Aude BOUSSER came to Hong Kong in 1997 right after finishing EMLYON and started working in the luxury industry with Cartier Far East as a product coordinator and manager. Then she went back to work at Cartier HQ in 2000, cooperating with the jewellery team on product development and brand building team. In 2003, she joined Boucheron, which was just bought back by Gucci. She worked with the Gucci team on repositioning the brand and was in charge of the product marketing on the jewellery offer. 3 years later, she moved back to Hong Kong with her husband because of her love for the City and joined Van Cleef and Arpels Asia Pacific as Marketing and Communication Director, covering lots of markets: Mainland China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia and India. We invited her to share her experience with us.
Here is her interview: Why did you decide to create your company? What are the main activities of your company?
In 2011 I decided to create my own company, LBB Asia Limited. I knew at that time I wanted to stay in Hong Kong and I had acquired enough experience to fly by myself. I always had many ideas and lots of energy to be dedicated to making business, why not create my own structure?
Because I wanted to leverage on my own experience and also because I have a passion for the true luxury (long lasting products/service, high level of craftsmanship, lots of creativity to balance the traditional part and the modern part of the luxury industry, high level of service to customers), I decided to create a company in this very same field. We have one activity of distribution and another one of consulting dedicated to premium and luxury brand houses.
We are developing the commercial activity (retail or wholesale) of the brands with which we are working along with the brand awareness and desirability. We are also using an e-commerce platform particularly for the Chinese market. Regarding the consulting activities: we are specialised in premiumisation strategy regarding the levers for creating additional brand equity in this segment (distribution channel, product offers and communication supports and channels to be used. We are also working on a new retail platform advising the shopping malls in Greater China, which we feel all look the same (differentiation strategy). Last but not least we are advising private equity fund and more generally investors when it comes to buying a luxury brand. This helps them to depict the strengths and weaknesses of the brand and allows them to identify additional pocket of growth.
What was the opportunity which brought you to China? Was Asia appealing to you before you came here?
I came to Asia for the first time totally by chance. I was thinking of staying for a couple of months and I have been living there for over 12 years now. I love the energy of this part of the world, everything is possible and everybody is willing to make business. Also the Hong Kong administration makes an entrepreneur's life very easy, allowing him to spend most of his time dedicated to clients.
According to you, what's the specific business opportunity that you can find here in Asia but not in Europe? What's the biggest challenge that you are facing?
Asia is a free market based on the offer/demand basis where labor laws are very simple to understand and the administrative tasks reduced to its minimum. You can find some qualified people able to speak 3 to 4 languages. Hong Kong is a very cosmopolitan city where you are a citizen of the world. The biggest challenge while living in Hong Kong is not being able to speak Cantonese. In the past 10 years, foreigners have been pushed to learn Mandarin but the street language is Cantonese, therefore a lot of foreigners don't really understand the local culture and it is very frustrating.
Did your experience at EMLYON have an influence in your career life?
I believe EMLYON has a strong academic record but also pushes its students to work abroad and to discover new countries. Also EMLYON helped to create an entrepreneur spirit and I am sure it helped in my decision-making 3 years ago.
And advice for alumni who wish to start their company in Hong Kong?
Of course, my advice is to come to Asia where the market is very dynamic and where you will me great people to help you build a success story.