Hello everyone, and welcome to this episode of my interview series today.
I have George Henein from IMS. IMS is the mother company of Orghive and Orghive is a platform that I would really want to talk to you about today.
Welcome George. Thank you so much for joining me. Thank you so much for having me.
George, rather than me try and explain what Orghive is why don’t we jump right in and you explain what is Orghive and why did you guys start it?
Absolutely have thank you again for having me here.
Orghive is social and content platform that has one core mission to allow Chinese consumers to make a better healthier more informed lifestyle choices every day and we achieve that in a couple of ways.
First of all we give them access to reliable information with high-quality content.
Secondly we give them scanning mechanism that for the techies out there is based on a blockchain environment and infrastructure that allows them to scan any product they come across whether it’s delivered to them or sitting on a shelf in a supermarket and get a notification of origin of certification.
Then be driven to our main platform where they can get a lot of high high-quality content targeted to their profiles and what they’re looking to achieve in their lives.
The idea of Orghive came about four or five years ago, I started working with some large institutions but some of the biggest companies in the world in the organic and natural space they we’re looking to leverage the hyper powerful online channels in China and we were appointed their digital marketing agency.
A quick introduction on IMS
IMS is the leading digital transformation agency in Asia we have three pillars first of all software development we have over 300 engineers and developers that build technology for different Industries.
Our purpose is to allow these clients to sell as much as possible at the lowest cost possible and we have a wide range of different applications and Orghive has benefited very much from this experience.
Our second division at IMS is a data-driven digital marketing agency. We leverage integrated ecosystem, of which Orghive is one of them, to allow Brands to target and personalise their marketing strategies and convert by providing value to their audiences every day.
The last part is the part that connects our marketing and and software expertise with Orghive.
It’s our digital Ventures division. It’s a practice that is very entrepreneurial and basically as we start working with clients, we often face some big challenges for which we come up with solutions and sometimes they have a bigger potential than that particular project.
And Orghive was one of these. As we started marketing organic and natural products to the Chinese consumers, we faced obstacles.
First of all obstacles on a consumer side difficult to get access to reliable information despite the power of the the digital ecosystem and the social media landscape.
It’s crowded and it’s hard to base very important choices with so much content. In our case it will impact your health, the health of the people you love and so on so it has to be very well selected what we base our our choices on and the second obstacle the consumers are facing is trust.
We all are aware of scandals with infant formula for example. The trust issue that is becoming better now because of the regulations and the great work that Chinese certification bodies are doing but we are also adding another layer which is our WeChat scanning mechanism that allows these consumers to scan these things.
These are the obstacles that we identified from consumers perspective from a brand perspective. China can be very costly without necessarily a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of ROI. Sometimes it can be years.
As you very well know the brands that you work with. We decided to build a social media channel platform that we gather consumers that are hyper relevant consumers that are looking for these products.
Educate this consumer base and don’t get me wrong some of them there is a huge amount of awareness currently in the Chinese market.
The Chinese consumer is becoming very sophisticated. Yes, that’s why we also have so much traction. But basically we’re helping them to understand why they should pay these premiums for this high-quality products that are natural organic highly sustainable.
That’s the idea of Orghive initially, to date it has become a very complex very powerful ecosystem that will provide brands with huge economies of scale when it comes to their media advertisement budgets.
Also when it comes to their technology building, we have built now and we are achieving a huge amount of success through a tech infrastructure. That basically costs millions and we give it for a little amount of money to these new, small brands that we are talking about today.
And it’s great because it gathers brands that have the same values. Yeah, that’s why with all the media buy we gain a lot of traction for the amount of investment. But basically we handle data like no one else in China.
Yes and with and you get those economies of scale. Obviously you have the IMS parent company that has all that know how and works with very big brands but bringing that into the natural organic space for smaller brands to be able to get to be able to plug into that as multiple brands together on a platform.
