While some companies establish regional in Asian cities, Ganeden Biotech has taken a 50-50 approach by marshalling the region’s operations from their US head office and relying on a local distributor.
Stephen Quinn, the probiotics company’s regional business development manager, says this approach allows him to leave local cultures to those who know them best while he provides support based on the information the distributor feeds him.
Knowledge on the ground
“The most important part of the approach is that the distributor you work with has people on the ground in each different market,” he tells us at Fi Asia-Thailand.
“Whereas Southeast Asia or all of Asia can be treated as one single region, each individual country and sometimes different parts of the countries operate in completely different ways, and so it is important to have local people who are experienced in specific markets.
“No one person of course can be proficient and comfortable on an individual basis in a market, so you have to have people you can trust.”
Probably the most common information exchanged between the two sides is technical details of how to best formulate Ganeden’s products for the areas where they are sold.
“For example, Ganeden Biotech makes a probiotic for use in food applications,” continues Quinn. “While I can't physically call on all these different accounts because there are just too many of them, and there are language barriers and cultural differences, I serve as an informational and technical resource so that I can provide this information to the people and help the salespeople on the ground to sell the product,” he explains.
Tastes in the mix
His company’s formulations may not be different between countries and regions but they are different among products. A baked good, for example, is going to cause more complication than something that is a dry powdered mix.
“And it's good for our distributors to have a point person to discuss any problems with, and not to have to try and do everything ourselves,” he adds.
“It's just localised and people on the ground have to know what the end-consumers want. For example, instant coffee is huge in Southeast Asia, and we would see a lot more instant coffee-type applications in Southeast Asia than we would in Australia, for instance. It's just about what the local markets want and what's important for the local markets.
While this approach works well for Ganeden, there are still logistical challenges, such as time zones, with Quinn often having to speak to his Australian distributor late at night.
“It's fine, though. It's just the way you have to do business. But having just one company to connect with rather than dozens across these countries and cultures and time zones, it's definitely an advantage.”