Infantry CEO Jason Wai, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur with an eye for design and innovation, is bringing his watches to the global market. We find out how he got his start in the business, and how Alibaba.com helps SMBs like him expand and reach new markets.
Jason Wai developed his love of watches by sourcing merchandise for a trading company – his first job out of university. It was during factory visits across the Guangdong province that the founder and chief designer of Infantry spotted an opportunity in the watch-making market.
"The knowledge I had of different watches and their mechanics was increasing. I found that in-between factories and traders there was a real gap in product innovation, in both design and function," Wai says.
His search for a better watch design and functionality eventually led to the creation of Infantry Co. in 2011. The company is an online retailer specializing in military-themed designs of quartz, digital and pocket watches - all of which were inspired by his time in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. "I took the steps to search out what I found interesting and to create my own brand and start selling," he adds.
But taking that next step into international business would require the young entrepreneur to adopt a platform with the global online giant, Alibaba.com.
As a small business with 30 employees, and warehouses in Britain, Germany and the United States, Wai says that Infantry Co.'s relationship with Alibaba.com has led to an expanding range of markets.
He says: "Alibaba.com is an outstanding brand in online trading. It gives our customers the confidence to buy on this platform. It also gives us the opportunity to sell our products internationally, which means we can find a wider range of customers within Alibaba itself."
Wai says he was pleasantly surprised to find that Alibaba.com gave his business a boost in non-English speaking countries. "Two of the markets in which I have found surprising growth are Brazil and Russia. This has been surprising because many of our customers are generally from English-speaking countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, and also across Europe," he says. "But after selling on Alibaba.com, we have continued to build our customer base in both Brazil and Russia."
The assurance that comes with Alibaba.com's Trade Assurance
As an added boost, Infantry Co. was given accreditation with Alibaba.com's Trade Assurance, a program that allows customers to be assured of a company's product quality and that protects transactions between buyers and sellers.
"Our standing on Alibaba.com increased by having this Trade Assurance certificate. We now get higher exposure within the platform. The Trade Assurance benefits both sellers and buyers," Wai says.
Wai adds that one of the key benefits of using Trade Assurance is the accelerated conversion to sales, because it is likely that the customer will pay immediately. This resolves one of his biggest business challenges – the time and resources wasted in non-converted sales inquiries.
"The false enquiries took up a lot of our company resources…with Trade Assurance, I'm confident that I will get the money from a transaction," he says. He also says that being part of the Trade Assurance program means customers can be assured of the quality and of the company. "Trade Assurance is more like a verification from Alibaba about the quality."
Technology support to grow business
As a young entrepreneur, Wai appreciates the role that technology and platforms such as Alibaba have played in his growing business - not just with customers.
Wai says: "I'm not just talking about the selling side; I'm talking about the sourcing. With watches, there are over 100 different parts for us to source before we put them together as a watch. So we often use Alibaba.com for sourcing."
He also cited the depth of Alibaba's B2B and customer reach as one of the key ingredients in expanding Infantry Co., saying that Alibaba.com has a mix of local platforms within China, as well as support for the import and export side of his business.
The scope for platforms like Alibaba to launch traditional manufacturers and designers like Infantry into greater international trade opportunities has never been more realistic. For the small and medium business owner looking to take the next step, Infantry serves as a tale of possibilities of finding new customers in diverse markets.