I think that’s really powerful and something that the fact that Chinese consumers are now really looking for this type of content. As you said, they’re more sophisticated they do and lots of research.
They’re hungry for this type of content that you’re creating on behalf of the brands. That’s very valuable for smaller brands.
what type of Beauty brands do you really think that Orghive is best suited to and at what sort of stage in their Journey?
There is no wrong stage to collect as have a conversation. Of course ideally certain the brands that we start engaging with have to have some initial setup done and some understanding of the Chinese market.
Of course and I’ve seen some of your interviews and your great blogs, we must trademark our products as fast as possible. We have to decide whether we’re going on shore or or cross-border and that will be very much defined by the amount of investment.
There is no wrong stage. Of course one milestone that will be very important in the lifetime of a brand in China will be that Tmall launch. So this is 1 milestone that we look and we work around three months or four months or sometimes even six months before, we have to start to do certain things or what we call the seeding.
We’re going to start creating excitement and start introducing, very specific segments of consumers to our products that can be through, campaign giveaway or lucky draws and start having these KOCs, mini KOLs talking about our brand, building a layer of presence and reviews and Word of Mouth will then be will be very beneficial when somebody lands on our Tmall or Wechat shop, the first reaction that a Chinese consumer is to go and validate us and search on Baidu or Little Red Book.
So if we’re nowhere to be found that will hurt our conversion rates. There is some work to be done before and we participate and guide these brands. A nice thing about Orghive is as a platform you have that curated aspect.
For people that are really looking for organic or natural there, you have the competency, people look to you.
You’ve been around for a little while but you’re still reasonably new.
As you grow people will really look to you as an authority in that so then the brands get that by proxy by being on your platform.
I think that’s really important because there isn’t really anything like that in China the moment and as the awareness of organic and natural grow people become more curious about it. But so will the skepticism of whether this is real or whether it’s green washing.
It’s very important to have that association. I think that’s a really big plus point for brands coming in.
And as you said you do help brands who maybe haven’t and not at the stage of having a Tmall shop yet, but they’re getting pre-launch and helping build that momentum.
You mentioned a word that is very important. We are a curator for consumers when it comes to the brands that we are exposing them to with the help of our certification partners.
We are a curator for the brands of relevant consumers.
We also are curators of traffic. We drive traffic to brands through the way we write content, which is a very technical way with a lot of social listening exercises before we write any piece of content to be relevant because everybody is looking for attention online.
But it’s sometimes difficult to get it. What we can do though is to identify it through technologies such as social listening and algorithms.
We count words in a very specific point in time and allow us to know what are the current trends? What should we write about today? Curation is a very important word.
Thanks to the technology to be able to do it at scale. We need that specific infrastructure ecosystem that we have. As you said you have access to a lot of data and information.You’re getting great traction from consumers.
What do you guys see as a biggest area of interest for them? What do you see are they really looking for?
Definitely be safe because of everything we’re living and we lived in 2020. There was a tremendous surge in consumer trends in health and natural.
What should I put in my body? What should I put in my skin so our content and the high visibility it has and the high quality we’re trying to keep the high standard.
We trying to keep when it comes to our collaborations with health experts, Fitness experts.
We’re very careful in picking those. The interest of consumers is definitely towards high quality content that they can base everyday choice upon.
The other point of Interest which was great and very exciting for us to see is the number of downloads of our scanning app. The scanning app is a great way for people to, get a safe validation of what they have to they have to consume and put on their skins and so on.
The scanning app is definitely a very nice tool that we have put in the hands of Japanese consumers and it’s been downloaded. I think last week over 500 times per day for a few days, which was great and incredible achievement that if we can keep that pace, that would be awesome.
These are the two areas consumers are looking to are looking for the best high quality products.
But at the same time without over paying for them,
They’re also looking for reliable information to know and learn how to how to make the difference between this plethora of products that they have been bombarded with.
