the upcoming years, the time and cost required to enter the Indian market will increase at a fast pace, so the best strategy is to make it into the boundaries before it happens.”
By Bae Hyun-jung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)