All the big houses are aware of the potential of the Chinese market. Everybody’s just going and spending millions of dollars on all kinds of advertisements. We’re trying to be that little house, that genuine place where people can, learn and be able to make better better choices.
It’s definitely of interest for our consumers.
I think the scanning app is something that you know, there are other scanning apps globally that have worked but in China, you’re the first.
The reason we were able to do that is because our scope is not commercial. Meaning Orghive is not an e-commerce platform. Nobody can buy anything from us, no brand can sell anything on the platform.
We are purely informational and our scope is very defined its trust and adding value to Consumers. What we do though is that if anybody wants to buy a product of one of these brands that are present on our platform they can then be redirected to the Tmall or to JD or any other plaform.
This allows us to have access to Organic certification codes and be able to make that connection right through that chainblock environment, I promise no technical discussions.
But that blockchain environment is very interesting because it gives a lot of speed for brands to get certified, it simplifies the process for the certification bodies as well it also allows how’s anybody to scan anything and be able to know right away if that certification was renewed or not if it was acquired in the first place or not.
Everything is live and in a very safe, integrated way and that’s something that is so important in China. We touched on it before the trust issues, you know, it’s milk formula but much deeper than that in terms of the the innate mistrust in brands and the fact that this helps them to double-check that the brands are doing exactly what they said they’ve done.
I think that’s something that is reassuring in any Market but in China it’s extra important. Our timing was was great. We’ve seen a lot of support and excitement from consumers and users in general but also food brands.
Yeah, we’re very grateful and looking forward to add value to these two sides of the equation in the next few years. Great. Well, I mean just to sort of finish off for smaller natural and organic brands entering the market, obviously you work with these sort of brands every day.
What sort of advice would you have for them coming in?
First of all, we have to quantify the level of risk that were willing to take.
What are we willing to put at stake? Because that exercise is not a plug and play like 10 years ago. We just posted a few products on Tmall and because we have some English characters on our products people will start buying us because it is Western and higher quality.
We’re not there anymore. It needs some time and some money that equation is very interesting. If we don’t have a lot of money ideally we should have time can not have both and yeah, expect sales quickly.
In terms of expectations that the first thing that we have to set. And that will be based on how long we’re willing to be in that in that preparation phase and how long we’re willing to take to get traction sales wise.
The second part is the the cash flow and how fast will willing to burn that cash? Okay, and that’s where platforms such Orghive are very interesting.
It gives you a foot on the ground with a consumer base that is very relevant and we have basically to pick very carefully the channels that we will be using in the beginning because for example we chat will be difficult to get reach through it.
We should use weibo, there’s also that little subtlety that some people are not aware of a lot of channel can be local or foreign and through local channels you can do much more so that’s where also Orghive can give you some speed as a little brand in the beginning not to go through the hurdle of setting up a WOFE, a legal entity in China.
So trademarks as everybody knows, having a budget that the brand is comfortable with but it’s also is also good enough to expect something out of it. And then we have to we have to just add value to our consumers and lead with insights and and leverage digital channels – Advanced digital channels.
Not only, Tmall which will burn cash very quickly and might sell for you, but they will not build your brand equity for the long term. Try to find ways to Activate sales short-term while building brand equity for the long term.
This is what we are trying to acheve with Orghive. For organic and natural products to start the it’s a great place to start.
Well, thank you so much. I you know, I’ve been we’ve had lots of conversations over the last month’s about all kind of and I really do think that it’s a great opportunity for natural and organic brand and you know, all the Brand’s I work with a cruelty free so that aspect and be able to get that information out there to consumers in a curated as we said curated way.
I think is very valuable and it’s great that you guys are doing this.
If people want to get in touch with you George, what’s the best way for them to do that?
We have a lot of presence online including the social media channels. My email will be email@example.com.
If somebody looks for IMS Hong Kong, we will be very easily reachable for sure.
Thank you so much George that was really useful and speak to you soon.
Thank you for having me and keep the good job. We love these interviews. Thank you.